News 21 Jun 2011

Stoner leads MotoGP World Championship into Assen this weekend

Australia's Casey Stoner has proven the man to beat in MotoGP this season.

Australia's Casey Stoner has proven the man to beat in MotoGP this season.

Round seven of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship at the Iveco TT Assen keeps the action coming thick and fast as championship leader Casey Stoner aims to defend his newly-found position at the top of the standings.

The 2011 campaign is now one-third through its 18-round course, laying the way for a busy mid-section of the schedule to commence this weekend. Having enjoyed a weekend off following back-to-back rounds at Catalunya and Silverstone, the focus returns to business with the 81st Dutch TT event.

Stoner has been installed as the championship leader following an eventful Silverstone race in which the Repsol Honda rider secured his fourth win of the season, in the process becoming the first Honda rider to win three successive MotoGP races since Valentino Rossi in 2003.

The Australian now holds an 18-point lead over reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed out of the wet Silverstone race and will be desperate to recoup lost ground on his rival.

In failing to finish the British GP Lorenzo brought to an end a phenomenal run of 25 successive top-four finishes, a sequence which started towards the end of the 2009 season.

The Yamaha Factory Racing rider won last year’s Assen race, a result which means he has now tasted victory in all three classes in which he has ridden at the famous circuit, and the aim will be clear this weekend.

Following close on the heels of Lorenzo is Andrea Dovizioso, and the Repsol Honda rider took his second podium of the campaign in the rain-soaked Silverstone race – he is 15 points behind Lorenzo – whilst Valentino Rossi is the same margin of points down on his fellow Italian in fourth in the standings.

The Ducati Team rider is now on his longest winless streak since moving up to the premier class in 2000 having gone nine races without a victory, but as is the case at many of the circuits on the World Championship calendar he has a strong record at Assen.

Rossi has won there five times in the premier class but missed last year’s race due to injury, and will be targeting a second podium of 2011 this weekend.

Despite having missed the last two rounds Dani Pedrosa remains fifth in the championship standings, but the Repsol Honda rider’s participation this weekend is yet to be confirmed.

Pedrosa underwent further surgery on his injured right collarbone last Thursday to fix a small fragment of bone which had become dislodged, and will discuss his fitness with his medical team before making a decision on whether he takes part.

Assen is a track at which Nicky Hayden has fared well in previous years, the American having taken a victory there in his Championship-winning 2006 season, but on the Ducati he is yet to finish higher than seventh at the Dutch venue.

Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will ride for the first time in the premier class at Assen after missing last year’s race through injury, but the Japanese rider took a victory in the 250cc class in 2009 so knows what is required from the technical layout.

Colin Edwards scored an incredible podium at Silverstone just eight days after breaking his collarbone and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider returns to the site at which he has twice stood on the rostrum.

The American’s teammate Cal Crutchlow suffered a similar injury in a qualifying crash at Silverstone and after undergoing surgery last week will have to wait to make a decision as to whether he tests his physical condition at Assen.

A first premier class podium continues to elude Marco Simoncelli but the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider will be confident he can finally end the wait at Assen after proving his pace repeatedly this season, whilst Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) will be eager to rediscover the podium form he displayed at Catalunya after a crash in Britain.

Rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) continues to improve in his debut season and is schedule to make his 100th GP start this weekend.

Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) will aim to break back into the top ten at Assen, whilst Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) will be keen to follow up his season’s best finish to date of fifth from Silverstone.

Likewise Toni Elías scored his best result of 2011 so far with eighth in the UK and the LCR Honda rider and his team will hope that the progression continues, as will Pramac Racing pair Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet.

The first practice session for the MotoGP class at the Iveco TT Assen is scheduled to get underway at 10.10am local time on Thursday, with race day on Saturday.