The all-conquering Fiat Yamaha Team of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo move north through Europe this weekend for the historic Dutch TT at Assen.
Following their show-stopping performance in Spain last time out, which saw Rossi better Lorenzo by just a
split second, the pair will be targeting a repeat performance this weekend.
With two wins apiece already this season the World Champion and the Leading Rookie of 2008 currently share the championship lead with Casey Stoner – all three are tied on 106 points with six races gone.
After two wins this season Rossi is approaching yet another incredible milestone in his charmed career; he now lies on 99 wins and another on Saturday would see him as only the second rider in Grand Prix history to reach 100 wins, the other being the great Giacomo Agostini. The Italian maverick has six victories to his name at the track but has had a turbulent last few years there.
Following a brace of wins in his first two years with Yamaha he injured himself in practice in 2006 but rode through the pain to finish eighth, before winning in stunning style from 11th on the grid in 2007. Last year he made a rare mistake and crashed on the first lap but made up a gap of more than 20 seconds with a damaged bike to finish 11th. Following a set-up overhaul in Barcelona the 30-year-old is in blistering form and will be hoping to make it two on the bounce at one of his favourite tracks.
“Assen is a very special track for all riders and it is a wonderful place to ride a MotoGP bike, even if it was better before they changed the layout. Last year I had my worst point of the season there so I want to make up for that with a good performance, because the fans are very passionate and they deserve a good show”, he said. “After Barcelona we know how strong we are but also our rivals are strong too so we can't afford to relax, we have to keep pushing. Montmeló was fantastic, one of my best wins ever, but the championship is very close between the three of us and so we have to try to win again to take the lead. There is still a long way to go but we have to remain consistent.”
Assen is 22-year-old Lorenzo's favourite circuit and the youngster certainly has an impressive track record there, having won there once in 125cc and twice in the 250cc class on the way to his two world championships.
He finished sixth there last year but after his stunning performance at home last time out he will not be happy with anything but a return to the podium for the sixth time this season an d he will be doing everything possible to take back the advantage from his team-mate following their Montmeló thriller.
A hard day's work at the post-race test in Barcelona has put the Mallorcan on an even sounder footing with his M1-Bridgestone package and he is confident that he will once again be a part of the story in Assen.
“I could never have imagined after the crash in Jerez that I would have the opportunity to become leader again so quickly, but here we are at the front with Casey and Valentino!”, he said. “The last three races have been fantastic and almost unbelievable, and now for the three of us it's almost like we're starting the championship all over again. Assen is my favourite track and I am going there feeling very confident in my bike and my Bridgestone tyres and with all the team feeling very motivated. Last year I was sixth so the most important thing is to improve on that, but of course I am aiming for another podium, because consistency is the way to remain close to the top of the standings. We had a positive test in Barcelona and now I will hope to show our improvements with an even better performance in Holland.”
One of the most technically and physically demanding circuits on the calendar for the MotoGP riders, Assen has barely a straight piece of tarmac in sight. Handling is a major focal point due to high-speed chicanes and dramatic camber changes – the latter, in some places, resembling the profile of the public roads that the original circuit was based around – features that have traditionally favoured the nimble YZR-M1.