James out to trim back the leader's advantage
With four rounds and eight races left in which to catch and overhaul long-term championship leader Troy Bayliss, James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) knows he has to score every win possible to take the championship
fight to the very end.
He has good form at Assen, having scored a win there as recently as 2004, his championship winning season, and despite the fact that it will be a different and truncated Assen he faces in 2006, his form is such that nothing can be ruled out. Currently third in the standings, Toseland is 88 points behind Bayliss, but only 11 from second place rider, Noriyuki Haga, his immediate Assen target.
Alex Barros (Klaffi Honda CBR1000RR) will find many aspects of the Assen layout familiar, after an extensive MotoGP career, but in his first ever season of World Superbike racing he would ideally have liked to approach the same Assen he has known and loved over the years. Unfazed by his tough introduction to World Superbike, Barros is currently fifth and looking for win number one, already scored four podium finishes.
Another rider in his rookie season, Michel Fabrizio (DFX Honda CBR1000RR) found the spark that ignited a double podium charge at Brno, valuable points which have now pushed him to tenth overall, despite a disappointing weekend in round eight at Brands Hatch.
Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has had a tough season, with illness and injury sapping his strength and true form away at crucial times. Two crashes at Brands Hatch belied his rapid qualifying pace (third quickest) and at his team's home round, he is expected to be a real threat to the top few positions.
Pierfrancesco Chili (DFX Honda CBR1000RR) is another Honda rider who has suffered serious problems through injury this season, but the most experienced SBK rider of all is a big fan of Assen, and has won a race at the old style Dutch venue, in 1998. A lowly 20th currently, he hopes the new Assen will allow him to shine, just as the old version did on numerous occasions.
For Toseland, the championship battle will never be over until it's over, and he enters Assen with optimism and confidence. "I had a good break which has really recharged my batteries," said the determined rider, now resident on the Isle of Man. "I also kept myself in shape during this time because I still believe we can have a shot at the World Championship. We are not so far from the top considering that there are still 200 points to be won. I know it's an important race for the team because they are at home and I will do my best to make them happy."
Barros scored a 500c Grand Prix victory for Honda at Assen during the 2000 season and, unsurprisingly, has fond memories of the old layout. "I knew Assen very well and during the last years I took part in many races there with different bikes," said Barros. "Now they changed the course a little bit - and I think I still prefer the old style of track. But this version now is new for all of the riders and I'm looking forward to ride at Assen once again."
A back injury and an allergic reaction to an insect bite have held back Muggeridge in 2006, but he is prepared to give his very best on his team's home circuit. "I'm feeling good," affirmed Muggeridge. "We had a good ‘warm up' at the Ten Kate workshop last weekend for the pit stop day and a lot of fans showed up. The forecast seems to promise some rain for the weekend but this doesn't worry me so much. I will try my best to earn as many points as possible for the Winston Ten Kate Honda Team and me. I know it's a really special race for them."
Fabrizio has experienced the ecstasy and agony of SBK racing in the eight rounds so far, and expects Assen to be more of a leveller than in any previous season.
"After the highlights of the Brno race we went to Brands Hatch with big expectations," said Fabrizio, "but in Great Britain traction problems were the reasons for the very poor results. The new Assen will maybe be a problem for everyone so I want run with the top riders."
For Chili, curiosity is the initial watchword as Assen approaches, but in race mode Chili will be giving his all, as ever. "I am curious to see the new Assen after the work they have done to the track," said Chili. "I hope for my team, and for Honda, to take an important result. I want to leave my people with the ‘better' Frankie to the fore. The race will not be easy because we don't have the same electronic package as some of the official motorcycles - but with Domenico Brigaglia we will still find the correct set-up for the race."
The entire SBK circus strikes canvas just after the final laps will have been completed at Assen, and heads across to the east of Germany, for round 10. The impressively proportioned Eurospeedway Lausitz hosts the German stop-off of the series, between 8 and 10 September.
Press Release HRC