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Assen TT Preview

World Superbike 2013

maddix park mx

www.motorycle-usa.com Byron Wilson

Aprilia Racing's Sylvain Guintoli (right) will look to protect his overall points lead in Round 3, the Assen TT.

The 2013 Eni FIM Superbike World Championship pays homage to the racing gods at “The Cathedral” in Round 3, the Assen TT now just days away. Aprilia Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli arrives in The Netherlands the overall points leader thanks to his perfect podium record through two rounds, with one win and three second-place finishes. The French rider was strong at the hallowed circuit in 2012, taking his first career Superbike victory there in Race 1 and following up with a second-place finish in Race 2. He’ll have his work cut out for him at the circuit this year since a full roster of riders are hungry to remain in contention for the title, possibly none more so than his teammate, Eugene Laverty.

The Irishman pulled out all the stops in Round 1 at Phillip Island, going 2-1 in the 2013 season opener. Trading wins with Guintoli, the two went into Round 2 at Aragon tied mathematically for the lead, an advantage that would prove short-lived for Laverty. The Aprilia rider bowed out of competition early in Race 1 due to a mechanical failure, and then crashed out of Race 2 in the opening turns. Like Guintoli, Laverty has fond memories at Assen as it’s the site where he scored his first podium with Aprilia in 2012.

“I've put Aragon behind me and I'm thinking only about the remainder of the season. There's no point in dwelling on it,” said Laverty. “I really enjoy the flowing nature of the circuit (Assen) and it usually makes for close racing. We know that the BMWs and Kawasaki of Tom Sykes will be strong but the Honda duo could be up there too.”

The threat from BMW Motorrad GoldBet became two-fold after Chaz Davies’ commanding sweep at Aragon. Marco Melandri entered the season as a favorite in the title race, following his remarkable performance in 2012, while Davies arrived as a newcomer to the BMW team in 2013. The British rider seems to have found his footing aboard the S1000RR and enters Round 3 second in overall points.

“After my double win at Aragón I am really looking forward to Assen,” said Davies. “Obviously it is a confidence booster every time you win, but doing it twice really sets you up for the next races. I am very comfortable now with the RR and how I am feeling on the bike. On top of that, Assen is a circuit I enjoy and one that has been good for me in the past. Back in 2011, I celebrated my first World Championship victory there by winning the Supersport race, last year it was the first time for me to go through to Superpole 3 and I had a pretty decent pace in the dry.”

Marco Melandri (top), Tom Sykes (middle) and Jonathan Rea (bottom), will fight to tighten up the points race for the 2013 World Superbike championship at the Assen TT.

Melandri continues to recover from shoulder surgery and will be a podium threat as his health improves. The demanding race-day schedule proved tiresome for the Italian at Aragon, with pain hampering his performance in Race 2 where he placed fifth. He currently sits fourth overall, 42 points off the lead. He’s yet to find his way to the podium at Assen in World Superbike; in 2012 he crashed out of the lead in Race 1, prompting a red-flag restart. He went on to take ninth in that contest, followed by a fourth-place finish in Race 2.

Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes has also faced his share of physical pain stemming from injuries, having cracked his wrist and broken three ribs in the lead-up to Round 1. He excelled under the circumstances, taking a 5-5 finish at Phillip Island and seemed poised to do even better at Aragon after the long break. Unfortunately, the British rider didn’t get the chance in Race 1 as a mechanical failure took him out of competition. His machinery was up and running for Race 2 and he made his first podium of the season in third. The Assen round was disappointing for Sykes in 2012 where he took a DNF in Race 1 due to engine problems and a sixth in Race 2.

Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, returns from a win with SRC Kawasaki at the 77th Bol d’Or at Magny Cours and will look to maintain that momentum to the series in which he currently sits eighth overall.

Assen serves as the home round for the Pata Honda World Superbike Team, consisting of riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam. Rea has a particularly strong record at Assen, taking four of his total 10 career Superbike wins there, earning at least one every year from 2010 (when he swept the round) to the present. He currently sits third on the all-time win list at the circuit behind Carl Fogarty (12 wins) and Troy Bayliss (six wins). Haslam, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as successful in The Netherlands, earning only three podium finishes there during his long tenure in World Superbike, none of which were wins.

Red Devils Roma’s Michel Fabrizio started the 2013 season strong with a 3-4 finish at Phillip Island, but has since fallen off pace, going 8-11 at Aragon. He’s only made the podium once at Assen, in his first Superbike contest at the circuit in 2008.

FIXI Crescent Suzuki may be one rider down again as Leon Camier continues to recover from knee surgery following his crash at Aragon. He plans to make a decision on Thursday before practice starts at Assen, and according to the most recent account, provided by FIXI PR on April 19, 2013, the British rider “is now walking without a splint – although he has a brace on the knee to protect it – and has about 40% full movement in the joint.”

Should Camier decide to sit the race out, Superbike rookie Jules Cluzel would be left as the sole Suzuki pilot in the field. The French rider has three top-10 finishes so far in 2013, but has yet to break into the top-five; he placed sixth at Assen in 2012 while contesting World Supersport.

Carlos Checa (7) and Eugene Laverty (58) at Aragon. Both will look for improved results during Round 3, the Assen TT.

Team SBK Ducati Alstare has struggled to find its rhythm in 2013, with Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini suffering big crashes in the early rounds. Checa went 7-8 at Aragon in his first completed race weekend while Badovini managed a 10-10 result. Checa reports he’s feeling fit, according to team PR, as does Badovini. Owing to the difficulties, neither rider has been able to push the new 1199 Panigale R to its performance limit, but Assen has been favorable to the marque in the past and could be the site of success in 2013.

Practice at the historic circuit, which has hosted World Superbike competition since 1992, starts with practice sessions on Friday, Superpole on Saturday and races Sunday.

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