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Ducati look to repeat historic success story

Ducati look to repeat historic success story

Ducati look to repeat historic success story

MotoGP new boys Ducati prepare to race on the traditional last Saturday in June at Assen this weekend still celebrating the factory's maiden victory two weeks ago. Loris Capirossi's win at Catalunya was the first in the premier-class by an Italian rider on an Italian motorcycle since Giacomo Agostini on an MV Agusta at the Nurburgring circuit in 1976, and the rich history of the Dutch TT would provide the ideal backdrop for a repeat performance. The first ever Italian triumph on an Italian machine took place in the first ever World Championship season at this very circuit in 1949, when Nello Pagani took victory riding a Gilera. The tricolore double was repeated in 1950 and 1952 with Umberto Masetti, also on a Gilera, Remo Venturi on an MV Agusta in 1960, and the legendary Agostini, who powered his MV Agusta to victory for five consecutive seasons between 1968 and 1972.

Whilst the omens might side with Capirossi, one man who has little respect for history is current World Champion Valentino Rossi, who has spent his entire career re-writing the record books. After two uncharacteristic mistakes allowed Capirossi the chance to take the win in Spain, Rossi will be determined to re-establish his dominance in the MotoGP class and extend a points advantage which now stands at 47 points over second-placed Sete Gibernau. Despite finishing on the podium for the last twelve races, Rossi has not taken back-to-back wins since Estoril and Rio last September, as Gibernau, Max Biaggi, Alex Barros and now Capirossi have all taken their turn on the top step of the podium.

Biaggi and Barros have yet to repeat their race winning form from the end of last season after swapping bikes during the winter. Whilst Biaggi switched from a factory Yamaha to a 'satellite' Honda, Barros has done the reverse, yet neither rider has made a consistent challenge at the top of the rider standings. However, the Italian and the Brazilian have strong records at Assen, with Biaggi having beaten Rossi here in a rain-hit race in 2001 to add to 250cc victories in 1994 and 1995, and Barros having taken four podiums and a win from thirteen starts. Whilst Biaggi celebrates his 32nd birthday on the first day of qualifying, both riders will see this weekend as the ideal time to kick-start their season with a victory.

Although he doesn´t have the Grand Prix experience of Rossi, Capirossi, Biaggi or Barros, MotoGP rookie Troy Bayliss knows his way around Assen. It is one of the few venues that coincides with the World Superbike calendar and Ducati rider Bayliss has happy memories of the track, having taken a double win here to clinch the title in 2001. Current WSB champion Colin Edwards has also taken victories at Assen, and will see this weekend as the ideal opportunity to build on a best MotoGP qualifying performance of seventh with the Aprilia at Catalunya two weeks ago, when he retired from the race with a mechanical fault.

Kenny Roberts recorded his only front row start to date on the Suzuki GSV-R here last year but he will not get the opportunity for a repeat performance after being ruled out due to injury. The former World Champion missed the last race at Catalunya complaining of chest pains after crashing out one week previously at Mugello. He returned to California last week and underwent a scan that revealed deep soft tissue damage to his chest and upper abdomen. Although doctors suggested a further six weeks recuperation were necessary, he hopes to be fit for the Cinzano British Grand Prix at Donington Park on July 13. Roberts is replaced this weekend by Yukio Kagayama, who currently races for Suzuki in the British Superbike series. Also added to the entry list is Kawasaki rider Alex Hofmann, who competes as a wildcard for the third time this season.

MotoGP, 2003, Gauloises Dutch TT

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