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Britain´s Princess Anne enjoys Dutch TT festivities

Britain´s Princess Anne enjoys Dutch TT festivities

Britain´s Princess Anne enjoys Dutch TT festivities

Excited preparations for the Gauloises Dutch TT were being completed by royal appointment at Assen today, as Britain´s Princess Anne took the opportunity to sample the unique atmosphere of the MotoGP paddock. HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of the MotoGP charity Riders for Health, enjoyed a guided tour of the mobile village which houses the teams and riders during the European leg of the World Championship series, and was particularly interested in the latest-generation four-stroke racing prototypes put on display for her enjoyment in the pristine surroundings of the Proton Team KR and Ducati garages. She was later escorted to a dinner in aid of Riders for Health by former five-time World Champion Mick Doohan and four-time runner-up Randy Mamola, who is also deeply involved with the charity.

Whilst the anticipation built at the circuit ahead of one of the most eagerly awaited races of the season, Max Biaggi took time out to enjoy his 32nd birthday with Troy Bayliss and Ryuichi Kiyonari at a local glass museum, where the riders were given the opportunity to blast their own vases. Biaggi was given an extra treat by the museum, who presented the former 250cc World Champion with a specially designed crystal bust.

Meanwhile, reigning MotoGP World Champion and current series leader Valentino Rossi turned his attentions to the business at hand, insisting he was ready for another close battle despite his healthy 47 point lead in the championship. `The points difference is quite big because I have been the most consistent rider, but every race is a fight with somebody new,´ said Rossi, who was beaten by Ducati´s Loris Capirossi in the last round at Catalunya. `It will not be possible to win as many races as last year because everybody is much closer to us, but I much prefer it like this.´

Capirossi admitted that his first ever victory with the Italian factory has raised expectations for the rest of the season, but insisted there was still a long way to go before they can make a consistent challenge to Rossi and the Honda RC211V. `Catalunya was a big result but the season has not stopped for us yet,´ he smiled. `Now we have to maintain that level of performance and that will become harder and harder at every race. But I think the characteristics of the Ducati will suit Assen and, even though we have not tested here, I think we can make another good race´.

Whilst Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama arrived in Holland to replace Kenny Roberts, who is injured, at Team Suzuki, his compatriot Akira Yanagawa has been released from hospital in Spain after suffering two compressed vertebrae and ligament damage in his neck after a first lap crash at Catalunya. Meanwhile, Yanagawa´s fellow Kawasaki test rider Alex Hofmann is set to race for the third time this season. `Assen is definitely one of my favourite tracks - it´s fast, a bit like a rollercoaster, and I have always felt really comfortable riding there,´ said the German, who has competed as a wildcard at Jerez and Mugello. `It won´t be as hot as Mugello, so our tyre and chassis package should work a lot better for us. Hopefully, we can move a few more steps forward at Assen and I can finish in the points once again´.

Aprilia rider Colin Edwards will be looking to make strides at a circuit he knows well from his WSB days, but the Italian factory will most likely be looking more towards their 250cc and 125cc riders as they go in search of their 150th Grand Prix victory. Randy De Puniet´s maiden win at Catalunya two weeks ago brought them to within striking distance of the impressive figure, although they are sure to be challenged in both classes by Honda. Roberto Rolfo and Sebastian Porto will both be looking to strengthen their bid for quarter-litre honours whilst in the minor class teenagers Dani Pedrosa of Spain and Switzerland´s Thomas Luthi aim for a repeat of the Japanese factory 1-2 they scored at the last round.

Whilst the Gauloises Dutch TT is held a day early in relation to other Grand Prix, taking place on Saturday as opposed to Sunday, the races will begin an hour and a half later than the regular time. This means the 125cc class will kick-off proceedings at 12:45, followed by the 250s at 14:00 and the MotoGP class at 15:30.

MotoGP, 2003, Gauloises Dutch TT

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