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Historic date beckons MotoGP to Gauloises Dutch TT

Historic date beckons MotoGP to Gauloises Dutch TT

Historic date beckons MotoGP to Gauloises Dutch TT

The last Saturday in June can only mean one thing to the worldwide MotoGP community – an historic date with the legendary Assen circuit for the Gauloises Dutch TT.

The illustrious event is the only Grand Prix which has remained on the World Championship calendar since its first edition back in 1949, the fast and flowing road circuit steadily evolving into one of the most technically challenging and modern tracks in the world, with the latest safety updates recently completed in time for this weekend's action. This year's event also marks the start of a gruelling spell for the teams and riders, with the MotoGP carnival set to continue in Rio next week before a weekend break followed by consecutive races at Sachsenring and Donington, making it four races in five weeks.

It is sure to be a decisive month for the destiny of the most coveted prize in motorcycle competition, a factor current series leader Sete Gibernau will be only too aware of as he looks to stretch a 100% podium record over the first five rounds. The Spanish Honda rider still leads the series, as he has done since his second round victory at Jerez, but has seen his advantage slowly dwindle to just five points from the resurgent World Champion Valentino Rossi, winner of the last two successive Grand Prix on the Yamaha.

A hat-trick of wins for Rossi this Saturday at a circuit where he has taken previous victories in the 125, 250 and MotoGP classes would put him at least level on points with Gibernau, the winner of a wet race here one year ago. Meanwhile, Max Biaggi will also be looking to make up ground after a disappointing eighth place at Catalunya saw him drift further from Gibernau and Rossi in third place. Biaggi, who won the 500cc race in 2001, celebrates his 33rd birthday on race day and is desperate to cut back a 26-point deficit to the series lead.

It is also a landmark race for Biaggi's Honda colleague Alex Barros, who contests his 200th Grand Prix at a circuit where he celebrated victory in 2000 and has finished on the podium on three different makes of machinery.

Ducati continue their quest to carry the fight to Honda and Yamaha at the top of the MotoGP standings with the introduction of a new engine this weekend. Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss tested the ‘Twin Pulse' motor, which features a revised firing order for smoother power delivery, at Catalunya last Monday and will use it at a Grand Prix for the first time this Thursday.

Both riders have a strong record at Assen, with Capirossi having set pole position on the Ducati last season as well as boasting two 250cc wins and Bayliss having won both World Superbike races to clinch the series title in 2001.

Fellow Ducati rider Neil Hodgson also clinched his WSB crown at Assen last year and returns to Holland in confident mood. The British rider has now fully recovered from broken ribs sustained in round three at Le Mans and made considerable progress with the set-up of the Desmosedici GP3 in the test alongside his factory colleagues and the rest of the MotoGP field at Catalunya.

The only man missing from the Barcelona test, other than WCM pair Michel Fabrizio and Chris Burns, was Jeremy McWilliams, who missed the Catalunya race due to injuries sustained in a crash during the morning warm-up.

McWilliams, who won the 250cc race at Assen in 2001, suffered bruising to his lungs but has declared himself fit to ride when the first practice session gets underway on Thursday morning.


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