Assen, The Netherlands

Assen - Thursday Morning Update

The sun is out at Assen this Thursday morning, and the prospects are for good weather. A large crowd of fans have already thronged the pit lane walk, gawking at the bikes put out on display. Identifying the Fiat Yamaha garages or the Repsol Honda garages was simple: They were the ones which you had to squeeze through the crowds. For those with a fetish for two strokes, the pickings were much richer: bikes were out on display and in the pits being fettled.

On the subject of two strokes, the Team Toth pit was open, and Pasini's Aprilia RSA was being assembled. Word in the paddock is that Toth has given Aprilia assurances that the outstanding funds will be paid, and Aprilia will allow the bike to be scrutineered. Whether Pasini will be allowed to race or not depends on the promised bank transfers actually taking place.

The stands are slowly filling up, and hordes of pasty-faced Northern Europeans are working on acquiring that lobster tint which Assen so often seems to produce. The heat and sun is great for the riders, though, as they face the prospect of getting another three full hours of practice in, uninterrupted by rain. The only factor they will have to deal with is the win, as a stiff breeze is coming in from the north east, hitting the bikes fully in the flank as they line up for the GT chicane.

Race day is likely to be different. They say it's going to rain at some point, but the quesion is when. If the riders are lucky, then it will hold off until the race is over, and only rain on the fans as they head for home.

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The Pasini Mystery - Toth Denies Pasini's Bike Impounded By Aprilia

Mattia Pasini has had a few rough years recently, and things don't seem to be getting any better. His last year in the 125 championship with Polaris World was plagued by engine breakdowns and mechanical problems, producing the entertaining spectacle of the Italian administering a thorough kicking to his factory-spec Aprilia. Then at the end his debut 250 year, the Polaris World team folded as a result of the financial crisis, and the demand for holiday homes in Spain collapsed.

2009 was looking much more promising, especially after the Italian took victory at Mugello once Marco Simoncelli had taken both himself and Alvaro Bautista out of the equation. But at Catalunya, trouble emerged, in the shape of money problems. Rumors surfaced of unpaid bills to Aprilia by Team Toth, and that Aprilia would be demanding its Aprilia RSA back. At Assen, the prominent Italian site GPOne.com reported that Aprilia has impounded Pasini's Aprilia RSA over the unpaid fees, and that Pasini will not be riding here on Saturday.

Imre Toth, team manager of the eponymous team, has denied everything to the Hungarian press. His response to the Hungarian website Motogphirek.hu when confronted with the allegations was "Whaaaat!!!" Toth told the Hungarian website that he expected to start the races as normal this weekend.

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Marco Simoncelli Signs For Gresini Honda For 2010

The first part of the 2010 MotoGP rookie puzzle fell into place today at Assen. In a press conference, Fausto Gresini, owner of the eponymous MotoGP team announced that Marco Simoncelli had signed a one-year deal with the team for 2010. Gresini will have one factory RC212V again next year, and Marco Simoncelli must be the odds-on favorite to get that ride. But the competition will be fierce, as Gresini is also said to be pursuing Marco Melandri, while Spanish rider Hector Barbera is believed to be chasing the Gresini Honda rider.

While Simoncelli's talent is undeniable, the press release also highlighted another aspect of the young Italian. Simoncelli is highly marketable in Italy, and the Simoncelli deal was announced together with the extension of Gresini's deal with Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo, who will be staying with the team for 2010 as well. "Marco has shown over the past couple of years that he has the ability to be a major force in the premier class, as well as being a great communicator," Gresini said. Simoncelli's bubbly personality and outlandish hairdo make the Italian instantly recognizable and a huge hit with the fans.

Gresini also underlined that Honda also had a hand in the deal. "Honda rates Simoncelli highly, and believes he is a rider with great potential for the future, so Honda is very pleased that we are welcoming Simoncelli next season," Gresini said. With the so-called rookie rule preventing class newcomers from joining a factory team in their first year, the factories are having to find more indirect ways of securing the services of promising rookies.

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MotoGPMatters Roadtrip Fundraising Drive

Exciting times lie ahead for MotoGPMatters.com. We will be reporting live from the next four rounds of MotoGP, starting with Saturday's race at Assen. David Emmett (aka Kropotkin) will be bringing you news and reports from Assen, Sachsenring and Donington, while Scott Jones will be sending back reports and his magnificent photographs from Laguna Seca.

All this costs money. And money is in short supply at the moment, despite the support we receive from our sponsors Power Sport Dynamic (who still have tickets available for their Turn 5 Chalet at this year's US MotoGP race at Laguna Seca) and Pole Position Travel, who can take you to any of the MotoGP races on the calendar.

So we are turning to you, our readers. We need money to be able to bring you the news, and you can help us. The previous fundraising drive saw many of our readers send us financial contributions, so join them in helping us keep bringing you the best analysis and most beautiful photography of the world of motorcycle racing.

All you have to do is head over to our Donate page, fill in an amount and make your contribution via Paypal.

Alternatively, if you work for a company that would benefit from working with MotoGPMatters.com to gain exposure, and the opportunity to reach the nearly 200,000 unique visitors who visited MotoGPMatters.com over the past 12 months, drop us a line at advertising@motogpmatters.com and ask how we can work together.

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Videos Of The Final Laps From Three Thrilling Races At Assen

Infront Motor Sports, the company that runs the World Superbike series, does an outstanding job for the most part of making the races it organizes available online for fans who haven't been able to see the races on TV. Not only do they stream the races live on the internet (though tragically, not to all territories in the world), they also have a Youtube channel where you can find highlights from the recent races.

And the highlights from Assen are worth watching again. Three of the five races of the day were decided on the very last lap, Assen's infamous GT chicane determining the outcome of two of them, so here's the last lap from World Superbike race one, the World Supersport race and the European Superstock 600 race. Enjoy!

Ben Spies' courageous last lap dive up the inside of Noriyuki Haga at the horribly fast  Hoge Heide corner:

Eugene Laverty's perfect last corner lunge past Joan Lascorz into the GT chicane:

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WSBK Update - Hopper Out Until Miller, PSG-1 To Miss Flyaways

John Hopkins' luck at Assen went from bad to worse at Assen. After just four laps of free practice at his second ever World Superbike meeting, the American suffered a huge highside and dislocated a hip. Initial reports suggested that no bones had been broken, but once Hopkins had been flown back to California and examined by Dr. Ting, a world-renowned specialist in motorcycle racing injuries, it was found that in addition to the muscle and sinew damage he had suffered in the dislocation, Hopper had also fractured his femur. Dr. Ting operated on Hopkins on Monday, inserting screws to fix the fracture, and the American has already left the hospital to start his recovery at his California home.

Hopkins hopes to be fit again in time for the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on May 31st, but that may be a little optimistic. Dr. Ting said that these injuries normally require 6 weeks of convalescence before they are ready to withstand the strains of racing, but Miller is just over four weeks away. However, as Miller is Hopkins' home round, there is a good chance the American will gamble on racing not fully fit.

In further news from the World Superbike paddock, the PSG-1 team has announced that they will not be flying to South Africa and the US for the Kyalami and Miller rounds of the World Superbike series. The San Marino-based team is seriously short of cash, and have already reduced their line up from two to just one rider, dropping Ayrton Badovini earlier this year. PSG-1 is further handicapped by their decision to field Kawasakis: as good a road bike as the ZX-10R is, in race trim it has failed to be competitive, either for private teams such as PSG-1 or for the factory-backed effort of PBM Kawasaki.

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2009 World Supersport Championship Standings After Assen

1 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR 74  
2 Eugene LAVERTY IRL 68 -6
3 Kenan SOFUOGLU TUR 65 -9
4 Anthony WEST AUS 52 -22
5 Andrew PITT AUS 43 -31
6 Mark AITCHISON AUS 34 -40
7 Fabien FORET FRA 28 -46
8 Joan LASCORZ ESP 27 -47
9 Matthieu LAGRIVE FRA 25 -49
10 Barry VENEMAN NED 25 -49
11 Michele PIRRO ITA 24 -50
12 Robbin HARMS DEN 23 -51
13 Massimo ROCCOLI ITA 20 -54
14 Katsuaki FUJIWARA JPN 13 -61
15 Garry MCCOY AUS 12 -62
16 Gianluca NANNELLI ITA 10 -64
17 Gianluca VIZZIELLO ITA 7 -67
Round Number: 
4
Year: 
2009

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2009 World Superbike Championship Standings After Assen

1 Noriyuki HAGA JPN 180  
2 Ben SPIES USA 120 -60
3 Leon HASLAM GBR 94 -86
4 Michel FABRIZIO ITA 80 -100
5 Max NEUKIRCHNER GER 75 -105
6 Tom SYKES GBR 70 -110
7 Max BIAGGI ITA 65 -115
8 Regis LACONI FRA 64 -116
9 Jonathan REA GBR 53 -127
10 Jakub SMRZ CZE 44 -136
11 Carlos CHECA ESP 40 -140
12 Yukio KAGAYAMA JPN 39 -141
13 Shane BYRNE GBR 39 -141
14 Troy CORSER AUS 35 -145
15 Ryuichi KIYONARI JPN 33 -147
16 Shinya NAKANO JPN 27 -153
17 Ruben XAUS ESP 24 -156
Round Number: 
4
Year: 
2009

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2009 Assen WSBK And WSS Race Report - Classic Dutch Track Produces Classic Races

With the World Superbike series turning into more and more of a two-horse race, Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga sharing all of the series wins between them, the Superbike circus headed to Assen with the hope that a few of the British riders could disrupt the Spies and Haga show. The Assen WSBK round is regarded almost as a home race for the Brits, as UK fans cross the North Sea in large numbers to cheer their local heroes on. They arrived in Assen full of hope, as Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty had both taken wins in World Supersport, and Leon Haslam had had one podium and a streak of strong finishes in the previous three rounds.

Haslam had received a huge cheer in the public superpole press conference on Saturday afternoon, after getting a front row start, but the Stiggy Racing rider faced some pretty formidable opposition. Ben Spies had taken a record fourth pole in a row, an incredible feat for a rookie rider facing new tracks on new tires and a new bike, and with 3 wins from 6 races, was proving that he was capable of more than just a fast lap.

As the lights faded in the first race, the Texan took full advantage of his pole position, rocketing into the first corner in the lead, and opening enough of a gap over 2nd place man Max Neukirchner not to have to worry about an immediate attack. Behind Neukirchner, Noriyuki Haga had closed back the gap that he had lost to the German after being held up by Jakub Smrz on the first lap. Once past Smrz, the Xerox Ducati man closed Neukirchner down and got ready to make his move.

In the event, Haga didn't need to attack, as Neukirchner did Haga's work for him. A mistake in the GT chicane saw the Alstare Suzuki rider thrown from his bike, but that is one of the slowest parts of the track, Neukirchner could rejoin, eventually finishing 13th. With nothing between himself and Spies, Haga quickly closed the Yamaha down, and sat on the Texan's tail. 

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