Honda's press offices provides previews from the Castrol Honda team and from all of the riders in the World Supersport class:
FIM SUPERBIKE / SUPERSPORT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
ROUND 03 MONDAY APRIL 17 ASSEN, NETHERLANDS.
REPEAT PERFORMANCES THE AIM FOR REA
Assen in 2010 marked a coming of age for Honda Superbike rider Jonathan Rea as he took superpole and then his first double win in this category of racing. This year Rea rides in the iconic Castrol Honda colours, but being in the same team set-up and on largely the same CBR1000RR machine as he used last year, he will approach the classic Circuit van Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands with similar aspirations as he goes for his first wins of the new season.
Both Rea and another proven WSBK race winner Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda) have spent some time in the Netherlands in the past week, at the traditional Ten Kate Honda Pit Stop open day, and they will soon be heading to Assen to compete in the third round of a 13-round championship.
Currently Jonathan is sixth in the championship standings, Xaus 14th and each is chasing a first podium in what has been a challenging season at some points already. Rea was a heroic fourth in race two at the opening round in Phillip Island, despite carrying injuries from crashes in testing and practice. He enters the Assen round having scored two top six places at his home event at Donington last time out.
Ruben's tenth place in race two at Donington was a better result than it looked on paper as he was only ten seconds from a podium finish after 23 laps or racing and had been up to sixth place until his tyre performance dropped off.
Assen is one of the most evocative and unique circuits in the whole roadracing scene, starting off as a pure roads circuit before morphing through several layout changes over the decades to become a thoroughly modern circuit that hosts both MotoGP and WSBK races. At 4.542Km long in its present guise Assen still features some of the changes of camber and flowing high-speed curves that have characterised it over the years. It always attracts a strong crowd of both Dutch and international fans, who are always treated to close battles and audacious overtaking manoeuvres.
WSBK Rider Comments
Jonathan Rea, Castrol Honda says: "Assen is my team's home race and I always look forward to racing there. Last year may be nothing to go by this time, but we proved that the CBR1000RR works well at Assen last time we were there. I am a lot more upbeat than I was going into Donington and I have had a couple more weeks to heal up a bit. My wrist feels a lot better. It actually affects me more in every day life than it does when riding the bike, but it is getting better all the time in any case. I have not tested the bike since Donington, but I have been doing a good bit of preparation because we have been camped out at the back of the team's workshops, training a bit with Fabien Foret and Florian Marino from the Supersport team. The long-range weather forecast says that it should be good for race weekend, but we'll see."
Ruben Xaus, Castrol Honda says: "Race two was good for me in Donington because I was only ten seconds from the podium, which was great after only two meetings with this team and on this bike. Not a bad start. Of course we need more and I always want more. I am just trying to enjoy the racing and I so far I have done that. It is a home race for the team, they know a lot about this track and of course last year Jonathan won both races. It is a big important day for the team and a big motivation for me at the same time."
Harms and the Honda Boys set for third encounter of the season
Honda CBR600RR riders dominate the entry list in the Supersport World Championship standings in 2011 and after the opening two rounds seasoned competitor Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Honda) is the best placed of them all, now third in the overall rankings.
Harms has been impressive on a machine which relies on a lot of in-house development between the Danish rider and his Dutch-based Benjan partners. But for some bad luck in the latter stages of the previous round at Donington, Robbin would already have one podium finish to his credit this year.
Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda) and Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) have already stepped onto the podium for Honda in 2011, Lowes in Australia and Rea at home last time out at Donington. One no-score apiece means that they are seventh and eighth respectively, just behind Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rookie Florian Marino. The French rider, only 17-years-old, has secured seventh and eight place finishes so far as his consistency has found an early reward in the championship standings.
The current top ten is rounded out by another fast and impressive Honda privateer, Alexander Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda) with the Swede having been ninth in Australia and tenth at Donington.
Assen is a significant round for some other top Honda riders as they attempt to recover from early bouts of misfortune in what will be a 12-round series. Former champion for Honda, Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), has had to fight off the effects of finger and back injuries over the first two rounds, but feels much more ready to take on the latest challenge in the Netherlands after some decent time off since the previous round at Donington on March 27.
James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) was unlucky to be forced out with a technical issue at his home round, making him particularly motivated to take on Assen, another track he enjoys racing at. James is currently 11th overall after finishing sixth in Australia, despite suffering from a painful knee injury picked up in testing.
Ondrej Jezek (SMS Racing Honda) sits 13th in the championship standings after two solid midfield finishes, while Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) scored an 11th place at Donington and he now finds himself 15th in the rankings.
Balazs Nemeth (Team Hungary Toth Honda), Bastien Chesaux (MACH - Moto Academy Swiss Honda) and Imre Toth (Team Hungary Toth Honda) have all got off the mark in terms of points scores, but other potentially strong Honda riders Pawel Szkopek (Bogdanka PTR Honda), Vladimir Ivanov (Step Racing Team Honda and Mitchell Pirotta (KUJA Racing Honda) are yet to score.
After the Assen round is completed another truly classic venue, Monza, hosts the fourth round of the year, on Sunday May 8th.
WSS Rider Comments
Robbin Harms says: "Assen is a really great circuit and it reminds me of old style tracks. I have been there several years in a row so I have good experience of it. The feeling for Assen is not much different than for PI or Donington and I like all the tracks we race at. For me I will be treating it like it is a new track on the calendar. We are analysing the data to take the good things from the bike set-up at Donington with us to Assen."
Gino Rea says: "Having finished on the podium at Donington I am looking forward to Assen, but as far is my injured thumb goes, it is still nowhere near where it should be. I am going to have to ride with a splint on it again. We got through Donington OK riding that way so I think we can get through this round as well. After that I think we can start physio again. I am more concerned about getting the bike right, and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at Donington, because it took us a long time to get the bike setup where we wanted it. We have a lot of development to do with it still, so hopefully we can make progress and get back up to the sharp end again."
Sam Lowes says: "I have ridden Assen before, in 2008 and it suits my style because it has fast corners out the back end of the circuit and I am definitely looking forward to going back there. Overall, I am aiming to have a strong meeting to move forward from the disappointment of Donington. We just need a normal race meeting at Assen. Looking back at the last race we were basically on the pace so we just need to keep doing what we are doing. There have only been two races so far and it's a long season."
James Ellison says: "It is going to be awesome at Assen and I had my first international win there, in 2000. I have been working hard in rehab with the knee I injured in Australia. It is still quite tender sometimes so I have to stop it flaring up again between sessions. Once on the bike it should be no problem again. They keep changing the layout at Assen, tweaking it, but I have ridden it during the 2006 MotoGP season and I think it was the same then as it is now. It's a great place to go racing and the team are confident they have sorted out the problem we had at Donington."
Miguel Praia says: "I think that I have not made any fantastic races at Assen, but after the race at Donington we took another step forward. I want to make Assen another place where I have done well, to put it into my personal 'maps'. I need a little bit more confidence in the front of the bike to make my settings in the best possible way and at Assen it is so important to go fast around the corners. We are working well on this plan. For sure the WSS class is harder than anyone expected this year, especially now that another manufacturer is back in. Some good riders left the series last year but the new riders are strong as well, and they have been improving the lap times."
Fabien Foret says: "My hand is better, just the finger I broke in Donington is a little problem because cannot bend it, but it is OK. It will be better when I arrive at Assen. In Donington my back was sore, a little bit more than I expected it to be, but again I have had the chance to let it heal up since then. I am not 100%, but I have been training I am looking forward to this weekend. I think it will be a good circuit for us, and it is one of the tracks I like. If I feel good on the bike and the weather is fine then maybe we can have an OK weekend. It is too early to say something more right now. I just need to jump on the bike to see how I will be for real on the weekend."