Round Four of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is fast approaching, and adrenaline will be pumped and steaks will be high following three weeks away from the tarmac. Heading to the iconic TT Circuit Assen, WorldSBK riders will be fighting for glory in-front of passionate Dutch fans, at a circuit which has captured the hearts of many with its history alone. 4.5km of sweeping corners and perfect overtaking opportunities await the 21 warriors, and as history has proved anything can happen in The Netherlands.
The European leg of the championship began last time out at MotorLand Aragon, and fans witnessed some of the closest racing seen in years as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) went bar to bar, with some dramatic consequences. After a stunning weekend of racing action, riders then took to the track for a one day Official Test, meaning we may see a boost in some performances in Round Four. One thing is for sure, the Acerbis Dutch Round will provide high levels of drama.
All eyes will be on home hero Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) as he heads to his home round following a strong start to the season, but without that all important podium finish so far in 2017. Last year’s Dutch Round was a mixed bag for the 24 year old; crashing out of podium contention in race one but finally getting that taste of glory in race two with a third position finish. Hoping to impress in front of his loyal home fans, van der Mark will look at putting the changes to his YZF-R1 to good use around the historic circuit.
Jonathan Rea left the Pirelli Aragon Round with a 50 point championship lead after just six races, and heads to The Netherlands as one of the favourites for sipping Prosecco on the podium. British riders have won 26 out of the 50 races held around Assen, and out of those Rea has his name to nine of them, meaning he is heading to yet another circuit he is strong around. The 30 year old has a near-perfect record so far in 2017 and with the unpredictable nature of Assen, can he get into double figures?
MotorLand Aragon certainly wasn’t short of drama for Chaz Davies, as the Welshman scored both his first DNF and victory of the season – experiencing heartbreak and ecstasy the space of two days. Just 50 points off Rea in the title chase, Round Three proved anything can happen and Davies will be out to attack at Assen. Involved in the fight for the win last year, Davies’ record around Assen is a varied one but taking three second positions in the last four races puts him in a good position to battle for the victory in Round Four.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) won Assen’s Race One in 2013, and has secured pole position four times around the iconic track. Following a strong start to the season, as well as fighting through an illness around MotorLand Aragon, Sykes sits in third in the championship standings but is yet to secure that sought-after first win of the season. Looking at altering how the ZX-10RR enters corners as well as the general pace of his green machine at the MotorLand test, Sykes will head to Assen with the hope of a better weekend overall in 2017 – following a crash in race one at the unforgiving Gert Timmer chicane.
Impressing so far on his return to WorldSBK, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has secured four podium finishes in 2017, proving he isn’t here to just make up the numbers. Unable to bridge the gap to the leaders, he continues on his battle to become the 100th Italian victor in WorldSBK. With a vast experience around the TT Assen Ciruit, Melandri doesn’t have a strong record around the track –never having finished on the podium here in WorldSBK. However with his consistent pace and a strong Panigale R underneath him, all this could change this weekend.
Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) has a long history with the TT Assen Circuit, securing his second MotoGP™ victory in dramatic circumstances back in 2006, to standing on the WorldSBK podium for the first time in 2016. With a challenging start to 2017 onboard the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2, the American will hope some modifications made in the Official MotorLand Aragon test will help him to progress forward this season – with just three top ten finishes so far. Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) has always struggled around the 4.5km circuit, but will be hoping to turn a new leaf this April.
Following a tough return to the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) put in a strong run at the Official MotorLand Test, optimistic he can take this pace forward to The Netherlands. With a mixed history around the ever popular TT Assen Circuit, Laverty took the Race Two victory back in 2013 with Aprilia and out of all the races he has finished around the circuit in WorldSBK – he has done so in the top ten. Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) will hope to make his return to the series in The Netherlands, as he sat out of MotorLand Aragon following his injuries sustained in Thailand.
Collecting three top six finishes out of the last four MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship races held at the TT Circuit Assen, Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) will be looking to continue progressing on board his S 1000 RR. With a new team-mate in the experienced Raffaele De Rosa, he will no doubt be hoping to make another step towards the top five in Holland.
Determined MV Agusta rider Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) continues to work through issues on board his 1000 F, producing some impressive results. Running into mechanical issues, the Brit has finished outside of the top ten on just two occasions so far in 2017, and he will hope for a smoother weekend in the fourth round of the season. Camier secured a podium finish in WorldSBK back in 2010 at Assen, which he will hope to emulate this weekend as the 30 year old has taken some credible results at the circuit since then.
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