Nine-time champion Valentino Rossi will race the bike this weekend, with team-mate Nicky Hayden receiving his version in time for the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca – with the delay being due to the sport’s engine rotation regulations.
Based on the GP12 currently being developed by the team for next season, the GP11.1, which has yet to be ridden by Valentino, features improved chassis stiffness. In addition the bike is fitted with a new transmission, dubbed ‘DST’ (Ducati Seamless Shift), which has been under development for over a year and offers quicker shifts with reduced power loss during gear changes.
The Assen TT Circuit is a true classic, and is considered by many as being the ‘Cathedral of Motorcycle Racing’ – much as four-wheel fans worship Monza – after first featuring on the calendar in 1955. The circuit then replaced a public road layout running through the host town of the same name, and has been variously modified and upgraded, the last time in 2006.
The current track runs to 4,542 kilometres, and incorporates 21, mostly sweeping, corners. Lap averages of over 170 km/h are achieved in dry conditions, with each lap of the circuit taking a little over 1:30 minutes. Assen has the distinction of being the only current venue to have featured on the inaugural 1949 world championship calendar, and is also the only circuit in the series specifically designed for motorcycle racing.
Assen uniquely features its race on Saturday, with the preliminaries thus scheduled for Thursday/Friday. As always, much depends upon the weather gods, and rain is predicted throughout MotoGP sessions on all three days of the race weekend. In fact, the heaviest falls are forecast to begin at 15:00 on Saturday, coinciding to the minute with the start of the 26-lap race...
“Assen is one of my favourite tracks - one of those that I like most, and where I’ve had some nice races in all the classes,” said Italy’s Valentino, currently fourth in the championship with 68 points, ahead of his final preparations for the event. “We’ll try to take advantage of that good feeling and of our experience at this circuit because Thursday morning we’ll debut some updates to my bike that are very promising,” added the winner of 79 MotoGP rounds.
Nicky, world champion in 2006, is equally looking forward to the race: “Now it’s time for Assen, which is an awesome race. I have some good memories here, including a win, and it’s a place I really like, with a lot of history and tradition. The track has changed over the years, but I like the new section,” said the American star, who lies sixth with 60 points.
Australian Casey Stoner currently tops the points log for Honda with 116 points, followed by Yamaha’s reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo (98) and Andrea Dovizioso (Honda, 83). After this event the circus heads to Mugello on the Adriatic coast for the Italian Grand Prix a week later.