What a difference a year makes. 2011 saw Casey Stoner put together one of the most dominant campaigns the sport has ever seen, winning 10 out of 17 races and only failing to make the podium when Valentino Rossi slid into the side of him at Jerez. 2012 has seen a role reversal as Jorge Lorenzo gobbles up the points, casting Casey in the role of chaser.
That chase is become tougher and tougher after a third consecutive victory for Jorge at Silverstone, achieved after relentlessly catching Stoner and overtaking him with ease. The Australian admitted he had no answer to the pace of Yamaha's team leader and seems to know the reason for that.
At the British Grand Prix, Bridgestone introduced a new harder front tyre with improved durability and while the response has been positive up and down the paddock, there have been two notable exceptions. Stoner was unimpressed, accusing the tyre of creating more chatter, while Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa described it as “unfair”, saying “the reason they say for changing the tyre is safety, but at the moment it’s not safe for us”.
With Assen approaching, the world champions are mindful that they need to turn the tide before Lorenzo's 25 point lead moves into unassailable territory but the omens aren't good. Yamaha have only been beaten once in the last five Dutch TTs while Honda have only tasted victory twice in ten attempts in the MotoGP era.
A lot of focus will be on Lorenzo this weekend but “the Cathedral”, which has been an ever-present on the Grand Prix calendar, played host to Ben Spies' first Grand Prix win 12 months ago. The American will hope the positive memories will enable him to kick-start his stuttering campaign. Silverstone was the strongest showing yet as the no.11 led early on but with a final result of fifth, Spies is still searching for the form of a year ago.
In contrast, Cal Crutchlow is in the form of his life. The very fact that he started his home Grand Prix two weeks ago was an achievement given the fact he broke his ankle in final practice but adrenaline was clearly a powerful painkiller, enabling him to slice through the pack to finish sixth, moving him back ahead of Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso in the championship standings. Without home field advantage, can Cal overcome the agony this time?
Another man enjoying one of the most successful spells of his career is Alvaro Bautista who found himself in the right place at the right time to claim his maiden MotoGP pole in the U.K. The Gresini rider proved it was no fluke with a solid fourth in the race, keeping the factory Hondas firmly in his sights and the Spaniard may just pip Crutchlow to that first premier class podium.
After an upturn in form, Silverstone saw a return to the bad old days for Valentino Rossi who trailed home an uncompetitive ninth. Instead, Nicky Hayden was left to uphold Ducati honour with seventh but both will be desperate for a return to form here. Both have won here before though with Rossi triumphing six times, including his maiden 250cc win 14 years ago, while Hayden took the chequered flag on his way to the title in 2006, his only MotoGP win outside of North America.
On one of the satellite Ducatis, Karel Abraham will make a welcome return after injury sidelined him at Silverstone. After a double fracture of his left index finger, Abraham is a motivated, if slightly wounded returnee and will surely be satisfied just to add to his meagre points total on Saturday.
The Moto2 title race remains closely contested after another thriller last time out, beating Scott Redding and Marc Marquez. The CatalunyaCaixa Repsol rider has had a victory of sorts of the track since Silverstone with the FIM rejecting Pons HP 40 Tuenti's appeal against the overturning of Marquez's 60 second penalty at Catalunya. With that case finally closed, Marquez brings a six point lead with him to the Netherlands over Espargaro and Thomas Luthi. Bradley Smith lies 65 points off the pace but had his best race of the year on home turf and heads to Assen in confident mood.
Maverick Vinales has taken a grip on the Moto3 championship battle after completing a hat-trick of wins in Britain but Sandro Cortese remains a strong contender, two points back. The consistent Luis Salom has moved into third in the standings and is returning to the scene of his first GP podium last year, the day he put himself firmly on the map. Danny Kent will hope to do the same in 2012 after a much improved performance at Silverstone. A podium isn't out of the question for the teenager.
As is tradition at the Dutch TT, racing takes place on the Saturday with qualifying scheduled for Friday afternoon and Free Practice kicking off on Thursday morning. As ever, The Checkered Flag will have extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
Assen Former Winners
|2011||Ben Spies||Marc Marquez||Maverick Vinales|
|2010||Jorge Lorenzo||Andrea Iannone||Marc Marquez|
|2009||Valentino Rossi||Hiroshi Aoyama||Sergio Gadea|
|2008||Casey Stoner||Alvaro Bautista||Bradley Smith|
|2007||Valentino Rossi||Jorge Lorenzo||Mattia Pasini|
|2006||Nicky Hayden||Jorge Lorenzo||Mika Kallio|
|2005||Valentino Rossi||Sebastian Porto||Gabor Talmacsi|
|2004||Valentino Rossi||Sebastian Porto||Jorge Lorenzo|
|2003||Sete Gibernau||Anthony West||Steve Jenkner|
|2002||Valentino Rossi||Marco Melandri||Dani Pedrosa|
|*No Moto3 races have been held at Assen|