Dutch World Superbikes: Honda double reduces Suzuki lead
By Mike Hanlon
September 3, 2005
September 4, 2005 Winston Ten Kate Honda’s Chris Vermeulen achieved his second World Superbike double by winning both races in this afternoon’s ninth round at Assen in Holland. The Australian enjoyed a fierce on-track battle with Japan’s Noriyuki Haga, who finished second in the 16-lap race ahead of British rider James Toseland. Toseland and Haga shared the podium in the first race, and runaway series leader Troy Corser finished fourth in both races having his worst weekend of the season. Now the only rider with a mathematical possibility of stopping Corser from winning the championship, Vermeulen trails Corser by 86 points with three rounds (six races) and 150 points still up for grabs. Vermeulen paid tribute to the team’s effort and his opponents, and refuses to believe that he cannot catch championship leader Troy Corser (Suzuki). “James and Nori made me work for it today, but it's a great weekend for the team, and we took a good double,” said Vermeulen. “From half season onwards we started to get some results and there are six races left. Troy still has a big lead, but I will be trying my best to pull it back.”
Starting from pole position, Vermeulen found himself in seventh place at the start of the race but fought his way past the leading riders to take the lead on lap eight. Haga had other ideas, however, and grabbed the lead back from Vermeulen with three laps to go but had to settle for second place after a bold passing manoeuvre from the Winston rider on the penultimate lap.
Vermeulen commented after the second race, “Yeah, that feels pretty good. I’m really happy for the whole team who worked so hard this weekend and wrapped up the World Supersport championship here today. It’s fantastic to do my first double of the year in front of the Dutch crowd and all the team’s guests. That second race was much harder than the first though – I didn’t help myself at the start by nearly running off the track at turn one but I couldn’t fault the bike today because it just felt great. Nori (Haga) rode a fantastic race this afternoon and it’s always great fun battling with him – always really close but we never touch. I managed to close the gap a little on Troy (Corser) today but he’s still a long way ahead, so I need two more wins next weekend.”
For the ten Kate Team, the weekend was quite a triumph, with the team’s World Supersport rider Sebastien Charpentier winning the title by finishing second in the Supersport race, and Vermeulen’s double topping it off at the Dutch-based team’s home Grand Prix. A function for 500 guests is planned for this evening, so celebrations will definitely be in order.
“The blue colours of our sponsor, Winston, and the WinWin logo were especially accurate today and Chris’s double is the icing on the cake of our World Supersport championship win here at Assen,” said team manager Ronald ten Kate. “But I think the real winners here today were the crowd who enjoyed some really spectacular racing. Haga was all over Chris at times in that race but Chris managed to find something extra at the end for our first double of the season. It’s a pity for Karl who had some more problems in race two but we enjoyed a good test at Lausitzring recently so I hope we can find something for him there. It’s a bit of a dream to have a day like this at our home round but we have to concentrate on Lausitzring next weekend. The championship is still a possibility for Chris and, after a couple of beers tonight, we’ll be back at work tomorrow.”
Though Team Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra rider Troy Corser continues to hold a healthy lead in the Championship despite a missing the podium for the first time this season at today’s ninth round at Assen in Holland, he was not too disappointed: “Today was a bit frustrating really, but I suppose if you had to have an off weekend, this one was not too bad. All weekend we’ve had problems with wheelspin and yesterday afternoon we changed an engine and that affected the set-up of the bike. Perhaps we lost our way a little then, but in the morning warm-up today things were pretty good, so we thought we’d be ok. But in both races I had problems with wheelspin and I couldn’t get on the gas unless the bike was more or less upright. That cost me a lot of time each lap - enough for me not to be able to stay with the leaders. I pushed the front as hard as I’ve ever pushed it - any more and I would’ve crashed - but at least we got a couple of fourths. I would have liked to have left Assen with a few more points in the bag but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Right on the pace from the start of the weekend, 24-year-old Toseland held the flag high for the factory Ducati Xerox Team after team-mate Régis Laconi was forced to miss this weekend’s ninth round of the championship due to his high-side on Friday.
Starting from second on the grid, the reigning world champion was involved in a thrilling five-rider battle in the early stages of the first race. Toseland then fought for the runner-up slot with Haga (Yamaha), eventually getting the better of his Japanese rival in the final couple of laps.
“That was hard work, it was a great battle and I’m sure it was exciting to watch” Toseland said. “I always enjoy racing with Nori, we did the same here last year. I knew I could do a good race after Friday and Saturday and I’m just happy to be back on the podium after the disappointment of the last few weeks”.
Another fantastic battle in race 2 involving Vermeulen, Haga and Toseland could have gone any way until the final few laps when the first two broke away and Toseland settled for the final podium slot. But Toseland’s early race performance was astonishing as he powered past Kagayama (Suzuki), Pitt (Yamaha) and Haga at the same place, the final chicane, on successive laps to move into the lead.
“I’ve just ridden one of the best races I’ve ever ridden to finish third but fair play to Chris and Nori, they didn’t put a foot wrong. I know that because I didn’t make a mistake either!” commented Toseland. “I was pushing right to the end, losing the front, losing the rear, skipping about but I’m happy and that’s the first time I’ve been happy with third for a while because I know I rode hard and stuck my neck out. I’m just happy to have two podiums, which I’d like to dedicate to my manager and close friend Roger Burnett and to the family of young rider Chris Jones, who tragically got killed at Cadwell Park recently.”
Yamaha Motor Italia’s Noriyuki Haga's 36 point haul moves him up to fourth place in the title race, just nine points behind third placed Regis Laconi (Ducati), who was absent through injury sustained in a Friday practice crash. "We made great races with James and Chris. I was a little bit disappointed with the final result of both races because if I had lasted one more lap I would have tried something more to push. It was hot and sweat was already affecting my eyes after three laps. In the last two or three laps I felt like I was going to give up but I didn't and the result I know is not so bad."
Corser’s Alstare team-mate Yukio Kagayama finished sixth in race pne and 11th in race two, and is now sixth in the title chase though still in touch with the group battling for third in the title – Regis laconi who was injured and did not race on the weekend, the resurgent Haga on 203, last year’s champ James Toseland on the Ducati (197 points) and Kagayama’s total now is 187 points.
Said Kagayama, “This is not how I planned the weekend! Before today, I believed that a podium or two was possible, so I am not so happy. In race one, it took me five laps to find my rhythm, but by then the front group had gone. My bike’s balance was not perfect, but I think I lapped as fast as the leaders in the second part of the race, but it was too late. I had big problems in the second race with rear end chatter after five laps. I had started well in third and was fighting hard, but when the chattering started I couldn’t keep my position. In the end, all I could do was keep going and bring my bike home.”
Lorenzo Lanzi, SC Caracchi Ducati: Lanzi proved adept once more in his rookie SBK season, taking seventh in race one, and an impressive sixth in the second race, holding off some much more experienced riders. “I was confident to get something more,” declared Lanzi at the end of the day. “Unfortunately the start position penalized me. At race-1 start all take the start as rockets, as at the holeshot I was just eleventh, then I found Kagayama very hard to pass; when I was leading we rode a bit faster, but Yukio is a fighter and when he was leading we lose some space from the leaders. At the end he’s been able to resist at all my attacks and I finished in seventh place. At race-2 start I keep a good start, but at the first corner I was outside of Martin when the Petronas changed his line, nearly setting me out of the track, so at the holeshot I was 1.5 seconds behind. Then I started to recover positions until sixth place, but it was too late for any attempt to do better. Anyway I’m quite satisfied about the week end’s result, with such a crew of champions it’s a good result.”
Max Neukirchner, Klaffi Honda: Neukirchner was the second most effective Honda rider on display at Assen, and was glad to rack up two good points scores, after some recent bad luck. His eighth in race one improved to seventh in the second running, bringing some cheer to the Klaffi Honda squad. “I am a lot happier because of the points we made this weekend,” said the young German rider. “In practice things were not so bad, even in Superpole, when we had a crash. It was not enough to make too bad an effect on our race weekend. I needed some points and we got them.”
Karl Muggeridge, Winston ten kate Honda: Winston Ten Kate Honda rider, Karl Muggeridge was unhappy with his raceday luck, feeling that he could have had better results in different circumstances. Muggeridge went ninth and eighth, experiencing cramps and numbness in his right hand due to his Brands Hatch injury and then a lack of rear traction in race two. “My right hand, the one I broke at Brands Hatch, went numb in race one,” said Muggeridge. “I couldn’t feel the throttle too well, but in race two it was fine. The problem was that the rear traction just dropped off right away and I had no chance to go faster in the race than I did.”
“I felt pretty good for race two and the bike was working well but just lost rear grip from the first lap. I really don’t understand it and it’s pretty frustrating because it’s been getting better all through the weekend and the team deserved some better results today. With the rear gone, it was really only the front tyre that was keeping me in there. I’m happy for Chris but need some solid results myself at Lausitzring next weekend.”
Pierfrancesco Chili, Klaffi Honda: For Pierfrancesco Chili, Assen was forgettable, and he sits eighth in the championship. Struggling with machine set-up, he was once more in comparatively lowly positions on his Klaffi Honda, finishing tenth in race one and only just in the points with 14th in race two. “Even in Brands we had problems and maybe I am way out in getting the setting of this bike right. I cannot ride like this, for no points, for no enjoyment and we are not in a good situation right now. We tried to make some modifications in the second race but it was just the same. The clutch did not start the way I wanted again either, so we are far away from where I want to be."
Andrew Pitt, Yamaha Motor Italia: "It's getting better. We are starting to fight with them now but we've just got to get on that podium! We used the regular engine spec, because we know where the position of the bike has to be now and when you've got the confidence to just grab the brakes and fire it into corners it really helps. At this moment I don't want to change too much on the machine."
Norick Abe, Yamaha Motor France: "In the first race we had a broken engine so we had to change the motors. But I think that the clutch on that engine was already no good. So I could not make a good start. In the race it was very difficult to shift down - so we had some bad luck. Knowing Assen from MotoGP helps a little but when the bike is completely different from the one before, it makes the whole experience very different."
Sebastien Gimbert, Yamaha Motor France: "A good race for me and for my team. I had a little difficulty with the set-up, the balance of the motorcycle, but it was not so bad. The leg is still causing me a little problem but it should be a lot better for next week."
Massimo Meregalli, Team Coordinator, Yamaha Motor Italia: "In Brno we said, 'ok, maybe we are lucky,' but to win also in Brands Hatch and be so close to the wins here means we are close to the best. Noriyuki used the new engine, so we were a little bit worried, took a big risk, but in the race it was ok. I am happy for both our riders because Andrew made a good race today, close to Troy Corser and was always trying to overtake him."
Martial Garcia, Team Manager, Yamaha Motor France; "We lost Abe from the first race because of a stone holing the radiator, so the engine boiled. He did not see the increasing engine temperature, unfortunately. We put in the spare engine and the clutch was too hard, so he lost the start - that's why he stayed in ninth position. Sebastien seems better, took some points and moved up a position. The main thing is that his confidence is coming back."
SUPERBIKE Race 1: (Laps 16 = 95,952 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time /Gap 1 / VERMEULEN / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 33'36.029 / 2 / TOSELAND / GBR / Ducati Xerox / 33'39.425 / 3.396 3 / HAGA / JPN / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 33'40.905 / 4.876 4 / CORSER / AUS / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 33'42.844 / 6.815 5 / PITT / AUS / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 33'46.104 / 10.075 6 / KAGAYAMA / JPN / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 33'48.555 / 12.526 7 / LANZI / ITA / Ducati SC Caracchi / 33'48.690 / 12.661 8 / NEUKIRCHNER / GER / Klaffi Honda / 33'56.624 / 20.595 9 / MUGGERIDGE / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 33'56.901 / 20.872 10 / CHILI / ITA / Klaffi Honda / 34'03.720 / 27.691 11 / CLEMENTI / ITA / Team Pedercini / 34'12.473 / 36.444 12 / GIMBERT / FRA / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 34'12.873 / 36.844 13 / MCCOY / AUS / Foggy Petronas Racing / 34'13.041 / 37.012 14 / MARTIN / AUS / Foggy Petronas Racing / 34'15.291 / 39.262 15 / BUSSEI / ITA / Kawasaki Bertocchi / 34'15.368 / 39.339 Fastest Lap 7° Chris Vermeulen 2'04.685 173,150 Km/h
Race 2 : (Laps 16 = 95,952 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time / 1 / VERMEULEN / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 33'34.053 / 2 / HAGA / JPN / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 33'34.138 / 0.085 3 / TOSELAND / GBR / Ducati Xerox / 33'37.371 / 3.318 4 / CORSER / AUS / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 33'39.991 / 5.938 5 / PITT / AUS / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 33'40.447 / 6.394 6 / LANZI / ITA / Ducati SC Caracchi / 33'50.533 / 16.480 7 / NEUKIRCHNER / GER / Klaffi Honda / 33'51.308 / 17.255 8 / MUGGERIDGE / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 33'56.391 / 22.338 9 / ABE / JPN / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 34'04.854 / 30.801 10 / BOSTROM / USA / Renegade Koji / 34'08.124 / 34.071 11 / KAGAYAMA / JPN / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 34'10.533 / 36.480 12 / MCCOY / AUS / Foggy Petronas Racing / 34'10.711 / 36.658 13 / GIMBERT / FRA / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 34'11.218 / 37.165 14 / CHILI / ITA / Klaffi Honda / 34'11.941 / 37.888 15 / BUSSEI / ITA / Kawasaki Bertocchi / 34'12.467 / 38.414 Fastest Lap 12° Noriyuki Haga 2'04.799 172,992 Km/h Lap Record: Chris Vermeulen 2'04.685 173,150Km/h 2005
Riders Championship Standings: 1 CORSER 370, 2 VERMEULEN 284, 3 LACONI 214, 4 HAGA 203, 5 TOSELAND 197, 6 KAGAYAMA 187, 7 WALKER 130, 8 CHILI 119, 9 PITT 117, 10 MUGGERIDGE 100, 11 ABE 95, 12 LANZI 85, 13 NEUKIRCHNER 80, 14 BUSSEI 48, 15 BOSTROM 39.
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