News 22 Apr 2009

HONDA RIDERS MOVE ON TO ASSEN SBK

Honda press release:

The fourth rounds of the Word Superbike and Word Supersport Championships take place at Assen on 26 April, with Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) the highest ranked Honda rider in the Superbike table and Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) the best placed Honda rider in Supersport.

Haslam is currently fifth overall, with a best individual finish of third in the second leg at Phillip Island. His consistent point scoring form has given him a total of 58 points, meaning he is only seven points off a top three placing now.

For Sofuoglu, the winner and pole man at the opening WSS round in Australia, a share of the top spot after round three sees him on 54 points, matching Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow. Each of those riders has the same collection of race finishes so far; one win, one third and one fourth, and they have also monopolised pole position between them.

The only other 2009 WSS race winner is another Honda rider, Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) who secured a famous first victory for himself and his team in Losail, on the 2009 version of the CBR600RR.

Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is just inside the top ten after a patchy start to his first WSB season, with his third place finish in qualifying in Australia leading to a top five ride in the race. By contrast, Rea left the last round at Valencia with a retirement and a 13th place finish.

After such a difficult Valencia weekend, Rea has already made a short test on an oval circuit close to the Ten Kate team’s base in the Netherlands, to try out some new parts aimed at improving throttle connection and response.

Rea is only one point ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Racing Honda CBR1000RR) and two ahead of his own team-mate Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) after each of those two proven WSB race winners have also battled hard for only occasional reward in all six opening races.

Checa has made a consistently good job of qualifying in the new-look Superpole, taking second row starts each time, while some equally illustrious riders have failed to get past even the first of three elimination style Superpole sessions.

With changes having been made in the mechanical and electronics packages of all the Ten Kate machines, the Dutch-based squad is looking for a return to top form at its 4.555km long home circuit.

The appearance of former MotoGP rider John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) in the WSB paddock at Valencia was a novelty for a time but he made himself at home straight away, finishing 11th and 12th.

Tommy Hill (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) has scored points in four of six races so far, while Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda CBR1000RR) still has to get off the mark in this exceptionally competitive season.

Three Honda WSS riders, Laverty, Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) and Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) have a share of third place in the middleweight class, all on 43 points.

Matthieu Lagrive (Honda Althea CBR600RR) is fifth overall, only a single point ahead of his team-mate Mark Aitchison (Honda Althea CBR600RR). Lagrive has been in frequent action since his last WSS race, running to second in the Le Mans 24 Hour race last weekend, after testing at Monza with his team-mate shortly before the classic French race.

Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) has had little luck to mix in with his otherwise confident start to the 2009 series, while Gianluca Vizziello (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) is making progress now after taking time to get used to his new machine and team.

WSB Rider Quotes

Leon Haslam said: “I am really looking forward to the next race in Assen. I have raced on the old circuit before, and I’m keen to try out the new parts of the track, especially the first section. There is always a really good English fan base in Assen as well. We have some parts for the bike to test this weekend, which will hopefully further improve the bike.”

Jonathan Rea said: “After what’s been a sluggish start to the season, we needed to look at making some changes to the bike to improve the feeling. The guys have found some pretty positive developments back at base and I was able to try them out last week. The feeling with the throttle is much better now and that was the main area of concern. Assen is a great place, for a number of reasons, and I got my first podium with the Supersport team there last year. The circuit should suit the bike better than Valencia anyway, and we’re all in a really positive frame of mind.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari said: “After the last race I went back to Japan for a week for the wedding of Mamoru Moriwaki’s daughter, so it was good to spend a short time relaxing with friends. I must admit it was a little bit frustrating to ride with the problems we had at Valencia. But the team has been working really hard to prepare for Assen and I am confident that they have found some improvements for me to try. Last year was not such a good result, but we know what the problem was there – basically – rider too aggressive on the throttle! I like the circuit at Assen, though, so I will try very hard this weekend to get some good results for the team.”

Carlos Checa said: “I wasn’t able to test the improvements to the bike but we have had some detailed discussions and I’m happy with the developments that the team has made. There are one or two other additions to the bike for this weekend and I’m confident that what we have planned should work well at Assen. Like a lot of other riders, I prefer the old layout of the circuit, but it’s still a nice track and I was on the podium twice last year, so it’s a great place to have the team’s home round. I was at the workshop for an open day last weekend and, if the weather is as good as it was then, it should be a great event.”

John Hopkins said: “The first round of the championship was a challenging experience. I had not been on a bike for a few months and then came pretty much straight into the series and had to do two races in a row. I consider these first races to be part of the learning experience, but I have proved that I can do the lap times and am eager to go for a good result in Assen this weekend.”

Tommy Hill said: “This will be the first time for me at Assen, so again it’s another circuit I need to learn fast. It’s a shame we did not get to test in Monza, as it would of been nice to get some more setup time. As we’re now at the fourth round of the world championship, I have my fingers crossed for better results, and hope to gain more points than the previous rounds.”

WSS Rider Quotes

Kenan Sofuoglu said: “In the end, we did OK at Valencia and showed what potential the new CBR has, and I’m confident that the team has found even more performance from the bike already.
Assen is a great place and I’ll have a lot of friends at the team’s home race this weekend so I’ll be looking for another good result to keep the momentum going.”

Andrew Pitt said: “Well, we did have a few problems last time out with the new bike, but we’ve been able to narrow it down to three small problems that all came together at the same time.
Now we’ve got them dialled out, I’m hoping for better things at Assen. I took second place in a wildcard ride for the team here in 2007 and won last year’s race. The guys have made some other improvements to the bike, so I’m feeling confident that Assen can be good to me again.”

Eugene Laverty said: “I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I’ve raced at Assen in 2007 and
2008 when I competed in the 250 GPs. We learned more about our chassis at Valencia and that will help our development and keep our speed advantage. We never stand still. The track suits me and I’m ready for the challenge, I want to go out there and win.”

Anthony West said: “Assen is a great track and I love riding it. We have been working on the development of the engines in the last weeks, which should improve the speed needed on the fast straights. I really want to win the race this weekend after I got so close to the victory in the last round. I am glad I was on the podium again in Valencia after the disappointment in Qatar and am not planning on backing off now.”

Matthieu Lagrive said: “I have just finished the 24 hours Le Mans race where I took second position with my Honda France team. Now I have to leave for Assen and the Supersport championship race. I like to ride in the TT circuit and after the tests we made in Monza, shortly after Valencia, I’m very motivated.”

Mark Aitchison said: “In Valencia we were strong in the qualifying and during the majority of the race, but I hope to be more consistent throughout the weekend and gain valuable points at the same time. We have learnt a lot more about our bike in recent tests at Monza, so I am really looking forward to working with my team in Assen. It is one of the best circuits in the world and I am very motivated to win.”

Miguel Praia said: “I like Assen and after the nightmare of Valencia where the early rain ruined my plans I’m looking forward to it. I think our Parkalgar Honda will work well there and I’m determined to achieve the result I should have had in Valencia. I want a top 10 and I don’t see why that isn’t possible.”

Gianluca Vizziello said: “I hope to be able to improve by another three or four positions in the next race. I have been struggling with the setup of my bike through the Valencia weekend, but will hopefully be able to improve the bike in the qualifying sessions this weekend and qualify further up the grid. I like the track at Assen a lot.”

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