With the World Superbike series turning into more and more of a two-horse race, Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga sharing all of the series wins between them, the Superbike circus headed to Assen with the hope that a few of the British riders could disrupt the Spies and Haga show. The Assen WSBK round is regarded almost as a home race for the Brits, as UK fans cross the North Sea in large numbers to cheer their local heroes on. They arrived in Assen full of hope, as Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty had both taken wins in World Supersport, and Leon Haslam had had one podium and a streak of strong finishes in the previous three rounds.
Haslam had received a huge cheer in the public superpole press conference on Saturday afternoon, after getting a front row start, but the Stiggy Racing rider faced some pretty formidable opposition. Ben Spies had taken a record fourth pole in a row, an incredible feat for a rookie rider facing new tracks on new tires and a new bike, and with 3 wins from 6 races, was proving that he was capable of more than just a fast lap.
As the lights faded in the first race, the Texan took full advantage of his pole position, rocketing into the first corner in the lead, and opening enough of a gap over 2nd place man Max Neukirchner not to have to worry about an immediate attack. Behind Neukirchner, Noriyuki Haga had closed back the gap that he had lost to the German after being held up by Jakub Smrz on the first lap. Once past Smrz, the Xerox Ducati man closed Neukirchner down and got ready to make his move.
In the event, Haga didn't need to attack, as Neukirchner did Haga's work for him. A mistake in the GT chicane saw the Alstare Suzuki rider thrown from his bike, but that is one of the slowest parts of the track, Neukirchner could rejoin, eventually finishing 13th. With nothing between himself and Spies, Haga quickly closed the Yamaha down, and sat on the Texan's tail.
Results of World Superbike Race 2 at Assen:
Results of the Assen European Superstock 600 race:
Result of the World Supersport race at Assen:
Full result of the first World Superbike race at Assen:
Full results of the Superstock 1000 race at Assen:
Full results of the 2009 MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi:
Full result of the Motegi 250cc Grand Prix of Japan:
Result of the 125cc race at Motegi, Japan:
The fates have been incredibly cruel to the MotoGP series since the 2008 season ended. First, a manufacturer withdraws, then a flurry of rule changes hastily enacted in a bid to cut costs in response to the financial crisis received widespread criticism, and finally, the first race of the season has to be postponed due to rain - in the desert, of all places. Of course, much of the blame for this misfortune can be firmly laid at the door of governing body of the series, the Grand Prix Commission: The switch to 800cc made the bikes radically more expensive; The rule changes were discussed and agreed within a matter of a few weeks, leaving the suspicion of not being fully thought through; And though it may not rain in the desert, Qatar has a wet (well, damp) season too, and running the race at night means that even a small amount of rain can cause the race to be postponed.
But the events at Motegi on Saturday are arguably beyond the power of Dorna to control. Rain had been forecast for Saturday, but that so much water would fall that rivers would start flowing across the track is an unusual event indeed. In the end, Race Direction waited for an hour to see if the weather would improve, and when it didn't, it canceled qualifying. A wise move, all things considered, as the occupants of the safety car sent out to examine the track declared the circuit too dangerous to even drive around, let alone try to ride a motorcycle at race pace on.
Ever since the Grand Prix Commission announced that the new Moto2 class would be contested by 600cc four strokes, the new class has been surrounded by controversy and argument. And argument continues to dog the class at Motegi, but this time, the argument is much more positive. A decision was expected from the Grand Prix Commission on who would be awarded the contract to supply the spec engine to the class at the Japanese Grand Prix, but the members of the commission face a problem.
According to Motorcycle News' Matthew Birt, the problem is that while it was expected that there would be only a single tender submitted, it seems that more than one manufacturer is interested in the class. As a consequence, the bids will have to be studied in more detail before the contract can be awarded, and that therefore the decision will have to wait until the next race at Jerez in a week's time.
Rumors had previously emerged that Kawasaki would be awarded the contract, but the news that other parties are interested complicates the situation. No news is available on who those other bidders might be, although several companies, including the US-based Cosentino Engineering had expressed a firm interest in the class. But the most likely party to be awarded the contract will be one of the major Japanese manufacturers, if only because they already have the capacity in place to supply the 100+ engines such a class is likely to require.