Ben Spies is proving to be a very quick learner at Assen, taking provisional pole in the first qualifying session at the Assen round of World Superbikes. Once again it was Max Neukirchner who as fastest for much of the session, though Spies was up to speed much quicker on his second session on the track. Neukirchner eventually ended the session down in 7th spot.
Assen, The Netherlands
The first session of free practice for the World Supersport class at Assen saw Joan Lascorz top the timesheets. Lascorz took over the top spot from British rider Cal Crutchlow two-thirds of the way through the session. Fellow Yamaha rider Michele Pirro set the 3rd fastest time, just ahead of Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty.
Results of World Supersport FP1:
Assen has not been kind to John Hopkins. The last time Hopper visited the Dutch track, a huge crash saw him smash his leg and ruled him out of racing for two races, and the injury left him struggling for form and riding in pain for virtually the rest of the season. To add insult to injury, the American lost his ride for the 2009 season when Kawasaki pulled the plug on its MotoGP operation.
His fortunes looked to have revived after Hopkins found a new home in World Superbikes with the Stiggy Racing team. His first races on the bike were solid, given that he had spent just a few hours on the bike, and was up against a host of riders who were on their third race of the season.
But his revival has been short-lived. After just four laps of the first session of free practice for the World Superbike round at Assen, Hopkins had a huge crash, injuring himself badly enough to be transported to a local hospital. The doctors there found he had suffered a badly dislocated hip, an injury painful enough to rule him out of racing this weekend. The team has not confirmed that he will not be taking part in Sunday's races, but a team spokesperson told MotoGPMatters.com that Hopkins was in so much pain that he is highly unlikely to be taking part.
The silver lining for Hopkins is that he didn't break any bones in the crash. It is as yet unknown whether he will be fit in time for the next round of World Superbikes at Monza on May 8th.
The first session of free practice has just been run for the World Superbike machines, and Ben Spies set the fastest time at his first attempt. He took all session to get to the top, but an impressive session nonetheless. Noriyuki Haga and Max Neukirchner had swapped the top spot prior to Spies taking charge.
As a rule, the official pre-race media events on both World Superbike and MotoGP tend to be rather bloodless, even dull affairs. A select group of big name riders participate in a local tradition in a picturesque setting, as a tribute to the culture of the country the series is visiting, and to help publicize the race. In Valencia the riders helped cook a giant Paella dish, and in Qatar, they rode camels.
Normally, when visiting Assen, the organizers would try to do something typically Dutch and eminently forgettable, such as visit a wooden shoe factory or a windmill, or go and watch cheese being produced. Fortunately, this year the organizers of the World Superbike round at Assen came up with something a little less obvious, and far more entertaining: They organized a Solex race through the streets of the city of Assen. The Solex - a type of moped with a small petrol engine mounted directly over the front wheel, which it drives using a rubber wheel - has a cult following in Holland, after becoming vehicle of choice for Holland's first '60s youth cult, the Nozems. So the bikes are still hugely popular, and a surprisingly common site on the streets and cycle paths of Dutch cities.
The atmosphere of the Solex race was heightened by dressing the riders - Noriyuki Haga, Ben Spies, Johnny Rea and local Supersport men Barry Veneman and Arie Vos - in 1960s helmets and full-length leather overcoats. And luckily for us, the Dutch motorcycling blog Oliepeil was there to capture the whole occasion on film:
The World Superbike series completes its spring migration this weekend, reaching the most northerly point of the season, after starting at its most southerly point just three races ago. For the teams and riders of the series are gathering at Assen, to do battle on the emasculated version of what was once called the Cathedral of Racing.
Intrigue haunts the World Superbike paddock at the moment, after rumors emerged that British rider Tommy Hill was to be replaced at Althea Honda. There was a quick response from the Althea Honda team, who issued a press release officially denying the story. The press release stated: "With reference to reports on several websites and forums regarding the substitution of our Superbike rider Tommy Hill with Lorenzo Lanzi, the Honda Althea Racing team wishes to deny this news, which is considered to be totally groundless."
A comprehensive denial. So what is fueling the rumor? Part of the problem is the replacement rider being named: Lorenzo Lanzi is an undeniably talented rider, and a winner at Valencia last year. The Italian started the season riding for Stefano Caracchi's KTM Scuderia Corse team in the Italian Superbike championship, but on the eve of the first round of the season, Caracchi and Lanzi have issued a joint statement announcing that Lanzi had been released from his contract to allow him to pursue opportunities in World Superbikes.
That press release is one of the things fueling the speculation, for it is refreshingly honest in why Lanzi is being released:
This is the final, official version of the 2009 MotoGP calendar. After being in doubt for a long time, the Hungarian Grand Prix was eventually canceled over problems with the track. It will now make its debut on the calendar in the spring of 2010.
If you're reading this, then you already know the kind of job MotoGPMatters.com does in providing in-depth coverage of the MotoGP and World Superbikes championships. But as ever, it is our aim to keep making the website better, bringing you more news and better analysis from the world of motorcycle road racing. To achieve this aim, we will be providing coverage from track side at a number of events this season, keeping you up to date with the news as it happens.
The season kicks of with David Emmett (Kropotkin) reporting live from the IRTA Tests at Jerez starting from Friday, followed by coverage from the third round of the World Superbike series at Valencia in a week's time. A week after that, Scott Jones will be heading to Qatar to bring you some more of his stunning photos live from the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. More coverage is to follow, as we will also be reporting live from several other MotoGP and World Superbike rounds.
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The FIM today announced the official and final version of the 2009 World Superbike calendar. The announcement both confirmed some sad news and provided some excellent news for racing fans.
The bad news is that Brands Hatch, the biggest motorcycle race in the UK, and arguably the largest motorsports event in the country, is now officially off the calendar. Its absence is a result of an argument over sanctioning fees between FGSport (or as it is now called, Infront Motor Sports) and MSV, the body which organizes BSB and is run by Jonathan Palmer, which owns both Brands Hatch and a number of other major race circuits in the UK. The arguments may ostensibly be over money, but a whiff of politics hangs over the decision, with the Flammini brothers wanting a great deal more money than last year, while Palmer refusing to pay any more than he did last year. The loss of Brands is a major blow to race fans, both in terms of the circuit - which is a beautiful track, in a rather idyllic wooded area, and in terms of the event. Attendances at Brands were huge, rivalling even the numbers seen at Spanish MotoGP rounds.
The good news, however, is that Vallelunga has been dropped in favor of Imola. There had been rumors that this was to happen, as the track was dangerous and difficult, with a tight section added on in haste to make it eligible for FIM sanctioned international races. And as Vallelunga was thought to be included primarily to draw in Max Biaggi's fans from his native Rome, with Biaggi now a regular part of the series, the need for a round near Rome has been obviated.
The return of Imola sees one of the classic race tracks back on the calendar. Imola has been the site of some classic battles, both in the Grand Prix series and in World Superbikes, but perhaps none have been so famous as the final round of the 2002 World Superbike series, when Colin Edwards beat Troy Bayliss to win the championship.