Michael van der Mark looks set to make his MotoGP debut at Assen this weekend. The 22-year-old Dutchman will be swapping his Pata Honda CBR1000RR World Superbike machine for the Open class Honda RC213V-RS of the AB MotoRacing team, where he is set to fill in for the injured Karel Abraham. Abraham badly injured his foot, severly dislocating his toe, in a fall during FP4 in Barcelona.
Rumors that the Dutchman would get the chance to race a MotoGP machine at his home race started circulating in the Dutch media earlier on Monday. Several sources close to the situation confirmed that the deal was very close to being sealed. There are just a few final details to be settled, including matters such as covering the cost of damage in case of a crash.
Van der Mark's MotoGP debut is another step in the meteoric rise of his career. The Dutch youngster wrapped up the Superstock 600 title in his second full year in the class, then repeated that feat in World Supersport. He has made a strong debut in World Superbikes, matching and sometimes beating his Pata Honda teammate, the reigning world champion Sylvain Guintoli. Van der Mark had a superb weekend during the WSBK race at Assen in April, scoring a pair of podiums in the two races. HRC were already impressed with the Dutchman after his performance in the Suzuka 8 Hour race last year, and have signed him to race alongside Casey Stoner at the event again this year. His performance on the Pata Honda in WSBK convinced them to ask him to step in at AB MotoRacing, when Karel Abraham's team informed IRTA that they would need to field a substitute rider for Assen.
Van der Mark has an uphill task ahead of him. Though he knows the Assen circuit like the back of his hand, he has only had a single brief test ride on a Honda MotoGP machine. Conditions at Assen are set to be rather changeable, as is so often the case, meaning that the amount of dry track time he will have is likely to be limited. The Open Honda is not nearly as competitive as the satellite machines, and so he still has plenty to learn. But Van der Mark's appearance at Assen is likely to be immensely popular with Dutch racing fans, and will further boost the already high numbers expected on Saturday.