World Supersport Championship 2003 Round Nine
Assen Race Preview
6 7 September 2003
MUGGERIDGE TAKES FIRST 2003 WIN
The 1-2 qualifying form shown by the Ten Kate Honda duo of Karl Muggeridge and Chris Vermeulen was more than enough to see them take the first two podium places at Assen, with Muggeridge the more forceful and thus the eventual race winner.
The 16-lap battle took place as scheduled, despite the early fog which had delayed warm up in all classes. The front row starters, Vermeulen, Muggeridge, Sebastien Charpentier (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) and Yamaha rider Jurgen van den Goorbergh, made up the leading quartet for the first section of the race. Charpentier slipped slowly backwards to finish an eventual fifth. The leading trio was reduced to a duo of Honda CBR600RRs when van den Goorbergh crashed out on lap seven.
Despite some late pressure from third place finisher Katsuaki Fujiwara (Suzuki) the Honda pairing had the track to themselves from then on and Muggeridge’s last lap pass on the world championship leader gave him the win. Despite losing a possible five points Vermeulen has a seemingly unassailable advantage of 42 points with only a maximum of 50 left to score.
British rider Ian Macpherson (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) fell from a good top ten position while his team-mate Werner Daemen was ninth. Up to 12 riders disputed seventh place as the race wore on and Daemen had to ride hard and cleverly to secure his top ten finish.
Robert Ulm was the last points scorer in 15th, behind a gaggle of Honda wildcards, consisting of Michael Laverty in 12th, Dean Thomas (13th), and Jan Hanson (14th).
Muggeridge was delighted with his win but said it did not come easy, especially after some bad luck early in the year.
“I had a terrible run at the start of the season but recently we’ve turned it around and found more harmony in the team,” he affirmed. “All credit goes to Ten Kate they’ve done all the work behind the scenes, given us track time and myself and Chris get to go out there to do the fun bit. ”
Had Stephane Chambon (Suzuki) finished in front of his team-mate Fujiwara, Vermeulen would have been in position to claim the world title – if he had beaten Muggeridge. It was to prove a moot point when the Japanese Suzuki rider finished in front of the Frenchman in any case.
For Vermeulen, second was satisfying but he hoped for more.
“There were no team orders,” he confirmed. “I was hoping Karl would let me win but he was a little bit too quick today. I’m really happy for the team, they’ve worked hard and to get a 1-2 here at Assen is what we wanted. I didn’t like to see Jurgen crash but it was a relief that he wasn’t right behind me. I looked back a lap later and Katsuaki was there so it was time to make a move. My main objective was to finish in front of Jurgen and Katsuaki and I’ve done that and extended the championship lead.”
Charpentier, who has proved his prowess since his first race for the Klaffi team at Sugo, experienced some set-up problems but still managed a highly respectable fifth place.
“The race was OK and to finish in fifth position is good for the championship,” said Charpentier. “I had a small problem with my bike under acceleration and also some grip problems around this circuit and that made it difficult for me. Now I am focussed on Imola and Magny Cours.”
Werner Daemen had a real scrap on his hands throughout but overcame most of his rivals.
“That was a real fight but my race was good even though I had some problems with my front brake and fell a little bit back,” said Werner. “Once I got my brakes working better I could fight closer to the front of the group again but I think I had fitted a little bit too soft front tyre.”
Robert Ulm had an early tangle with another rider but found a good race set-up after the changeable practice sessions.
“Now I feel much better with the machine set-up but it is a shame I was the last in the group from seven to 15,” he said. “I had a fight with some of the wild card riders but I was run to the outside of the track early on.”
Iain Macpherson’s fall was a disappointment for the Scotsman, who had been looking good and as high as sixth at one stage.
“I think my front tyre was a little too soft and that caught me out a bit,” stated Macpherson. “It was my own fault but we weren’t helped by the weather conditions during qualifying yesterday.”
The BKM Honda team withdrew from competition on the eve of the Assen race weekend due to a lack of sponsorship funds.
Vermeulen’s gap of 42 points over Fujiwara puts him in pole position for the championship win at the next race at Imola but nothing is ever taken for granted in the always competitive Supersport Championship. After round nine of the planned 11, Vermeulen has a total of 161 points, Fujiwara is second on 119, Chambon third on 113 and van den Goorbergh drops out of championship contention with a static 104. Muggeridge’s win leapfrogs him to fifth overall, with a total of 84.
In the World Superbike Championship Neil Hodgson (Ducati) won his first World Championship title by finishing second in the opener, 0.609 seconds behind his team mate Ruben Xaus (Ducati). Superpole winner Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati) secured third spot after a spirited last lap overtake on James Toseland (Ducati). Gregorio Lavilla (Suzuki) crashed while leading.
In the second race Hodgson, without the pressure of the World championship position over his head, won from Xaus, with third taken by Lavilla.
Hodgson left Assen as champion with a total of 431 points, 140 points ahead of Xaus, who confirmed his second spot overall. Toseland sits third on 240, after his machine failed to finish race two.
Supersport and Superbike classes return for their tenth and 11th rounds respectively at Imola on September 27th.
RACE : (Laps 16 = 96,432 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
1/K. MUGGERIDGE/AUS/Ten Kate Honda/34m 05.948s
2/C. VERMEULEN/AUS/Ten Kate Honda/0.263
3/K. FUJIWARA/JPN/Alstare Suzuki/3.959
4/S. CHAMBON/FRA/Alstare Suzuki/4.129
5/S. CHARPENTIER/FRA/Team Klaffi Honda/12.102
6/F. FORET/FRA/Kawasaki R.T. KRT/19.060
7/J. TEUCHERT/GER/Yamaha Deutschland/30.220
8/G.NANNELLI/ITA/Lorenzini by Leoni/30.292
9/W.DAEMEN/BEL/Van Zon Honda T.K.R./30.906
10/B. VENEMAN/NED/Esha Kobutex Honda/31.047
11/A. CORRADI/ITA/Italia Spadaro F.R./31.203
12/M.LAVERTY/IRL/Vitrans Honda TKR/31.231
13/D.THOMAS/AUS/Vitrans Honda TKR/31.376
14/J. HANSON/SWE/Esha Kobutex Honda/31.430
15/R.ULM/AUT/Team Klaffi Honda/31.700
Fastest Lap= 2° Katsuaki Fujiwara 2’06.922 170,949 Km/h
Riders Championship Standings:
1 VERMEULEN 161, 2 FUJIWARA 119, 3 CHAMBON 113, 4 VD GOORBERGH 104,
5 MUGGERIDGE 84, 6 KELLNER 78, 7 CORRADI 68, 8 FORET 64, 9 TEUCHERT 58,
10 RIBA 49, 11 CHARPENTIER 48, 12 PARKES 47, 13 COGAN 44, 14 MACPHERSON 23,
15 ULM 23.
1 HONDA 197, 2 SUZUKI 163, 3 YAMAHA 150, 4 KAWASAKI 96..
Race 1: (Laps 16 = 96,432 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
1/R. XAUS/ESP/Ducati Fila/33’07.249
3/P. CHILI/ITA/Team PSG-1/0.835
4/J. TOSELAND/GBR/HM Plant Ducati/1.062
5/C.WALKER/GBR/HM Plant Ducati/14.737
6/T. CORSER/AUS/Foggy PETRONAS Racing/22.981
7/L. HASLAM/GBR/Renegade Ducati/23.118
8/I. CLEMENTI/ITA/Kawasaki Bertocchi/23.350
9/S. MARTIN/AUS/D.F.X. Racing Team/45.862
11/A. GRAMIGNI/ITA/Nuvolari 391/1’05.147
12/L. PEDERCINI/ITA/Team Pedercini/1’39.774
13/H. SAIGER/AUT/Remus Racing Austria/1’51.449
15/J. MRKYVKA/CZE/JM SBK Team/1’52.416
Fastest Lap =2° Gregorio Lavilla 2’03.081 176,284 Km/h
Race 2 : (Laps 16 = 96,432 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
2/R. XAUS/ESP/Ducati Fila/0.466
4/R. LACONI/FRA/Caracchi NCR Nortel Net./14.884
5/P. CHILI/ITA/Team PSG-1/19.868
6/L. HASLAM/GBR/Renegade Ducati/27.997
7/I. CLEMENTI/ITA/Kawasaki Bertocchi/39.006
8/C.WALKER/GBR/HM Plant Ducati/41.568
9/T. CORSER/AUS/Foggy PETRONAS Racing/43.155
10/J. REYNOLDS/GBR/Rizla Suzuki/48.883
11/S. MARTIN/AUS/D.F.X. Racing Team/57.319
13/M.BORCIANI/ITA/D.F.X. Racing Team/1’08.487
14/L. PEDERCINI/ITA/Team Pedercini/1’15.103
15/A. GRAMIGNI/ITA/Nuvolari 391/1’27.128
Fastest Lap =16° Neil Hodgson 2’02.649 176,905 Km/h
Riders Championship Standings:
1 HODGSON 431, 2 XAUS 291, 3 TOSELAND 240, 4 LACONI 221, 5 LAVILLA 201,
6 WALKER 191, 7 CHILI 186, 8 MARTIN 109, 9 BORCIANI 98, 10 PEDERCINI 97,
11 CORSER 81, 12 SANCHINI 80, 13 CLEMENTI 62, 14 BORJA 59, 15 BUSSEI 52.
1 DUCATI 500, 2 SUZUKI 251, 3 KAWASAKI 101, 4 PETRONAS 92, 5 YAMAHA 56,
6 HONDA 25.
Hard fought fourth for Toseland
Today’s first Superbike World Championship race at Assen went according to plan for Fila Ducati’s Neil Hodgson, whose second place netted him the 2003 Superbike World Championship title. HM Plant Ducati’s James Toseland rode superbly to finish in fourth place, while his team mate Chris Walker, whose participation in today’s races was in doubt due to a heavy crash in yesterday’s practice session, finished a creditable fifth place.
Despite a flying start from the second row of the grid straight up to second place behind Neil Hodgson, Walker soon dropped back as Lavilla, Xaus and Chili forced their way through. However, the Nottingham rider soon composed himself and tagged behind the leading pack of riders while his team mate, James Toseland was closing fast behind, lapping consistently faster than the leading riders.
As the fitter of the two riders (due to Walker’s injury) Toseland found a way past his team mate just before half race distance and began to hunt down Frankie Chili and move into the top three. He did this with just three laps to go and managed to run with the pace of the two factory Ducati riders in front of him until the very last lap, when Chili forced his way through and secured the remaining podium slot.
“I made a terrible start to the race,” said Toseland, “but managed to ride well once I got going. My race set-up was perfect and I was able to run consistently fast laps. I was riding tactically for third place and when Frankie Chili got past me fair and square, I still thought I had a lap to go, but it wasn’t the case and I had to settle for fourth place. I’m looking forward to the next race though – all I need to do is get a good start and I should be on for a podium finish.”
Chris Walker’s fifth place finish is all the more impressive considering the beating he took during yesterday’s practice crash: “I made an absolutely brilliant start to slot in right behind Neil and the adrenaline kept me going during the early laps. However, when the pace was upped, I just couldn’t go with it. I saw Lavilla and Laconi go out and knew that I had to think about improving my championship position, so I didn’t take any unnecessary risks. I’ll have a good rest before race two and then try the best I can. I’ve got the HM Plant Ducati working well – the rest is up to me.”
Race one result: 1. R. Xaus (Ducati) 33:07.249;
- N. Hodgson (Ducati) + 0.609;
- P. Chili (Ducati) + 0.835;
4 J. Toseland (HM Plant Ducati) + 1.062;
- C. Walker (HM Plant Ducati) + 14.737;
- T. Corser (Petronas) + 22.981;
- L. Haslam (Ducati) + 23.118;
- I Clementi (Kawasaki) + 23.350;
- S. Martin (Ducati) + 45.862;
- M. Sanchini (Kawasaki) + 54.164
Walker’s last minute dash
The huge buzz of expectation at the Dutch round of the Superbike World Championship at Assen centres on the crowning of Neil Hodgson as World Champion. However, while the runaway series leader was fastest for most of today’s free practice and first qualifying sessions, it looks likely that he will be under threat from his previous team – HM Plant Ducati – as he has been for most of this year.
Hodgson’s fellow Brits Chris Walker and James Toseland have finished second and eighth on the provisional grid for Sunday’s two Superbike races. The HM Plant Ducati riders may be out of the reckoning for the title but they are focussing on their personal goals in the remaining three rounds of the championship.
Toseland in particular has much to play for and is only 19 points behind Ruben Xaus in the battle for second place. The 22-year-old Sheffield star won his first World Superbike race this year and has come of age in his third year of racing in the series for GSE Racing/HM Plant Ducati.
However, the times at the end of the first day do him an injustice. He was second in the closing stages of the session, when the red flag was shown due to an incident involving one of the wild card riders. With only three minutes remaining, he opted to sit out the quick two-lap dash to the chequered flag.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve performed today,” said Toseland. “I was second for nearly all of the first qualifying session, having set my time on race tyres. There was no point in me wasting a qualifying tyre with dry weather forecast for tomorrow. We’ve got some more tyres to test but we’re looking at a good race set-up from the outset.”
Team-mate Chris Walker moved onto the provisional front row behind Gregorio Lavilla, relegating Hodgson to third. “I opted to use a qualifying tyre in the closing moments of qualifying and it paid off,” said the popular Nottingham rider.
“This is the first time that I have ridden a Ducati at Assen and so I’m having to put the work in to get the bike set up to my liking. It’s going well so far and I’m confident of making further progress tomorrow. Like all the British riders, I’m looking forward to the support we’re going to enjoy over the weekend – let’s hope that we can give them some results to cheer about.”
First qualifying: 1. G. Lavilla (Suzuki) 2:02.603; 2. C. Walker (HM Plant Ducati) 2:02.736;
3. N Hodgson (Ducati) 2:02.834; 4. P. Chili (Ducati) 2:03.112; 5. R. Xaus (Ducati) 2:03.137;
6. I. Clementi (Kawasaki) 2:03.370; 7. R. Laconi (Ducati) 2:03.539; 8. J. Toseland (HM Plant Ducati) 2:03.553; 9. L. Haslam (Ducati) 2:04.077; 10. J. Reynolds (Suzuki) 2:04.547
Back to business
Tomorrow (Friday 5 September) the Superbike World Championship will once more roar into life when the world’s finest production-based motorcycle racing teams take to the legendary Assen TT circuit. The first practice session gets underway at 10.30am CET and for fans and competitors alike it just cannot come soon enough.
For HM Plant Ducati’s Chris Walker and James Toseland the last five weeks have seemed like a lifetime. Both riders are desperate to pick up where they left off before the break and realise that this round could prove crucial to the fulfilment of their championship dreams.
This year has seen both agony and ecstasy for Chris Walker. The massively popular Nottinghamshire rider’s season got off to a great start with a podium at Valencia but injuries picked up at the third round of the championship at Sugo proved hard to shake off and had an impact on his overall fitness for quite some time. However, strong podium finishes at the last two rounds of the championship (Laguna Seca and Brands Hatch) suggest strongly that the man known as The Stalker is back on form.
“I’ve got to admit that it’s been a pretty tough season,” said Walker. “A couple of unlucky injuries have held me back and I’ve been struggling to ride the HM Plant Ducati as hard as I would have liked. Recently I’ve started to feel much more like my old self and I’ve been able to train hard during the break. Now, I feel like I’m in tip-top condition and want to translate that into rostrum finishes. Assen’s a very physical track so I’m going to need every ounce of my strength to wrestle the bike around.
“It’s been frustrating to have such an excellent bike and team and still not be able to do the business, but it should be a very different story from now on. I have to make it into the top five of the championship and I really want to get a win before the end of the season.”
James Toseland has upped his game considerably for 2003. After spending two years in the shadow of his former HM Plant Ducati team-mate Neil Hodgson, he has now emerged as a genuine championship contender. Assen holds special memories for the 22-year-old – last year he earned his first ever World Superbike podium place at the Dutch circuit. This year he is hopeful of more.
“I’m just absolutely gagging to get back on the bike,” said Toseland. “I’ve been really tempted to go out on my motocross bike during the break but I just didn’t dare in case I injured myself and messed up the last few rounds. Neil [Hodgson] has got a good chance of taking the title this weekend but it’s still all to play for as far as I’m concerned. I’m only 19 points adrift of Xaus in the championship, so second place overall is a definite possibility. Neil is good friend of mine and I’ll be really happy if and when he takes the title, but I’d be much more happy if he does it with me winning both races at Assen.
“I managed to beat all the regular World Superbike riders at Brands Hatch, so my confidence is up at the moment. Fast circuits like Assen suit me pretty well and I made it onto the podium there last year, but this time I don’t want to be waiting for the second race to do it. Come to think of it, I haven’t had a World Superbike pole position yet, so one of those wouldn’t go amiss this weekend either.”
Current championship positions: 1. Hodgson 386; 2. Xaus 246; 3. Toseland 227; 4. Laconi 208; 5. Lavilla 185; 6. Walker 172; 7. Chili 159; 8. Martin 97; 9. Borciani 95; 10. Pedercini 91
BKM Honda team withdraw from World Supersport Championship
The BKM Dark Dog Honda team have announced their withdrawal from the Supersport World Championship with immediate effect. The two-man team of Australian Broc Parkes and Frenchman Christophe Cogan will not race at the Dutch round of the series that takes place at Assen this coming weekend, September 5 – 7.
BKM team manager Michael Bartholemy cited budget problems for the teams demise. He said: “The missing payments of one of my sponsors makes it impossible to cover the ongoing costs. The respective sponsor has not fulfilled our agreement. For us it is a hard decision particularly with regard to the already signed two-year (2003 – 2004) contract with our main sponsor Dark Dog who has always given us the accorded support.”
RIZLA SUZUKI TEAM FOR ASSEN WSB ROUND
Team Suzuki Press Office – September 2. 2003
Rizla Crescent Suzuki British Superbike Championship rider John Reynolds is to make a special ‘wild-card’ entry at the Assen World Superbike Championship round on September 7th. It was originally planned for both Reynolds and Rizla team mate Yuki Kagayama to race at Assen, but the Japanese star crashed at last week’s British Superbike round at Cadwell
Park, breaking his pelvis and putting him out of action for the rest of the season.
The wild-card entry was made at the special request of the Crescent Suzuki team’s main sponsor Rizla, as the company’s European headquarters is based in the Netherlands. Reynolds’ GSX-R1000 race machine will also swop its British Superbike ‘Rizla Blue’ colours for a new ‘Rizla Red’ livery for the Assen event.
Both Reynolds and Kagayama have already scored World Superbike points this year in the two UK based rounds at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, with Reynolds taking a superb close second place in the second race at Brands.
Announcing the decision to race at Assen, Rizla Crescent Suzuki team owner Paul Denning said, “Making the final decision to race at the Assen WSB round wasn’t easy until we asked Yuki what he thought. Yuki is a world class rider and without his presence it would have been easy to pull out, but he is as eager as any of us for JR to race. We will do our best to put on a good show for Rizla, Yuki and all the team’s fans.
“Our Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 is undoubtedly the bike to beat at the moment and JR is riding better than ever. We have a really good chance of getting a couple of top finishes and that’s our goal.”
THE CATHEDRAL CALLS FOR HONDA’S HOPEFULS
After an extended summer vacation the World Supersport Championship contenders gather together in Northern Holland this Friday, to challenge at the unique and timeless Assen circuit once more. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Cathedral’ of bike racing, sometimes called the ‘Riders’ Academy’, Assen is a modern classic with a long history. Its current 6.027km length and 24 corners present a genuine challenge even to riders of the calibre of runaway World Championship leader Chris Vermeulen (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR)
With five free weekends since the previous round at Brands Hatch for most of the competitors, many have made use of their leisure time to relax and recharge their batteries for the end of season push. For some, like Vermeulen, the thrill of competition has punctuated the holiday period.
The young Aussie, only 21-years-old and one of eight supported Honda riders in this year’s championship fight, competed at the shorter national-level Assen circuit some four weeks ago, as part of the Dutch Championships. Vermeulen’s experience of Supersport machinery and his rapid Ten Kate Honda have been a devastating combination this year, pushing him fully 37 points clear of his closest competitor Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Yamaha), with only three races to go.
Vermeulen, an uncomplicated character with a mature head on young shoulders, acknowledges that his recent experiences at Assen even the shorter version of the multiple cambered track may give him an edge on many of his regular competitors.
“Assen should be good for us, partly because the track is so close to the team’s base, and it will be a home round of sorts,” said Vermeulen in the run up to the Dutch event. “We did a National Championship race and although we didn’t use the full track we’ll be racing on in the World Championship event, it does give you a feel for it. I think it will be an advantage for us, especially if it rains, because we have good base settings for the bike in the dry. We don’t have to worry too much if practice is wet but the race itself is dry.”
One of four factory Honda riders to have already tasted the Assen circuit in the aforementioned Dutch National race was Vermeulen’s team-mate, Karl Muggeridge (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR).
“It was good to be able to race at Assen and we have already got reasonably good settings for the race. So a lot of the set-up work is no longer ahead of us anymore and that makes us confident for the race itself,” said Muggeridge. “We only raced the last time on the shorter National circuit but all the information we gathered will be useful this weekend.”
Broc Parkes (BKM Honda CBR600RR) acknowledges Assen is a difficult circuit to master, but nonetheless is looking forward to another high-speed run through the Dutch countryside.
“I have had some reasonably good results there is Superbike and I like the layout of the track,” said Parkes. “I think it’s a place you have to go at least twice before you get it really right. It’s not an easy place to set good lap times right away, because it’s so long. You also have to have a fast bike for Assen it’s a horsepower circuit. You can gain to some extent in the corners, unlike Monza for example, but you do have to have a lot of power.”
Christophe Cogan (BKM Honda CBR600RR) has been a consistent threat to the top ten positions all year but feels that a lack of testing in the run-up to the Assen round will not help his cause.
“We did not get a chance to test in the break so we will have to see how we get on when we get there,” said Cogan.
Robert Ulm (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) eagerly anticipates one of his favourite circuits of the season, an unusual choice for a rider who normally prefers slower tracks such as Valencia or Misano.
“I have only tested a racebike in my head since the break but I have had two Supermoto races, one in Germany and one in Austria,” said the long time World Superbike rider. “The race results themselves were not so good but it is very good training for machine control so I am happy and ready for Assen. It’s a nice circuit for me, a safe track, and I like the fact that there are so many corners.”
Sebastien Charpentier (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) grabbed the unexpected chance to shine in the Klaffi Honda team this year with both hands, and he sees Assen as another circuit he has a realistic chance to score a podium at.
“My feel for Assen is very, very good,” enthused the Frenchman. “I like the track because last year I was fifth in practice, even though my bike was not the fastest. This year the machine is much better so to be at Assen, with the new bike, the new team, my physical condition being OK this is perfect! Assen is normally a pleasure for me in any case.”
Iain Macpherson (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) sharpened his Assen build-up at the recent Dutch National Championship race, behind the two Ten Kate Machines of Vermeulen and Muggeridge.
“I was third at the Assen race but Vermeulen and Muggeridge pulled away from me a little,” stated Macpherson. “I couldn’t understand it at first because I knew I was riding quite well and the bike set-up was good. Those two are riding particularly well but I found out later they were also trying out some new parts. If you do not have quite the same level of equipment as the opposition it’s even more difficult. At Assen we should have exactly the same spec of machine as them so that’s going to be very welcome.”
Werner Daemen (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) turned around his misfortune in the Dutch National at Assen to plan his strategy for the forthcoming WSS round.
“I also raced at Assen after Brands only on the little circuit,” stated the Belgian protagonist. “It was useful for set-up and we learned some good information about race tyres. The tyre I used in the race was unable to go the full distance so we know which tyre to use for the World Championship race distance if the temperatures are the same of course.”
After the Assen race round ten of the championship will take place at another classically sculpted race circuit, Imola in Italy on September 28.