The Honda World Superbike Team will travel just 68km for this weekend’s (20-22 April) third round World Superbike championship round at the TT Circuit Assen in northern Holland.
The team is based just down the A28 highway at Nieuwleusen and the Ten Kate Motoren Honda dealership, behind which lies the team’s workshop, is a fascinating and convenient stop-off for some of the many thousands of motorcycle race fans who will head to Assen this weekend.
For Jonathan Rea, Assen represents a chance to get his 2012 title challenge fully underway following relatively modest results in the opening two rounds at Phillip Island in Australia and Imola in Italy.
The 25-year-old, originally from Northern Ireland but now based on the Isle of Man, scored a win and a third place at the 4.542km Assen circuit last year and, having been with the Ten Kate-run team since 2008, Rea has completed a lot of laps there.
The circuit is also well known to his Honda World Superbike team-mate, Hiroshi Aoyama, who won at Assen on his way to securing the 2009 and final 250cc Grand Prix world championship with Honda.
Rea and Aoyama were happy with the testing they were able to undertake after the last round at Imola, but a two-day private test at Assen last week was blighted by showers and cold temperatures, which have also been forecast for this weekend.
It would certainly be nice to get back on the podium this weekend as it’s been a while since I was up there. It’s been a typically slow start to the season, really, and it was a little disappointing that we weren’t more competitive at Imola. With the new one-bike rule, it’s become difficult to try new and different parts on the bike but the test day that we had after the Imola race was really valuable. I’ve got a better feeling with the front of the bike and, even though the weather wasn’t great and I’ve ridden faster around Assen, the test last week confirmed that improved feeling. We’re still looking for the optimum set-up with the new factory forks from Ohlins, but it’ll be good to race at Assen again. The place has got some really happy memories for me and it’s great for the whole team, because a load of guys from back at base, plus the partners of the crew, can come up and see what we do when we’re away for the weekend.
The weather that we had for the test at Assen last week was not very good and we had a lot of things that we wanted to try after the Imola test. But the day we had there was a lot more positive because I had to change some things. I like Assen very much – I liked the old circuit layout, but the new one is fun, too – and I won there on the 250 when I was riding in GPs. I am really looking forward to the weekend at Assen and continuing the improved feeling that I have with the bike. I will try as hard as I can, like always, and see how things are on Friday morning.
Ronald ten Kate - team manager
Our two-day test here last week wasn’t great because the temperature was quite low and there were a few showers. But I think the weather this weekend won’t be much different, so maybe it was good for us to prepare! We were able to confirm that the new swingarm is working OK and we’ve improved the setting with the front forks to give Jonathan a better feeling. Because of the weather and the fact that we were alone, it’s difficult to know exactly where we are, but Jonathan definitely found a step forward during the test we had at Imola the week before. We got a good direction for Hiroshi there, too, and that continued at Assen, which is a circuit he knows well. Imola was difficult for him because we hadn’t found a base setting for him and the circuit has a few blind corners. We’re looking forward to seeing how he goes at Assen this weekend.
2012 World Superbike championship, round three
Assen, Netherlands – weekend schedule (local times)
Friday 20 April
11.45-12.30 Free practice
15.30-16.15 Qualifying 1
Saturday 21 April
09.45-10.30 Qualifying 2
12.30-13.15 Free practice
15.00-15.14 Superpole 1
15.21-15.33 Superpole 2
15.40-15.50 Superpole 3
Sunday 22 April
12.00 Race 1 (22 laps 99.924km)
15.30 Race 2 (22 laps 99.924km)