Monday, June 29


Former Superbike World Champion Carlos Checa will return to ride a Ducati Superbike tomorrow.

The Spaniard will ride the Panigale R at a Superbike test at Mugello, Italy over three days, starting June 30.

He will support the work of the Ducati development team and substitute for injured Luca Scassa who was  injured at the Misano round in which he was taking part as a 'wildcard' entry.

Checa officially retired from competition at the end of 2013 after struggling with an uncompetitive 1199 Panigale in its first season of racing.  Previous Ducatis have proven competitive from the first race of a a new season but the Panigale has proven troublesome.

Ducati believes Checa's talent and technical ability will prove useful in further developing the Panigale R that has finally started to become competitive this year, its third season of racing.

The milestone reached at Misano, with Ducati scoring its 800th World Superbike Championship podium, and the positive results that the Racing - Ducati Superbike Team is achieving, show that the Borgo Panigale bikes are once more playing a starring role in the series for production-derived bikes.
Checa has remained close to Ducati since retiring from racing, undertaking the role of brand ambassador, and has also maintained a high level of training and physical preparation. He recently concluded his first session as an instructor at the “Champs Academy”, the Elite programme at the DRE (Ducati Riding Experience) from June 15-17 at Mugello.

Ducati Corse is enthusiastic about working with the former world champion once again and confident that they will be able to collate useful and constructive feedback over the scheduled three days.

“I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to return to the track with the Ducati Panigale R Superbike," said Checa.  

"The project continues to develop and I’m honoured and happy to be able to make a contribution.  I hope, once I’ve shaken off a few cobwebs, to be able to provide the team with useful feedback.  It’s been a while since I rode a Superbike and I want to stress that I’m not thinking to return to racing.  I just like the idea of experiencing some of the excitement I enjoyed during my career and plan to be fully focused and committed during the three days of testing.” 
Checa on the title winning 1098R, the last truly competitive Ducati Superbike. 

Sunday, June 28


A delighted Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team after the Assen race.  They witnessed another double podium for their riders, and now Rossi and Lorenzo are still 1-2 in the championship.

Nine times world champion Valentino Rossi scored his third win of the 2015 season with an emphatic victory at Assen.

Going into the ninth round of the 19 round season, Rossi led team-mate Jorge Lorenzo by just one point.  Lorenzo had won the previous four races and another win would see the Spaniard leading the championship.  Rossi knew he had to do something, and he did.

For the first time this season he managed to put the Movistar Yamaha on pole position.  From there he made a blazing start, took the lead and kept the Yamaha out front for most of the race.

Behind him defending champion Marc Marquez gave chase, and was breathing down the Italian's neck, but was unable to find a way though.  Lorenzo, who had reversed roles with Rossi and qualifid on the third row of the grid, made a great start and was up to third place before the first of 26 laps was run.  Initially it looked as if he was going to close in on the leading duo but as the laps ticked by, he was left further behind, unable to match Rossi and Marquez' pace.

Dani Pedrosa, who had taken a heavy tumble in morning warm-up after an otherwise impressive practice and qualifying, was way down in 12th place and had to work his way forward from there.  IT was no rapid advance up the ranks though, and Pedrosa ended up finishing in eighth place.

Out front Rossi used his YZR-M1's nimble nature to the fullest to keep Marquez at bay. He held on to his position until the Spaniard made his move going into turn one with seven laps to go, but the Doctor was far from defeated.  Refusing to let his rival go, he stuck close to Marquez and bided his time for four laps before retaking the lead.

The following laps had the Yellow Hordes on the edge of their seat.  Valentino rode a personal best time on the penultimate lap of 1m 33.673s to create a margin, but Marquez closed in on him in the second half of the last lap.  The crowd went wild when the Spaniard made his move going into the chicane for the final time.  But Marquez clipped the side of the Yamaha, forcing Rossi to run straight through a gravel trap.  The Italian did well to hold on to the bike and reentered the track in front of his rival to take his third win of the season with a 1.242 second advantage.

Marquez last lap move...

Lorenzo finished a distant third and Andrea Iannone claimed fourth place for Ducati.

For full race results, click here.

For the current championship table, click here.

Afterwards Rossi reflected on his win: "I pushed, and I don't want to say I did a perfect race, but close.  I saw I was not able to get distance from Marc.  It's always difficult with him and you know the battle will be very hard, but I was confident that I was competitive and I wanted to try for victory."

The Italian knew Marquez would make a move on the last lap, but was not quite ready for what happened.

"In the last laps I pushed a lot and I arrived at the last chicane when Marc tried to overtake but he arrived a little bit too late, I was already into the chicane and we touched a little bit and I had to cut the corner.  Essentially I had no choice and I was lucky, because I got on the gravel, but I stayed on the throttle even though I didn't know how deep it was and I thought there was a chance I could lose control.  When I returned to the track I checked the position of Marc, but he had slowed down more than I did. 

"It has been a great weekend and it's very important because I increased my point advantage over Jorge.  I think that in a championship as close as this, it is very important you take the maximum profit when you are competitive and when you like the track, because for sure we will have some more difficult moments.  It was fantastic to come back here with a victory.  I think we deleted the results of Jerez, where Jorge gained nine points over me and now we have to try to delete also Mugello's results where he did the same thing.  Apart from the joke, it is very important because Jorge did fantastic to cut down a 28 points gap to just one.  So to take nine points now is crucial, also because I think this championship will arrive to the last race and the last lap."

Rossi celebrates on the top step at Assen, flanked by Marquez and Lorenzo.

Friday, June 26


Marc Marquez has had a fraught first half 
of the 2015 MotoGP season.
As the World MotoGP Championship moves to the ninth of 19 rounds at Holland’s Assen circuit, defending world champion Marc Marquez is down in fifth place in the series after a fraught opening half of the season.

 As a result, the Spaniard has exactly half the points of series leader Valentino Rossi, who stands at the top of the table with 138 points going into the Assen race on Saturday.  (For the current championship points table, click here). 

Marquez started the season with a fifth place finish at Qatar, 4.3 seconds behind 2010 and 2012 world champion Jorge Lorenzo who had led most of the race, only to have his vision obscured when the lining in his HJC helmet came loose and dropped down enough to obscure his vision.  That let Rossi through to his first win of the season.

Since then Marquez has crashed out of three of the seven races run so far, clearly struggling with bad front wheel hop under brakes and battling to get the Honda turned.

But his matadorial spirit undiminished, he went to Assen on Thursday and laid down a practice lap a couple of tenths of a second faster than 2012 MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner’s 1m 33.713s pole record.  This was after a small crash on his out lap in Thursday morning’s first pre-qualifying session.

Marc Marquez has spent the first half of the season battling a
recalcitrant Repsol Honda..
Marquez is using the 2014 RC2113V Honda chassis with the updated 2015 swing-arm and exhaust system fitted

Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa is also looking strong after he too has had his troubles.  After qualifying second and finishing sixth at Qatar’s opening round, Pedrosa announced he was taking a break from racing while he tried to get the arm-pump issue that had hampered him so badly at Qatar taken care of.  As a result he missed three races before coming back at Le Mans.  He qualified eighth there, clearly struggling with the front-end of the 2015 Honda, and finished 16th after running off the track on the second lap.

Things improved for Pedrosa at Mugello, qualifying seventh and finishing fourth, then at Catalunya, he went a place better, qualifying sixth and finishing third.

Now at Assen, the 29-year-old Spaniard has topped Thursday’s practice.  He was fast right out of his pit box in the first session and was consistently the fastest man for most of it.  He did a back-to-back comparison of the new Honda exhaust system and worked on several different chassis set-ups before improving on his best morning time by more than a second to top the afternoon session with a best lap of 1m 33.450s.

The longest-running event on the MotoGP calendar, the Dutch TT in Assen is always held on the last Saturday in June in a carnival atmosphere that attracts race day crowds of more than 100,000.  

Repsol Honda Team head to The Cathedral looking to make a step forward
The modified Assen circuit, the longest serving of any in today's championship series.
Assen’s foundations in motorsport were laid back in 1925 during the first Dutch TT.  The modern circuit was first constructed in 1955 on the site of those brick-paved public roads that New Zealander Rod Coleman raced on for AJS.  

In 2005 the Dutch circuit underwent a major modification, reducing its length from just under 6km to 4.555km.  It has also seen small modifications in the past two years with work done to make the Ruskenhoek chicane less angular and thus a few metres shorter.  The final result is a faster circuit, in keeping with Assen’s generally flowing nature.

Known as ‘The Cathedral’, its main straight is a mere 560m long, yet Assen still boasts one of the fastest average speed laps on the calendar and its flowing turns – eleven right and six lefts – mean it remains a favourite for riders and spectators alike.

Both Repsol Honda riders have enjoyed good results in Assen with Pedrosa taking eight podium finishes there,  including his first win (2002, 125GP).   And Marquez has an even more impressive history at Assen, having won in three classes:  125GP (2010), Moto2 (2011 & 2012),  MotoGP (2014).

Dani Pedrosa has come out guns blazing in practice at Assen, lapping under Casey Stoner's 2012 pole record.  And that was just the first day...