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World Superbike action resumes at Assen this weekend, with world champion Troy Bayliss still mourning the loss of the little finger on his right hand at Donington in early April.
“I’m feeling okay now, but every time I look at it I miss it,” said Bayliss. “It’s still a bit tender and when I touch it I get a tingly feeling, but it is what it is and I just have to live with it.”
The Ducati-backed Bayliss, who’s now a massive 61pts behind Briton James Toseland (Honda CBR1000RR) in the 20th anniversary WSBK title, is returning to a circuit where his ledger stands at three crashes and three victories since 2000.
Last year at Assen, Bayliss maintained his Assen ‘form’ when he slid out of the fray in race one before rebounding to defeat countryman Andrew Pitt in the second instalment. He also set the new lap record in race two.
“Certainly, Assen has been up and down and I’ve had a few strange moments there,” said Bayliss. “But I try and look on the good side of it and I’d love to go there and have two great results.
“I won the championship there in 2001 and then lost it there in 2002! I do like going there, but we could get strange weather at this time of the year -- at any time of the year really!”
Bayliss (Ducati 999F07) is now on 90pts after four of 13 rounds, with Toseland (151pts), Max Biaggi (Suzuki GSX-R1000, 138pts), Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha YZF-R1) compatriot Troy Corser (YZF-R1, 101) all in front of him.
Bayliss concedes that he’s got a mammoth task ahead of him in the remaining nine rounds, but he’s not discounting that his contemporaries could strike some trouble of their own.
“Sixty-one points is a lot, it’s not totally out of reach but it certainly creates a bit of a situation where we have to have a perfect year now,” said Bayliss. “We have to be very good, James (Toseland) has been riding well and has been very strong, but, you know, things could turn sour.
“All I know is that I’ve been out doing heaps of training, been on the bicycle and everything’s really good.”
Toseland, who already has four wins to his credit in 2007, and Haga are also past winners at Assen, while Corser was in the wrong place at the wrong time when four-time world champion Carl Fogarty made Assen his own during the 1990s. The Briton won 12 races during that period, including an incredible seven on the trot at one stage.
Despite coming up against a rampant Fogarty, Corser is a slick practitioner at Assen himself, and is desperate to join Toseland, Biaggi, Bayliss, Haga and Ruben Xaus (Ducati 999F06) on this year’s winners’ list to keep his dream of three world titles alive.
The in-form Xaus, emboldened after victory in race one at Valencia two weeks ago, is again expected to be a front-runner at Assen, while Bayliss’ teammate Lorenzo Lanzi (999F07) has been knocking on the door since his third place in the season-opening race in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Biaggi is an old Assen hand from his grand prix racing days, although he will be at a small disadvantage on the new abridged layout, which was only inaugurated in 2006 when the Roman wasn’t competing in any form of racing.
“I will be at a small disadvantage because I will have to relearn the track before I can push hard,” said Biaggi. “But normally I learn tracks pretty quickly, so I don't think it'll be a big problem.
“I am enjoying this Superbike format a lot and I have no problems at all doing two races a day. It gives you two chances to do well, so if you miss out in the first race, there is always the second to do a good job."
With Steve Martin’s tenure in WSBK finally over after his Italian-based team ran out of money, team-mates Josh Brookes and Karl Muggeridge (both CBR1000RRs) will complete the four-man Aussie assault at Assen.
Brookes, who turns 24 on Saturday, returned his best-ever WSBK yield at Valencia with two top 10 results, while 33-year-old Muggeridge, the 2004 World Supersport champion, showed good speed before sliding out in both races.
In World Supersport, 38-year-old Martin will still be at Assen, deputising for the injured Kevin Curtain in Yamaha’s factory squad. Martin will ride alongside another Australian, Broc Parkes, both on YZF-R6s.
With the tireless Curtain absent, and world champion Sebastien Charpentier (Honda CBR600RR) returning from his own period of convalescence, Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu is the overwhelming favourite to stretch his already imposing world championship lead over Fabien Foret (Kawasaki ZX-6RR).
Australia’s Andrew Pitt will also compete at Assen on a Honda, after initially only standing in for Charpentier at Valencia.
Sofuoglu reigned supreme at Assen in 2006, ahead of Curtain.
WORLD SUPERBIKE STANDINGS (after four of 13 rounds):
1 James Toseland, Great Britain, Honda 151
2 Max Biaggi, Italy, Suzuki 138
3 Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Yamaha 124
4 Troy Corser, Australia, Yamaha 101
5 Troy Bayliss, Australia, Ducati 90
6 Lorenzo Lanzi, Italy, Ducati 87
7 Ruben Xaus, Spain, Ducati 83
8 Max Neukirchner, Germany, Suzuki 56
9 Roberto Rolfo, Italy, Honda 46
10 Regis Laconi, France, Kawasaki 37
12 Josh Brookes, Australia, Honda 32
16= Karl Muggeridge, Australia, Honda 14
Steve Martin, Australia, Honda 14
Bayliss Still Mourning Lost Finger () 04/27 06:35 AM
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