ASSEN: Yamaha stars Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi will attempt to halt the sudden surge of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday and bury the misery of Barcelona.
Vinales remains on top of the world championship standings, where he has been since the start of the season.
However, his lead has been trimmed to just seven points by Dovizioso after the Italian claimed back-to-back wins in Italy and at the Catalunya race last time out.
Vinales was a poor 10th in Spain, two back from Rossi.
The Spaniard has won twice at Assen in the support classes but his MotoGP race with Suzuki in 2016 ended in a ninth-place finish on a rain-lashed afternoon.
“After the difficult race in Catalunya we arrive in Assen extra motivated because we really need to be on the podium and take as many points as possible,” said Vinales who has wins in Qatar, Argentina and France this season.
“We can’t afford to struggle in the next races, so for sure we will give our 100%.”
Nine-time world champion Rossi briefly led the championship after three successive podium finishes in Qatar, Argentina and the United States.
But the veteran Italian has slipped worryingly off the pace and is now fifth in the standings, 28 points behind Vinales.
Rossi has seven wins in MotoGP at the Assen track which has staged a world championship round every year since 1949.
“I hope to be competitive in Assen because I would like to make it a good race,” said Rossi.
Dovizioso is the man in form and started from pole in the Netherlands in 2016 before rain ruined his bid.
“After two wins on the run in Italy and Spain, it’s been a fantastic week for me,” said the Italian.
“Even though I’m second overall in the standings I’m not thinking too much of the championship because there are still a lot of races left and we must continue to work to improve some aspects of our bike.
“It’s true that we have dominated the last two GP but these were peculiar races, in particular Barcelona. In any case I’m pretty relaxed about everything and also at Assen I’ll be trying to get the best result I can.”
Honda riders Marc Marquez, the defending world champion, and Dani Pedrosa are third and fourth in the standings, just 23 and 27 points respectively off the lead of Vinales.
With Rossi in fifth, it is the closest top-five spread, after seven races, since the current points system was introduced in 1993.--AFP