Back on track: WorldSSP title scrap heads to Assen for the Dutch Round

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 06:00 GMT

WorldSSP returns to action in the Netherlands with a whole host of riders looking to claim victory at the TT Circuit Assen

After not competing at Donington Park last time out, the FIM Supersport World Championship storms back into action at the Cathedral of Speed for the Prosecco DOC Dutch Round at the TT Circuit Assen with the title battle showing signs of going the whole distance throughout the 2021 season with Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) and Steven Odendaal (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) sharing six wins equally so far this campaign.

Championship leader Aegerter has recent experience of the Dutch venue having competed there with MotoE™ not that long ago, qualifying fifth but finishing the race in last place. The Swiss rider, who has won the last three races in WorldSSP to take the Championship lead, has also claimed a podium finish at the iconic venue in Moto2™ with third in 2013, putting Aegerter in good stead of the upcoming round although it will be his first visit on Supersport machinery.

Title rival Odendaal also brings experience of the Dutch circuit as he looks to close the current gap of 17 points to Aegerter, although he was not able to finish on the podium in Moto2™ at Assen, taking a best result of 16th place in 2019; his most recent visit to the circuit. Like Aegerter, it will be Odendaal’s first visit on Supersport bikes to the venue. The South African rider will also have a new teammate for the rest of the 2021 campaign with Hungarian Peter Sebestyen join the Evan Bros. outfit; Sebestyen bringing plenty of additional experience to the team with 42 WorldSSP races and 31 WorldSBK races to his name, taking a best result of sixth in WorldSSP so far.

Just behind the lead duo, there is a whole host of riders looking to end their lock on the top step of the podium. Luca Bernardi (CM Racing) currently sits third in the standings after a run of three consecutive second-place finishes for the Sammarinese rider, each time finishing behind Aegerter. Bernardi has visited the TT Circuit Assen before, when he was competing in WorldSSP300, and will be hoping for a better outcome after he was excluded from the race in 2018.

German rider Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) lies ten points back from Bernardi in the Championship but, like Bernardi, has always been there or thereabouts in the lead group of races in 2021. Oettl has three podiums so far in 2021 but comes into the Dutch Round on the back of two sixth-place finishes after three podiums in his first four races. Oettl is yet to compete at Assen on his WorldSSP machine but has raced there in Moto2™, claiming a best result of 11th place in both 2016 and 2017. The German will be hoping he can return to the rostrum and get a title challenge back on track.

Two more riders who have consistently been in the lead group of riders but yet to step onto the top step of the rostrum are Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) and Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha ParkinGo Team). Cluzel has had a mixed season so far in 2021, showing strong pace at times but yet to claim a win in the highly competitive 2021 season; with three third place results the best for Cluzel. The Frenchman brings a load of WorldSSP experience at Assen to the table including two podium finishes when racing on MV Agusta machinery. Cluzel will be hoping his experience on Supersport machinery will help him stand on the top step for the first time in 2021.

Gonzalez claimed fourth place as his equal-best WorldSSP result last time out at Misano, but it could have been so much more for the Spanish rider. A late-race penalty for Odendaal for track limits infringements when Gonzalez was running just behind the South African would have promoted him into first, but a costly error with just a handful of laps to go meant he finished fourth and missed out on his first WorldSSP podium. Gonzalez has a chance to respond now following the slight break for WorldSSP competitors and it’s a circuit he knows very well having claimed a victory at Assen in 2019 on his way to winning the WorldSSP300 Championship. With Gonzalez recently taking to the TT Circuit Assen after a late Moto2™ call-up and his WorldSSP300 success at the venue, could this be the circuit for Gonzalez to take his first WorldSSP podium?

A fourth manufacturer will take to the grid for the Dutch Round as Eemeli Lahti joins the WorldSSP stage as a One Event rider onboard a Suzuki GSX-R600 for the HRP Suzuki outfit. Lahti has competed in six WorldSSP races, all for Suzuki, including at Assen where he claimed 15th place in 2018. The Finnish rider also competed in European Superstock 600 with two top-seven finishes at Assen.

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