OUTSPOKEN AHEAD OF ASSEN: "I want to be in a factory team"

Chapter three of the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship season is about to take place at the legendary TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands. Countless classics at this track and also in recent rounds mean that 2024’s Pirelli Dutch Round is destined to be one for the ages; we caught up with the main stars on Thursday during WorldSBK’s media day.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “I have a dream this year to win the Championship”

Two wins last time out at a track he and BMW had never won at, Assen has also been a place where Toprak Razgatlioglu and BMW haven’t mounted the top step: “I’ve never won here at Assen in the Superbike class; I hope I can this weekend. It looks a little strange as the weather can always change easily. It’s cold but I’m ready to race in both wet and dry races. I have a dream this year to win this Championship; I can’t say before the end of the season. My dream looks possible. I am happy with Michael as a teammate and the atmosphere in the garage is very good and we work well together. If BMW ask me, it’s easy to say Michael, he’s a good teammate, a good guy and respectful; we work together in the race and Superpole. Maybe at this track, he’ll help me as he knows it better than me –in the wet, he’ll show me the best line!”

Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I’m not in a hurry to make a decision”

With silly season in full flow, Alvaro Bautista’s future could hold the key to many for 2025: “To win a race is always very important, but especially after coming from a difficult winter for me with my injury and also the feeling I started with the bike in testing that was not the best. It was very important to recover the good feeling during the Barcelona weekend. I think the win was the consequence of this feeling and from my physical condition. It gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the Championship. Honestly, I don’t have anything on my mind about my future. It’s been very tough for me. In Barcelona, I recovered the good feeling. I always say I keep racing because I’m having a lot of fun riding my bike and with a good feeling. It’s important to have a good feeling on my bike and try to always improve. With this crazy grid, you have to be an even better rider than before! I try to always be a better rider. I’m just focused on this and trying to be better and better. I’m not in a hurry to make a decision.”

Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “This could be the most difficult race for me”

Back after arm-pump surgery, Nicolo Bulega says this could be his most difficult round yet: “I had some problems during the races so I decided to have the surgery before Assen as this track is a bit difficult physically, with the change of direction. With the Superbike, it can be hard. I decided to do it before this race and I’m still not at 100% but I am recovering day by day and I can ride well. I always push at 100% when I’m on the bike; this could be the most difficult race for me because we’ve had the test before the other races. I also come here after the surgery, without a test, so perhaps Friday will be more difficult for me. I’m happy because it’s a track I like a lot and I’ll try to do my best.”

Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We want to be on the podium!”

After a strong Barcelona, the rostrum is the aim for home-hero Michael van der Mark: “It’s always nice to arrive at your home track when you’ve had some decent results before. In Australia and especially Barcelona, we had some really good results. We come here with confidence and knowing the base we have is really good. We want to be on the podium, and we’ve had a good start to the season. We have a good base and we’re fast. It would be nice to be on the podium. It’s a nice confirmation knowing you have a bike that can fight for the podium and victories. It takes a little bit of pressure away. We know the package is there, we just have to finetune it and focus on riding. Honestly, the only thing I can do is deliver results. I’ve been unlucky the last two years. I’m fit, I’m feeling good on the bike and all I can do now is deliver results.”

Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha): “We have to walk before we can run”

17 wins and 25 podiums: will Assen’s most successful rider, Jonathan Rea, get his season off to a proper start after six races where he’s struggled: “I’m really excited to be back at Assen, I like the layout of the track and also my fans bring some good energy here. It’s just a case of trying to find some form and performance both from myself and the R1. I think Catalunya Race 2 was my first normal race with no issue, so I banked some points. What I realised was starting from P13 is that it’s so difficult to reach that front group, so it was a race I started making progress. It’s not the positions we want to fight for, but we have to start somewhere after a lot of disappointments. Looking forward to seeing if Assen can bring us some more fortune. Looking back at previous years, it’s a track that suits not just me but the Yamaha R1. It’s a place we can make that step, but it’s a step by progress. We have to walk before we can run.”

Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven): “My target is to be in a factory team… I felt interest from many manufacturers”

Back at Assen and looking to his future, Andrea Iannone made a bold claim for 2025: “I’m a little bit excited because it’s really good to be back here. I won in the past in my first year in Moto2™ and also, I’ve had really good races more or less every year at this track. It’s the first race we don’t have a test before the round and I’m a little bit worried because I don’t know what happens, but I hope we immediately start in a good way. I don’t know about my future. I’m happy I’m being spoken about, but I don’t know at the moment. I want to continue to live this moment and I’m focused on riding well because I know if I’m on top, I have many chances. My target is to be in a factory team, but we will see. After a long time, I felt many things and I felt interest from many manufacturers. I’m honoured. I think after Assen, in Misano, we will know something more about this.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “Anything can happen when the weather’s a little bit inconsistent”

In the top three of the Championship, Alex Lowes is keen to show Kawasaki’s potential at Assen: “Conditions are always a little bit mixed here at Assen. I know the bike and track well, so I think if there’s minimal dry time, it could be good for us. We have to adapt well to the situation. Anything can happen when the weather’s a little bit inconsistent. We have to make sure we make the right decisions, put ourselves in a good position and I think, dry or wet conditions, we can be quite optimistic about the weekend. This weekend, if we can fight for the podium, be in the mix with the front guys fighting at the front, I think we can be happy and that’s the target. I don’t really know about the future, it’s very early. We’ve got a big break after the Assen round with so long until the next round, so maybe there’ll be some more news in the break. From my side, I don’t know yet. I started the year really strong with Kawasaki, I’ve changed some of the working environment inside the team so it would be nice to keep this progression.”

Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha): “Let’s push and see what we can do”

With a first win still to be had, can happy memories from previous Assen outings spur Andrea Locatelli on: “I have good memories form Assen; I got my first WorldSBK podium here in 2021 and I’ve had a podium every season with Yamaha here, so why not try to repeat it this year? It won’t be easy and probably this weekend, we’ll ride in different conditions with the forecast will be tricky. I feel comfortable though and OK with the bike, so let’s push and see what we can do. We have a really good feeling and it’s a flowing track, so it’s another good track to show our potential and speed. We’ll push for the maximum and see what we have. Toprak was a big surprise for everyone as we didn’t think it could happen immediately but they’re working well during testing and they found a good solution for the race. I’m happy for him because, firstly, he’s my friend and I have a good relationship with him. He’s a big talent; I sent a message to him because I missed him after the race. I want to try and fight again this weekend.”

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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