Fittingly, Valentino Rossi will try to become the second rider in motorcycle grand prix history to reach 100 victories at Assen this Saturday, the only circuit still remaining from the original 1949 world championship.

The reigning six time MotoGP world champion put himself on target to join Giacomo Agostini in treble figures with a breathtaking final-turn victory over Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo last time out in Catalunya.

It was Rossi's second victory of the season and put him joint top of the world championship heading into round seven, alongside fellow double 2009 race winners Lorenzo an Casey Stoner (Ducati).

Rossi has won at Assen six times in all three classes, and four times in MotoGP, but has had a turbulent last few years.

The Italian injured himself in practice in 2006 but rode through the pain to finish eighth, before winning in style from eleventh on the grid in 2007. Last year he made a rare mistake and crashed on the first lap, but made up a gap of more than 20 seconds with a damaged bike to finish eleventh.

Following a set-up overhaul in Barcelona the 30-year-old is in blistering form and will be hoping to make it two on the bounce at one of his favourite tracks.

"Assen is a very special track for all riders and it is a wonderful place to ride a MotoGP bike, even if it was better before they changed the layout," said Rossi. "Last year I had my worst point of the season there so I want to make up for that with a good performance, because the fans are very passionate and they deserve a good show.

"After Barcelona we know how strong we are but also our rivals are strong too so we can't afford to relax, we have to keep pushing. Montmel? was fantastic, one of my best wins ever, but the championship is very close between the three of us and so we have to try to win again to take the lead. There is still a long way to go but we have to remain consistent," he declared.

With four races in the next five weeks, Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio is aware that the championship is reaching a critical phase.

"After such a great race in Barcelona we're excited about getting back on track and seeing what happens next!" he began. "We had a good test after the race and it was well worth the effort to go back out on track, even after such a hard day's racing. We did some good work and collected important information, which we hope will be useful over the next few races, because now we have a very busy period with four races in five weeks."

The five other circuits alongside Assen on the original 1949 500cc world championship calendar were: Isle of Man (Great Britain), Berne (Switzerland), Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Belfast (Ulster) and Monza (Italy).

In 1949 the Assen road circuit was 16.536km in length, while the modern version is a more manageable 4.555km.

Agostini claimed 122 grand prix victories during his career, although Rossi is already the outright holder of premier-class wins with 73 500cc/MotoGP victories compared with 68 for Agostini.

Agostini is the only rider with more premier-class world titles than Rossi, having been crowned 500cc world champion eight times during the 1960s and 1970s.


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