Casey Stoner heads for his final Assen MotoGP appearance aiming to halt Jorge Lorenzo's championship charge at a track where the Repsol Honda rider suffered a neck injury one year ago.
Stoner has finished on the Dutch TT podium every year since 2007, including a victory in the 2008 event for Ducati.
The Australian, who will retire at the end of the year, returns to Holland 25-points behind Yamaha's Lorenzo, who has won the last three races.
“We've had some great results in Assen, but also some pretty bad ones, so hopefully we can go there this weekend, be competitive and avoid any injury like last year when I hurt my neck, which followed us for the season and still causes me problems now,” revealed Stoner.
Stoner and fellow Repsol riders Andrea Dovizioso
and Hiroshi Aoyama (replacing the injured Dani Pedrosa) all fell in the opening minutes of Friday practice for the 2011 event (pictured), with the Australian feeling a cold tyre was to blame.
Stoner shrugged off the incident and went on to finish second to Yamaha's Ben Spies in the race.
Tyres are also set to play a crucial role in Stoner's 2012 chances. The factory RC213Vs are continuing to struggle with chatter and Assen will be only the second event where they will use the new spec Bridgestone front.
“You spend a lot of the time on the edge of the tyre in Assen and unfortunately on our bike at the moment this is a weak point, so we will need to work on Thursday and Friday to improve before we can consider ourselves competitive there,” said Stoner.
“I really hope the weather is good for us, as we need as much track time as possible to work on various issues on the bike. With three races back to back, it's important to get some good results at Assen, Sachsenring and Mugello, so we need to remain focused".
Third in the championship Pedrosa doesn't expect to be at a disadvantage after missing last year's event, but is concerned about the weather and adapting to the new front tyre.
"I wasn't there last year due to the injury, but it's a circuit we know well," said the Spaniard. "Assen has changeable weather so I hope we can have some dry sessions to continue setting up the bike and making it more rideable.
"We need some more experience with the new front tyre and hopefully we can make another step forward this week.
"In Assen is important to have a good feeling with the tyres because there are several fast corners. I am really looking forward to this race and aiming to ride at my best."
Free practice at Assen takes place on Thursday, ahead of the Saturday race.