WSB Preview: Rounds 21 & 22 – Assen.

The most spectacular machines on the most spectacular track: Assen is the one event that everyone wants to witness and this year should be no exception.

Just six races remain in this years thrilling World Superbike Championship and there are still three riders in contention. The news that the season finale is to be moved to Brands Hatch has added another dimension to a captivating series, which saw Troy Bayliss and Neil Hodgson take a pair of popular victories last time out.

For now though, the WSB circus has moved onto the granddaddy of them all, Assen. The sweeping 3.76-mile circuit is a challenge for both man and machine meaning that only the best riders and bikes will stand any chance of succeeding this weekend.

At the head of the queue is American Colin Edwards who is still clinging to a narrow 20-point advantage at the top of the Championship table. The Honda rider scored two reasonable results at Brands Hatch last time out although he is beginning to get left behind in the outright speed stakes and has fallen off the boil slightly. Consistency has kept him at the top of the table but even so, he has not won a race since Monza and needs another win to avoid losing any more critical momentum.

Adding to his worries is the fact that the brutish Honda is not perfectly suited to the undulating circuit and Edwards failed to register a podium finish at the Dutch track last year. Title rival Troy Corser's Aprilia will definitely have the edge on pinpoint handling whereas Edwards can only hope to out power the others on the straights.

Corser and the controversial Noriyuki Haga have slowly eroded Edwards once dominant points lead and despite Corser's nasty looking fall at Brands, the pairing have gained a significant edge on the Honda rider. Haga and his Yamaha team still have their year long drugs appeal saga continuing over their heads which will undoubtedly affect the Japanese rider's concentration as he attempts to tame the Dutch circuit successfully for the first time.

Corser scored a brace of second places here last year, to the ever-dominant Carl Fogarty, and in the Englishman's absence he will see himself as a firm favourite this weekend. The Australian rider may not have a Ducati at his disposal anymore, but the Aprilia is making great advances on its rivals in the power stakes and is no longer at a major disadvantage on fast circuits, a crucial factor at this track. The Aprilia is a very capable machine and its performance in Corser's hands this year has even raised questions over the firms future 500cc Grand Prix plans.

Haga has yet to fully get to grips with the track and his Yamaha often ends up on the deck as its rider tries to find his limit. However Nori cannot be discounted and on current form, he may just have the determination to overcome everything around him and take the fight to those ahead.

Pier Francesco Chili may be realistically out of the title picture but the brave Italian will still be a major contender on the Alstare Suzuki. The only man capable of coping with Carl Fogarty on this track, Chili will be out to show that he may be down, with a damaged collarbone, but he is certainly not out.

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