Vermeulen's team-mate, Karl Muggeridge, is a rookie to Superbike in 2005 and will be looking to add consistency of raceday performance to his undoubted speed in qualifying. His personal best of fourth (in the same Monza race won by Vermeulen) may be aced at such a flowing circuit as Assen, but for all the riders, Assen 2005 will present something an unknown challenge in parts, after winter alterations to the Circuit van Drenthe layout.
Defending champions Ducati Xerox have seen their riders, Regis Laconi
and James Toseland, reverse roles from the 2004 season, with Laconi the man scoring more points and making a more consistent charge on the overall championship table. But this tough year for the factory Ducati twins, despite Laconi taking three wins to Toseland's single, sees the desmo riders in only third and sixth places respectively.
At Assen, a happy hunting ground for V-twins in many previous years, each rider will be looking to topple the flood of four-cylinder machines from the east, in wet or dry conditions. Toseland took a win at Assen in 2004, on his way to securing the championship itself and a repeat is badly needed to secure a top ride for 2006.
Noriyuki Haga, a genuine 2004 season championship challenger with Renegade Ducati Noriyuki, has found his 2005 Yamaha Italian R1 something of an enigma for the first half of the year - but since his breakthrough podium place at Silverstone, and two subsequent race wins, he has been the match of even the Corser/Suzuki combination.
Only dropping five-points in the previous three races, he has some positive memories of Assen, having taken the fastest lap in each race in 2004 and a race win in 2000. His team-mate Andrew Pitt is seeking his first podium of the year, after an up and down introduction to World Superbike.
Long time GP rider Norick Abe of Yamaha Motor France may pull off one of his better performances at Assen, as his rookie Superbike season has proved most profitable at tracks he has raced on before. His team-mate Sebastien Gimbert is looking to Assen as the first race in which a leg injury has not played a part in limiting his potential for over three rounds.
Combative PSG-1 Kawasaki rider Chris Walker
- like countryman Toseland - can count on 'home' support from the masses of travelling Brits at Assen. Walker has as much experience of Assen as any other track, and a great love for the circuit which is shared by many of his peers.
On the fast Kawasaki, he may well spring another podium finish to add to the one he took at Valencia. His team-mate Mauro Sanchini is also expected to be fit for this race, after missing the previous Brands Hatch encounter.
Of the four current WSBK riders to have taken race wins at Assen, only Klaffi Honda's Pierfrancesco Chili has not been mentioned so far. At the opposite end of the experience ladder from his team-mate Max Neukirchner, Chili may find no better place to demonstrate all his guile and sheer speed, with Assen rewarding exquisite lines and intimate knowledge of all its cambers and subtle undulations.
Renegade Honda's Ben Bostrom
has also been a top five finisher at Assen, and after some recent encouraging signs in WSBK, he will hope to make at least top ten finishes in 2005.