Preview - Assen.

With two second places at Valencia, Ducati Xerox star Troy Bayliss increased his lead over closest rival Fonsi Nieto to 48 points - almost two races wins.

But while it is tempting to attribute the Australian's solid title advantage to his new 1200cc 1098R, the reality is that the next best Ducati - of Ruben Xaus - is only fifth in the championship.

For that reason, there will be no extra handicap applied to the twin-cylinder 1200s for the next three rounds, as the event average difference between the two types of machines - twins and fours - has so far proved to be insufficient to warrant a change.

At Valencia the twins appeared to struggle against the fours, despite a Ducati one-two and a fortuitous win by Lorenzo Lanzi in race one. Three riders representing three different manufacturers - Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB), Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki) - looked to have the better of the 1098s.

However, the Spaniard and the German had their infamous last-lap, last-corner clash in race one, which eliminated both riders from the top slots, before Haga - who also fell in race one - took his first victory of the season by beating Bayliss in race two.

Second place in the championship is still in the hands of Neukirchner's team-mate Nieto, but the Alstare Suzuki rider has not had another result to match his Losail win and is coming under pressure from third and fourth placed men, Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB) and Checa, both equal on 72 points.

The Aussie has been on the podium three times this year already, but Assen is somewhat of a jinx for Corser, who is still looking for his first win there and his first win since Phillip Island in 2006. Meanwhile Checa continues to make his mark in Superbike, his CBR rapidly becoming a front-running machine, and both are competitive enough to take their first win this year at Assen.

Xaus and Haga are next up with 68 and 47 points respectively. The Spaniard finished the first four races of the season in the top 4, but suffered a setback at Valencia, while Nitro-Nori looked his usual aggressive self in Spain and his season looks likely to start now.

Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati's Max Biaggi, seventh overall, has had another three weeks to recover from his wrist fracture, and this will be even more vital for the demanding, switchback-style Dutch circuit. The Italian is in need of a couple of good results so as not to lose touch with the leaders.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Checa, over took Bayliss and Haga into turn 2, Valencia WSBK Race 2 2008
Savadori, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Guarnoni, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Salvadori, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Coghlan, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Lanusse, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Barrier, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Magnoni, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Marino, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Tamburini, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Valk, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Tessels, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Lanusse, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Moser, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Massei, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Paguad, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Savadori, SSTK1000, Assen 2015
Calia, SSTK1000, Assen 2015

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