Shell Advance Honda at Full Strength for Assen

Colin MacKellar
by Colin MacKellar
There is one other team runing full works Hondas and they are having the season from hell. Chris Walker is battered and bruised after 6 races trying to make the transition from a Suzuki Superbike to the NSR Honda and team-mate Leon Haslam has missed a couple of races after breaking his wrist when crashing is ageing NSR500V2. Both of them are looking to do something special at the Dutch TT.

Assen according to the Shell Advance Honda boys


The Shell Advance Honda Team returns to full strength with teenage star Leon Haslam joining British teammate Chris Walker for the Dutch TT after missing three races because of injury.

Further intensive physiotherapy on his quickly healing arm fracture has convinced Haslam that he is ready to take his place aboard his V-twin Shell Honda 500 having been on the sidelines since the French GP at Le Mans.

Walker is also recovering from tendon and ligament damage in his right arm suffered during qualifying for last week's Catalunya GP where he finished a courageous thirteenth.

Both Shell riders are hopeful of strong performances and a boost in confidence at the Dutch TT, after which they go straight to their home race, the British GP at Donington, just a week later.

Despite his painful injury Walker has been training hard with cycling, running and swimming sessions and is looking forward to a return to a track he knows after a string of new circuits to learn.

The 29-year-old Englishman is in a positive mood believing that he is just one race away from turning his back on what has been a so far disappointing start to the season.

"So far the season hasn¹t been great and I¹m about four or five places lower than I should be but I feel Assen will be a turning point," Walker said. "At least at Assen I won¹t be wobbling around in practice trying to learn the circuit which is never easy in your first season on a factory Honda NSR500. I've been looking forward to the Assen-Donington double-header for a long time as I know and like both tracks."

Walker, who said his arm looked like a motocross tyre, all black and lumpy, after it was accidentally run-over by Sweden's John Stigefelt in Barcelona, believes he will be close to 100% fit for the Dutch TT.

"My arm shouldn't be a big problem, it¹s improving all the time," added Walker.

"My aim at Assen is to get my best result of the season so far and then move on to Donington the following week."

Walker¹s debut factory 500 GP season with the Shell Advance squad has been a real test of character with the steep learning curve of a racing a GP machine, new tracks and a string of unfortunate injuries.

Haslam has also faced a tough initiation to 500 GP racing aboard a V-twin Honda 500 which concedes at least 40 horsepower to the V4 factory machines.

"It was disappointing to miss three races but now I'm just keen to get back on the bike and get some points at Assen and then look forward to Donington which should suit the V-twin Honda," Haslam said.

"In hindsight it was a good decision for me not to race last week in Barcelona even though I was keen, my arm wasn't ready, but it feels much stronger now so I'm confident it won¹t give me too many problems."

With major alterations planned for 2002 and onwards this is the final time the current Assen circuit, a throwback to the original road course, will be used.

Significantly Assen has the oldest lap record in existence on a current circuit, set in 1991 by Kevin Schwantz when the Texan beat Australia's Mick Doohan by less than one second. If the time is not broken in Saturday's race it will stand in the history books forever.

Traditionally held on a Saturday the Dutch TT is regarded by many as the classic race of the season and the huge crowds - upwards of 120,000 - and a nearly always dramatic race, appear to justify this ranking.

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Colin MacKellar
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