Assen, The Netherlands
Pol Espargaro has topped the timesheets at the conclusion of the opening Moto2 practice session at the Dutch TT. The Kalex rider ended the session a tenth of a second ahead of championship leader and title rival Scott Redding. The gap to Dominique Aegerter in third was almost half a second, setting up the prospect of a mouth watering head-to-head battle between Espargaro and Redding during Saturday's race.
Frenchman Johan Zarco finished proceedings in an impressive fourth position ahead of Xavier Simeon, Mika Kallio and Esteve Rabat. Anthony West appeared to have found some much needed form to post the eighth fastest time ahead of Takaaki Nakagami, who was an even second behind pace setter Espargaro. Swiss Suter rider Randy Krummenacher rounded out the top ten. The session saw spots of rain fall in the closing stages and the predictably unpredictable Assen forecast is for further showers as the day and race weekend progress.
Riding a wave of momentum from his hometown victory in Catalunya, Jorge Lorenzo has shown fantastic form in the opening practice session of the Dutch TT at Assen. The factory Yamaha rider set the pace by three tenths of a second with a lap time of 1:35.263. Cal Crutchlow was his closest rival on the timesheets finishing up in second place, a further three tenths ahead of Marc Marquez in third.
Valentino Rossi started the cold and cloudy session strongly, but had to settle for fourth place, failing to match the scintillating and ominously consistent pace of his teammate. Dani Pedrosa rounded out a very familiar feeling top five. A special mention goes out for Aleix Espargaro aboard his ART machine. The Aspar rider managed to set a lap time good enough for sixth place, finishing ahead of no less than six prototype bikes.
Maverick Vinales has stamped his authority on the Moto3 class at Assen, leading the first session of free practice by over four tenths of a second. The Team Calvo rider finished ahead of title rivals Luis Salom and Alex Rins, but the gaps were large. Niklas Ajo, in fourth, was already over a second behind Vinales, and at the head of a big group all much closer together. Interesting name in among that was Dutch wildcard Bryan Schouten, the FTR Honda rider having secured some very strong results in the Spanish CEV championship, and now doing well at his home round.
2013 Assen MotoGP Wednesday Round Up: Of Weird Wednesdays, Difficult Ducatis, And MotoGP's Long Term Future
Wednesday at Assen is always a rather odd day. At most rounds, Wednesday is a travel day, and the paddock regulars spend the day in airports, planes and hire cars. But because the race at Assen is on Saturday, the events that normally take place on Thursday such as the pre-event press conference, happen a day earlier. That leaves everyone with the racing equivalent of jet lag, their bodies and minds 24 hours behind events. Mentally, we are all prepared for a day of torpor and inaction. What we are greeted with is a day of rushing around to talk to riders, team managers, and anyone else foolish enough to cross our paths. Mind battles physical reality, and both come out losers.
Even focusing on the upcoming race is hard. Rolling into the circuit under bright skies and cheery temperatures - not warm, but not freezing either - feels slightly surreal after having studied the weather forecasts for the coming days. While race day is likely to be dry, Thursday and Friday look like being full wet days. What that means is that practice may not be much of a guide to what actually happens on race day, rendering practice and qualifying relatively meaningless.
Ducati, at least, will welcome the rain. "The rain is bad for the fans, but it's good for Ducati," Nicky Hayden quipped, though he was not entirely happy with the situation. The Ducati goes very well in the wet, despite still struggling in the dry. Though a wet race may act as a placebo - though perhaps an analgesic is a better metaphor - in easing the pain of the Ducati riders, the fact of the matter is that Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Michele Pirro, still taking the place of the injured Ben Spies, are starting to run out of options.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's Dutch TT at Assen:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen:
Ask anyone what makes a great circuit, and they will tell you that it takes three things: fast corners, great scenery and lots of elevation changes. So what makes the TT Circuit at Assen so great? It only really has one of the three factors that makes it a great circuit: if the track has elevation changes, they can be measured in centimeters. The scenery is mostly absent, though that does allow more of a view of the expansive skies the Dutch masters of the 17th Century were so famed for. The only factor which the track still possesses is a collection of really fast corners, testing the mettle of anyone with ambition to take on the circuit.
Despite having the splendor of the old North Loop surgically removed, leaving it with just the flaccid remnant of a sequence of right handers, the southern section of the track is still as glorious as ever. From the Ruskenhoek and then De Bult, the track starts to build, the tempo picking up through Mandeveen, Duikersloot and Meeuwenmeer, before the high speed flick of Hoge Heide, and then the vast, sweeping left at the Ramshoek. The GT chicane has seen more than its fair share of last-lap battles, acting as judge, jury and executioner before heading back across the line again.
Though the removal of the North Loop took away some of the Dutch track's glory, Assen remains a favorite with the riders. Given the way the track still flows - at least, once you have left the Strubben hairpin - that is hardly surprising. It is a riders' track, suiting anyone who can string a series of corners together, and has the courage to keep the throttle hard open.
Press releases from the World Superbike series organizer, and World Superbike and World Supersport teams, after Sunday's thrilling races at Assen:
The World Superbike standings after a weekend's racing in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. The day gave us good weather that got better as the day went on and thrilling racing that followed the weather. There were ups and downs, winners and losers and those who leave with a mixture of both.
Race two at Assen was under warmer weather, causing a few tyre changes, but tyres didn't plague any of the front runners.
Fabien Foret leads the championship and starts the race from third place behind the seething rivalry of Sam Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu.
The weather decided not to turn nasty, allowing us to enjoy another flowing race at Assen. In the warm-up lap, Marco Melandri's BMW had gearbox issues that meant he had to get off and push. He didn't start the race. Chaz Davies, to add to BMW's woes, destroyed his bike in the morning's warm-up and it was being rebuilt until the last possible minute, starting the warm-up lap from the pits. Leon Camier stated that he may only manage a few laps as his injured knee was causing him issues.
Press releases after qualifying for Sunday's Dutch round of World Superbikes at Assen: