June 2018

2018 Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Deceptively Tight Field, The Limits Of A Satellite Bike, And Not Thinking And Riding

How close is MotoGP right now? At the end of FP3 on Saturday morning, the top five bikes were separated by 0.062 seconds. The top three had just six thousandths of a second between them. And the difference between Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, first and second in FP3? Just one thousandth of a second. If they were both lapping at the same time, it would have needed the special finish line camera to separate them.

It was pretty close behind the top five as well. There were sixteen riders within nine tenths of Márquez, gaps between them counted in hundredths of seconds, rather than thousandths of seconds. Qualifying was much the same: the difference between pole and eleventh place on the grid was just half a second. If you made a mistake in two corners, costing you a tenth or so in each, you would have ended up starting from the third row, rather than the front row.

It was even worse for riders who hadn't made it straight through to Q2. If Jack Miller had been a six hundredths faster in FP3, he could have ended up tenth instead of twelfth, and not have to go to Q1. If he had been eight hundredths of a second faster in Q1, he would have been through to Q2, and not starting from sixteenth on the grid. But why pick on Miller? Taka Nakagami missed out on going to Q2 by a couple of hundredths, Tito Rabat and Hafizh Syahrin by seven hundredths. Even Scott Redding, starting from seventeenth, was just four tenths off going to Q2. That is quite literally just the blink of an eye.

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2018 Assen MotoGP FP4 Result: Marquez On A Roll

The final chance to find your way in practice came and went for the premier class and it saw some out of character tyre choices, with Marc Marquez going softer than his Honda colleagues, Maverick Viñales starting on all softs and his teammate Valentino Rossi on the medium-hard combination. After the world champion showed blistering pace on the new hard-medium combination, he went on to do the same on used medium-soft rubber, on which he posted the fastest time of the session and the only 1:33.

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2018 Assen Moto2 FP3 Result: A Practice Hat-Trick For Bagnaia

The last practice session before the serious business starts kicked off with a real surprise from our favourite temperamental rookie Romano Fenati, who immediately posted the best time of the weekend to lead the early part of the session by over three tenths of a second. The Italian’s time stood until the final three minutes, when the championship leader snuck ahead just about. Pecco Bagnaia completed the practice hat-trick by taking another headline, seven hundredths of a second ahead of Fenati.

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2018 Assen MotoGP FP3 Result: Marquez Leads Ridiculously Tight Top Five

In the warm – but less so than Friday afternoon – Assen morning there was no hurry to improve at the top or escape the dreaded Q2 positions. The most popular look for the morning session was the used medium front-soft rear tyre combination, with the likes of Marquez or Morbidelli predictably going harder, on the medium rear. While the Italian ended up in the medical centre for a precautionary check-up, the world champion wobbled his way into the lead of the session, showing similarly impressive pace on the medium as on the hard one day ago.

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2018 Assen Moto3 FP3 Result: Bezzecchi Back At The Top

Beautiful sunshine greeted the first outing of the day and the lightweight class featured the same familiar names towards the top of the timesheets. With the lower temperatures of the morning, not all riders rivalled their best effort from Friday but a couple of men led by Marco Bezzecchi managed to drop into the 1:42s once again. Also joining that exclusive club was Aron Canet, who was the fastest man on Friday and continued much on the same note, leading the best part of Saturday morning before being dethroned by the championship leader.

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2018 Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: Spectacular Saves, Hard Tires, And New Parts For Ducati And Suzuki

Another Friday, another save that would have seen any other rider rolling through the gravel. And at Assen, with its collection of terrifyingly fast corners, rolling through the gravel often ends up rolling into the back of an ambulance, and X-rays, cat scans, and metal plates holding your bones together. But Friday wouldn't be Friday without Marc Márquez folding the front completely, jabbing his elbow into the tarmac, and hanging on long enough for the front to catch again and stay upright, or what passes for upright if your name is Marc Márquez.

This time it happened at the Ruskenhoek, the very fast left hander after the Veenslang back straight, where the bikes flick right, then long left, and then right again for the short run towards Stekkenwal. Márquez was traveling at something approaching 200km/h when the front went, but he caught it, stayed on board, and ended up running just off track and clipping the gravel. "I didn’t expect it, and I didn’t want to have a 'safe' crash in fourth gear at a very high-speed corner," Márquez explained.

Holding your line is difficult because of the track changes direction at very high speed, so being precise is of the utmost importance, Márquez said. "Here at Assen, the speed is so high and to take the correct lines is difficult but we were already in FP2, but in the first run it is always difficult to understand the lines and to be precise. A small mistake is a big mistake here: you cannot adjust with the brakes or the gas and you need to keep the speed during all the lap."

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2018 Assen Moto2 FP2 Result: Bagnaia and Mir One Step Ahead

The final session of the day in Assen ran in excellent conditions, which meant that riders were quick to improve their times from FP1, Pecco Bagnaia once again being the fastest man on track. Joan Mir caught up to trail the Italian by only one tenth of a second, sandwiched between the two Sky riders, Luca Marini having a bit off a wild ride into third position.

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