July 2019

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The birth of modern motorbike Grand Prix racing: talking with Kunimitsu Takahashi

It’s very nearly impossible to speak to the dawn of modern racing. But it happened at Assen, with Kunimitsu Takahashi, the first Japanese rider to win a motorbike Grand Prix

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first world-championship race, Honda flew Kunimitsu Takahashi to the Dutch TT. Nineteen-year-old Takahashi joined Honda in late 1959, taking part in the factory’s first Continental campaign in 1960, after its exploratory visit to the Isle of Man TT the previous summer.

But why was this the dawn of modern Grand Prix racing? Because racing was never the same after the Japanese factories arrived in Europe: Honda in 1959, then Yamaha and Suzuki in 1960.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 107: Yamaha's Return To Glory At Assen

On Monday morning, before heading home and then on to the Sachsenring, Neil Morrison and David Emmett sat down with Adam Wheeler of On-Track Off-Road to talk about the Dutch TT at Assen for an episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast.

There was plenty of stuff to talk about. Naturally, we talked about how the Yamahas were dominant, with Maverick Viñales taking a well-deserved win. We discuss the performance of Fabio Quartararo - two poles and two podiums in two consecutive races - and how arm pump surgery affected the way the Frenchman rode the bike. We discuss the difficulty the Yamahas had getting past the Honda of Marc Marquez, and how the different bikes make their lap time in different ways.

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Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Corner Speed, Conditions, And Consistency - Is The Championship Nearly Decided?

When we say that conditions make a huge difference in MotoGP, we usually meant that a track which was drenched in rain, or a one which was drying and changing, effected the outcome of the race. But there are a couple of race tracks in the world where the wind can have a huge impact on the way a race plays out. One of those places is Assen, where the wind sweeps up from the south east unimpeded by any geographical obstacles and straight into the faces of the riders coming out of the Strubben hairpin and heading down the Veenslang back straight. (Though like all of the straights at Assen, it isn't really that straight. It weaves and winds down to the fast right at the Ruskenhoek.)

On Sunday, the wind, which had picked up significantly compared to the day before, produced three barnstormers of races. It kept a huge group together until the end of the Moto3 race, it produced a thrilling Moto2 race decided in the last laps, and it even helped to bunch the MotoGP riders up, and create drama for most of the race.

The wind, combined with the fact that Assen has so many high-speed changes of directions make it immensely physically demanding. Hustling a MotoGP bike from side to side is never easy, let alone when you have to do it at over 200 km/h. The laws of physics turn momentum into an unstoppable force which you have to overpower if you are to make the next corner.

Physically draining

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