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2017 Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Weird Grids, Hot Tires, And Team Troubles

Motorcycle racing is an outdoor sport. The riders are at the mercy of the elements. Not just the riders, but the teams and factories too. A bike that works well in the dry may be terrible in the wet. A bike that is strong in the wet may struggle when conditions were mixed. Finding the right balance when conditions change can throw the best laid plans into disarray.

All of these questions were multiplied by the weather at Assen. With nothing between the circuit and the North Sea but a row of sand dunes, the odd high rise office block, and a hundred kilometers of pancake-flat farmland punctuated by the occasional tree, the wind, sun, and rain blow out just as quickly as they blow in. The weather at Assen is as fickle as a pretty teenager in a crowded disco.

That made it tough for MotoGP at the Dutch circuit. Searching for the right setup was both perilously difficult and ultimately futile, for as soon as you found something in the right ballpark for the conditions, the rain would come or the track would dry out, and you would have to start all over again. Add in tarmac which has fantastic grip in the dry but diminishing grip in the dry, and you had a recipe for, if not chaos, then at least a fairly random mix of riders topping qualifying.

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2017 Assen MotoGP FP4 Result: Zarco Gets the Slick Window Right

The sun decided to come out and play at the beginning of the fourth practice session, prompting the riders to get a quick taster of the conditions before heading back to the garage to have their bikes prepared for dry conditions.

Only a handful of riders decided to stay out for more than one lap on wet tyres, as the mechanics kept busy with set-up changes, while keeping an eye on the forecast that threatened with another shower.

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Why Cal Crutchlow's Aerodynamic Fairing Is Not Technically A New Fairing

Just how clever has Honda been with their fairings? At Assen, Cal Crutchlow spent Friday going back and forth between bikes with and without the addition of aerodynamic side pods on the outside of the fairing. That led to some confusion among the media. Had Honda homologated the aerodynamic fairing already? Or was this something new?

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2017 Assen Moto2 FP3 Result: Morbidelli's Successful Rain Dance

Rain had just stopped by the time the intermediate class started play and it was the usual suspects who put their names at the top of the timesheets on a wet circuit. The field also got its fair share of crashes, including Xavi Vierge, Jorge Navarro, Takaaki Nakagami and Luca Marini.

With the tricky conditions, the gaps at the top were significant. Franco Morbidelli proved his speed around the Dutch circuit both in the dry and the wet, the Italian blasting his way into the 1:52s, the only rider to do that and ending up leading by one tenth of a second.

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2017 Assen MotoGP FP3 Result: Redding’s Rainy Escapade

The rain that graced the beginning of practice for the lightweight class had stopped by the time the MotoGP class took its turn, but the seventeen degrees in the air were not quite enough to dry the surface for anyone to challenge Friday times. With Q2 positions almost guaranteed given the weather, the riders looked to find some speed for qualifying – tipped to be in similar conditions. That saw a handful of wet weather enthusiasts mixing it in with the Q2 qualifiers.

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2017 Assen Moto3 FP3 Result: Home Wet Home For Bendsneyder

After some drops of rain tested us on Friday, Saturday morning was straight wet suit domain. With the qualifying sessions predicted to take place in similar conditions, the smaller class was keen to give it a go in the wet. Combined with reduced visibility, the wet surface caught out the likes of Darryn Binder, John McPhee, Marcos Ramirez and Marco Bezzecchi early in the session. There would be plenty more tip-offs before the end of practice, half the grid going down at some point, including some of the fastest men of the day.

On the other hand, the weather aided Bo Bendsneyder in warming up the home audience, the KTM rider ending the session at the top of the timesheets, to the delight of the soaked stands. Almost six tenths down on the local boy was Nakarin Atiratphuvapat, the Thai rider proving his wet weather prowess once again.

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2017 Assen Friday MotoGP Round Up: Fast Yamahas, Unstable Bikes, And Aerodynamic Loopholes

MotoGP got off to an inauspicious start at Assen. Just a couple of minutes into FP1 on Friday morning, the red flags were already out. The cause? Andrea Dovizioso's Ducati Desmosedici GP17 had started spewing oil all over the track on his out lap, causing first Jonas Folger to take a massive tumble through the gravel at Duikersloot. It also took down Dovizioso's teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

"I felt some movement a few corners before," Folger said of his crash. "I had a highside, and then the bike hit me as well." After a brief check up at the Medical Center, Folger was sent on his way again. Fortunately for the Tech 3 rider, it took the best part of half an hour to clean up the oil left on the track by Dovizioso, so he had plenty of time to get back to the garage and get ready again.

Surprisingly, the crash left him with few ill consequences. Folger was able to get back out, and build up his confidence again. So much so, in fact, that he ended the day as second fastest, with only a masterful Maverick Viñales ahead of him. Where had his speed come from? Confidence mainly. He had gained confidence from the past couple of rounds, and especially at Barcelona. Being fastest during warm up in Barcelona, and seeing Marc Márquez struggle to match his pace had given Folger a boost. This, and working out that he needed to brake later, had made a world of difference.

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