Assen, The Netherlands
In the previous 85 editions of the Dutch TT at Assen, we have seen some pretty spectacular Saturdays. In the 86th edition, with the race moved to Sunday, Saturday lived up to the expectations raised by the previous 85. It was a wild and weird day, both morning and afternoon, with the weather being the main protagonist once again. There were crashes, fast dry laps, fast wet laps, and some smart strategy in the chase for pole. It was a good day indeed.
With Friday's heat having dissipated, the MotoGP riders faced a fresh set of challenges. Overnight rain and light clouds meant track temperatures were much cooler. That meant that the medium front tire was suddenly a much more tricky proposition, catching a number of riders out. Jorge Lorenzo fell at the Ruskenhoek after the front tire let go, while Marc Márquez made one of the most remarkable saves of recent years, after locking the front completely braking for Turn 1.
What happened? It's hard to tell from the video (online at the MotoGP.com website, or via the MotoGP Twitter feed), but afterwards, Márquez explained that the front locked without warning. "From the first point of the brake, the front wheel locked, and then I released the brakes and it was a big moment," the Repsol Honda rider said.
Winglets are to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement among all manufacturers on a joint proposal.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Assen:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Assen:
Never a dull moment in Assen. Unless it’s a rainy session that is not wet enough for intermediate tyres and too risky for slicks. Having used the first ten minutes on rider close-ups, the bikes circled the track gingerly to assess the conditions for the rest of the session.
Dani Pedrosa set an early benchmark some twenty seconds off the best time from the morning, Danilo Petrucci taking over the top of the timesheets briefly, before Marc Marquez shaved nine tenths off the Italian’s time.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Assen:
Seeing the temperatures drop slightly after overnight rain, the intermediate class had trouble challenging FP2 times early on. A rain flag waved briefly just as Thomas Luthi blitzed the field by three quarters of a second. The rain at the top end of the circuit later disrupted the action, with riders spending significant time in the pits midway through the session.
The final minute of the session saw Johann Zarco take over top spot by a tenth, after taking in the scenery with a quick trip through the gravel early in his first run. Besides posting a very fast lap, he also displayed very consistent race pace, giving the French rider a great deal of confidence heading into the qualifying session.
The cooler overcast conditions have made it a challenge for riders to improve their times in the first half of the third practice session. As race settings were refined, dirt brushed off leathers and qualifying runs attempted, times started to drop, with another Andrea taking top honours, this time the Ducati of Dovizioso.
Halfway through the session, Marc Marquez locked the front massively, prompting his Honda to turn into a rodeo ride that magically stayed upright. Besides another save for the highlights reel, he also finished with a second position in the bag, only two hundreds of a second off the leader and dropping Maverick Viñales into third.