Despite the hotter surface with a nice spread of rubber following the first set of practice sessions of the day, the lightweight class took their time to pick up some more speed. Regardless, Marco Bezzecchi was in a hurry to post his first 1:42 time of the weekend, which secured him the lead throughout the session but did not quite improve on the FP1 benchmark. The only man who achieved that feat was Aron Canet, the Estrella Galicia rider leading by over a tenth of a second by the time the checker flag marked the end of the session.
Assen, The Netherlands
With the Dutch TT course shining under resplendent sunshine, Pecco Bagnaia was out on a mission to stop Miguel Oliveira’s rampant charge of late and what better way to do that than grab the top of the timesheets and not let go? The Italian clearly seemed to agree and ended up leading the session by two tenths of a second from compatriot Andrea Locatelli. The Italtrans rider was one of a few who kept a low profile before popping up at the sharp end when it mattered.
If Assen wasn’t warm enough already, the premier class turned up the heat the second they hit the track by knocking on the doors of 1:34 straight away. Marquez did not need long to retrieve his favourite place on the timesheets on his second outing and then continued to move the goalposts throughout the session, while also having a good look at his factory Yamaha pals.
The weekend in Assen started with the promise of uncharacteristically clear skies and the lightweight class’ first outing was no exception. Although the temperatures were still somewhat on the low side, riders kept the track busy in search of the weekend’s first honours, which predictably went to Jorge Martin, the Spaniard the only one to dip into the 1:42s, four tenths faster than the opposition.
Another weekend, another racetrack, but exactly the same story. We all gathered once again to hear what Dani Pedrosa had to say about his future, and once again, Pedrosa had nothing to say. "I know there are a lot of people waiting and wanting to know some information, but unfortunately not yet," Pedrosa told the pre-event press conference. "I can't give any different news from what I already in Barcelona. I expect to, but still things are going slow, so we don't know at this moment exactly. Sooner or later I will have something to say!"
Once bitten, twice shy, the media were a little more prepared this Thursday. Dorna had put Dani Pedrosa into the press conference, a little safer situation than the masses crowded into the HRC hospitality at Barcelona. We were acting on a little more information as well: journalists have been talking to a range of sources since Barcelona, and so there is a much better sense of where we stand on the Petronas-Yamaha story, as I explained on Tuesday. There was some hope Pedrosa might announce something, but a realistic expectation he would not. So the disappointment when the Repsol Honda rider told there was still no news on his future was much more limited at Assen than it had been at Montmeló.
Where do we stand? Sepang International Circuit boss Razlan Razali is at Assen this weekend, but unavailable for reporters, as he is in wall-to-wall meetings finalizing various details. That suggests that the deal is basically done, and he is now going through the laborious business of tying up loose ends. There is a lot of work to be done to get a MotoGP team off the ground from scratch.
Press releases from Michelin and some of the MotoGP teams looking ahead to the Dutch TT at Assen:
Repsol Honda Team head to Assen, the “Cathedral” of bike racing
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams previewing this weekend's races at Assen:
Marquez and Mir focus on podium charge in Assen
The tale of the TT Circuit at Assen is really the tale of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. That is hardly surprising, given that the race has featured on the calendar since Grand Prix racing was born, or rather, since the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship was established, back in 1949. And like Grand Prix racing, it has roots which go back a long way before that.
The first race took place in 1925, a year after the Dutch government passed a law permitting racing on public roads. It ran over cobbled roads and sand tracks between three villages to the east of Assen: Rolde, Borger, and Schoonlo. The next year it moved south of Assen, again over public roads, between De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen, and Laaghalerveen. It stayed there until 1955, when the first sections of what would become the modern circuit were built. The roads were closed and the circuit was separated from the world, an isolated loop of tarmac, where racing was safer, easier to organize, and, not coincidentally, easier to monetize.
The inaugural Grand Prix season in 1949 took place mainly on circuits set out using public roads, which made for long tracks taken at high speed (Bremgarten in Switzerland and Monza in Italy were the two purpose-built circuits on the calendar, but Bremgarten, in particular, was a spectacularly dangerous circuit which wound through a forest).
Press releases from the teams and organizers after the Dutch round of WorldBK at Assen:
#DutchWorldSBK Day 3 - Commanding Sykes storms to Assen win
Making predictions for races in WorldSBK 2018 can be a fool's errand. The form book has been thrown out the window on a couple of occasions and that was certainly the case once again at the Assen TT Circuit.
The Magic is still there
Michael van der Mark may no longer go by the moniker of Magic Michael but there was definitely magic in the air at Assen. The Dutch star claimed a double podium at his home round and showed once again that he is a force to be reckoned with. Pressuring Jonathan Rea and beating Chaz Davies in a straight up fight in Race 1 was impressive, but his Race 2 performance shouldn't be underestimated. The pressure was on the 25 year old. A bumper crowd of over 62,000 turned up to cheer him on and VDM didn't disappoint.
His third place finish on Sunday was another example of being able to keep a cool head. Tom Sykes was clear from the field and for Van der Mark the goal became to stand on the rostrum. That meant beating the Ducatis of Xavi Fores and Chaz Davies. The Yamaha rider duly delivered and moved into fourth in the championship standings. Mission accomplished.