Assen, The Netherlands

2016 Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: On Weather, Deceptive Race Pace, and Rules & Regulations

The disadvantage of reporting on your home race is that during the media debriefs, the period when riders speak to the press, they turn to you and ask, "So what's the weather going to do?" Living in The Netherlands, Assen is my home race, and so this weekend, it is me they are asking about the weather. There is only one honest answer I can give them. "This is Assen. Anything can happen."

The weather has been a constant topic of discussion. Weather apps and weather websites have been compared, and each of them says something different. Some say it will only rain heavily on Sunday. Others say Sunday will be dry, and the rain will fall on Saturday. Check another site, and it says rain overnight, but only heavy clouds during the day, with the risk of rain at a minimum. Which site to believe? This is Assen. Anything can happen.

There was a sense of nervousness in both FP1 and FP2 for the MotoGP class. Riders pushed late to chase a lap good enough to put them into the top ten, and automatic entry into Q2. Some, like Bradley Smith, got their strategy wrong, went out on a hard rear tire instead of a medium, and ended up languishing down the order. Others, like Dani Pedrosa, were just having a dismal time. "No improvement from FP1 to FP2, no improvement on different tires, and no feeling with the bike."

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2016 Assen Moto2 FP2 Result: Luthi Leads, Nakagami Follows

Takaaki Nakagami took another step towards that illusory first win by starting the session on top, yet finished with a front end crash in the final few minutes of FP2. The Japanese rider had already been dethroned by Thomas Luthi, the Swiss going four tenths faster than this morning’s pace, followed by Sam Lowes in a consistent third.

It was a more optimistic session for the Marc VDS team, at least in terms of pace, with Alex Marquez and Franco Morbidelli placed as high as fourth and fifth, before Marquez took a stroll through the gravel with half his bike under his arm after a rather spectacular crash with fifteen minutes to go.

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2016 Assen MotoGP FP2 Result: Iannone Continues His Charge

With a few rays of sunshine making their way through the clouds, Marc Marquez was the first into the 1:33, a second fastest than his morning pace. His old Moto2 nemesis and FP1 leader Andrea Iannone followed him in the classification and finally took charge at the top of the timesheets in the final minutes of the session. Valentino Rossi finished second after a fast last run, dropping Marquez down to third.

Despite using a different chassis, the two Suzukis posted similar times for most of the session, with Maverick Vinales finishing fourth and Aleix Espargaro a few places down in eight. An unhappy Jorge Lorenzo finished the first run in tenth position, gradually climbing up the ranking to a more reassuring fifth.

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2016 Assen Moto3 FP2 Result: Rookie Canet Grabs The Spotlight

With the track having warmed up nicely since the morning session, times were tumbling on the course of the allocated forty minutes, as riders made up for lost time in FP1. It was a good afternoon for Valentino Rossi’s apprentices, with Romano Fenati establishing an early lead, later challenged by fellow Academy riders Pecco Bagnaia, Niccolo Antonelli and Nicolo Bulega. In the end, the top position went to rookie Aron Canet, the Spaniard putting in a good run towards the final part of the session.

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2016 Assen Moto2 FP1 Result: Nakagami Leads after Late Charge

World champion Johann Zarco picked it up where he left off in Barcelona: at the top of the timesheets. That’s until Takaaki Nakagami sparked one of his occasional surprises and took top spot after spending most of the session at the top end. Lorenzo Baldassarri’s late charge meant that Zarco had to settle for third place, with the Italian sneaking into second.

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2016 Assen MotoGP FP1 Result: Iannone Starts His Comeback

Following a misty Moto3 session, the conditions improved slightly for the MotoGP class, allowing for more track time for the riders. Andrea Iannone started preparing his charge from the back of the grid with an impressive first place in practice, dominating the session from start to finish.  

With Assen’s unpredictable weather in mind, an early shoot-out for Q2 ensued in the last minutes of FP1, with most riders switching to the softer option tyre. Andrea Dovizioso joined his teammate at the top of the standings, with the Yamaha of Pol Espargaro in third followed by Scott Redding in fourth. Another Ducati joined the party with Danilo Petrucci posting an identical time to that of his teammate.

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2016 Assen Moto3 FP1 Result: Bastianini Leads Overcast Session

Having led right from the start, Enea Bastianini ended up topping a misty overcast session, the usual suspects following. Nicolo Antonelli took second, with Aron Canet suffering a crash after posting a top 3 time early in the session. The incident lost him the rest of the session but he kept his position. Fabio Quartararo was fourth, followed by Joan Mir and Andrea Locatelli.

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2016 Assen MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Weird Weather, Tricky Tires, and Saving Italian Racing

So how does the first Dutch TT at Assen to be run following the normal Friday-to-Sunday schedule feel for the riders? It feels normal, is the consensus. "I don't think it makes a difference regarding the feeling," Dani Pedrosa explained on Thursday. "Because when we were here on Wednesday, it felt like a Thursday, because the procedure is the same."

The only downside about the switch from Saturday to Sunday? "The only good thing before was that when you finish the race, you still have the Sunday off! So when you return home, you had a good time with family on Sunday," said Pedrosa. "I'm going to miss my Sunday roast!" added Bradley Smith.

Perhaps a more complex and sensitive loss was the fact that the Assen round of MotoGP now clashes directly with the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Bradley Smith bemoaned the fact that he would not be able to attend the festivities on Sunday, nor the traditional dinner on Saturday night. The damage this clash does could be small but significant in the long run. Though motorcycles are given a lot of attention at Goodwood, it is primarily an event focused on four wheels. Having top MotoGP riders attend the event was good exposure for motorcycle racing, and MotoGP in particular. With Assen likely to clash frequently with Goodwood, the number of riders at the event is certain to diminish.

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2016 Assen MotoGP Preview: Sunday Sees the End, and the Beginning, of an Era

For Assen, this is a year for breaking with tradition. In 2016, for the first time in its history, the 86th edition of the Dutch TT at Assen will be run on Sunday rather than Saturday. It is the end of an era, but also the start of a new era.

The reason for the switch is simple: better exposure. "All of the major football games, all of the big sporting events are on Sunday. People expect to go to a big event on a Sunday," chairman of the circuit Arjan Bos told reporters last year. TV audiences expect major sports events to take place on a Sunday, and not a Saturday, as the viewing figures for Assen have repeatedly shown. On average, TV audiences are down by a significant amount compared to other MotoGP races.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Assen: where stuff happens

MotoGP’s most historic venue has a habit of dramatically affecting the title chase, but never more so than in 1992

The Dutch TT (it’s the only non-Manx motorcycle race licenced to use the Tourist Trophy moniker) has a long habit of throwing a spanner in the works of ambitious racers.

Just ask reigning MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo. Assen helped derail both his previous title defences – in 2011 he was taken out by Marco Simoncelli and in 2013 he fell in practice and broke a collarbone. Hopefully he’s not the superstitious kind who believes that bad luck comes in threes.

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