You would think with the deluge of words which has washed over the incident between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi in the last corner (and to which I contributed more than my fair share, I must confess) that there were only two riders and one race at Assen on Saturday. Beyond the clash at the GT chicane, there was much more to talk about after Holland.
Whatever the immediate aftermath of the clash between Márquez and Rossi, the longer term implications of the result have made the championship even more interesting. Márquez' decision to switch back to the 2014 chassis for his Repsol Honda RC213V has been proven to be the correct one. Though the engine is still as aggressive as ever, the old chassis in combination with the new swingarm and new forks tested at Le Mans has made the bike much more manageable. Márquez can now slide the rear on corner entry in a much more controlled way than before, taking away the behavior the reigning champion has struggled with most. The Spaniard showed he could be competitive from the start of the race to the end, instead of crashing out as the tires started to go off.
The bike is still a long way from cured, however. Márquez switched to the medium front tire rather than the soft, the only rider to do so. The medium provides a bit more support under braking, compensating for the reduced braking from the rear wheel. That support comes at the cost of extra grip provided by the softer front. Whether Márquez will be able to employ that same strategy for the rest of the season remains to be seen. For a start, Assen is not a very typical track, featuring a lot more flowing corners than usual. At circuits with more corners needing hard braking, the challenge will be greater. The next race is at the Sachsenring, where asymmetric front tires will be on offer. How the Honda deals with that will be interesting.
A more competitive Márquez will certainly liven the championship up. After Lorenzo swept the previous four races, a Rossi comeback gave him back the advantage in the championship. Without Márquez, Rossi would only have extended his lead by five more points, but the Repsol Honda man put himself between the two Movistar Yamaha teammates, meaning that Lorenzo's deficit grew to ten points. With ten races to go, the championship is still wide open, though realistically, it is only between Rossi and Lorenzo. But the influence of a rider who is consistently capable of inserting himself between the two Yamahas could end up having a major effect on the championship.
The Leopard Racing team today announced that they have signed Joan Mir to race for them in Moto3 in 2016. The 18-year-old Spaniard is currently racing in the FIM CEV series, the former Spanish championship, for the Leopard Racing junior team, and has impressed in the class winning two races already this season. Before switching to the CEV, Mir raced in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he was regarded as one of the stronger competitors.
With Mir moving up to Moto3, it is looking increasingly likely that the Leopard Racing team will expand their program to move up to Moto2. Current Moto3 championship leader Danny Kent has expressed an interest in returning to Moto2, but only wishes to do so with a strong team. The Leopard Racing team run by Stefan Kiefer has proved to be exactly that, and if the team can move up as a unit, then Kent should have a better shot at handling the transition than during his first attempt with the Tech 3 squad. Familiar surroundings and a strong bike package would make Kent competitive.
The switch to Moto2 is still a long way from being confirmed. At the moment, the budget for 2016 is under discussion, any decision can only be taken once funding for the project has been decided.
Below is the press release issued by Leopard Racing announcing the signing of Joan Mir:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Saturday's races at Assen:
The Moto2 race was red flagged before the first lap was completed as Luis Salom clipped the back of Ant West's bike and tumbled off track, cracking its right crankcase, spilling oil all over the place and ignominiously catching fire. The restart would be 16 laps.
Jeremy Burgess was famous for finding that special something on Sunday morning that gave Valentino Rossi the edge in the race in the afternoon. It is a tradition carried on by Silvano Galbusera, who has replaced Burgess since the start of the 2014 season. Galbusera, too, always seems to find that extra little tweak during warm up that makes the difference between cruising in fourth or finishing on the podium, and even on the top step. The fact that it has continued since Burgess' departure suggests that the tweaks were very much a collaborative effort, with input coming from his data engineers and mechanics, as well as the rider himself, of course.
Two weeks ago in Barcelona, Rossi's team appeared to have found something extra special. For it did not just work on the Sunday in Catalonia, taking Rossi from the third row all the way up to 2nd, but it has even carried through to Assen, some 1600km further north. Rossi was quick from the moment he rolled out of pit lane for the first time at Assen, and has been at or near the top of the timesheets ever since. In this form, Rossi may well have expected to have been on the front row, but he went better than that. Putting in one of the best laps of his recent career with a couple of minutes to go, he simply hammered the opposition. As a sign of just how dominant he was at Assen, he led the second fastest man, Aleix Espargaro, by nearly a quarter of a second. The next quarter of a second difference covers second place to eleventh, from Aleix Espargaro to Danilo Petrucci. It is incredibly close at Assen, except at the front. One man reigns supreme.
Tito Rabat, current Moto2 world champion, went into the session having gone two tenths of a second quicker than anyone else, with only Xavier Simeon and Johann Zarco within half a second. Conditions were dry and clear.
Dorna today issued the following press release, confirming that the Brno round will take place this year:
Czech Republic GP confirmed for 2015
Automotodrom Brno has informed Dorna of the difficulties to receive financial resources from the public sector for the 2014 and 2015 Grand Prix despite the fact that such financial resources had been promised several times to be released.
Under these circumstances, Automotodrom has asked Dorna about the possibility of cancelling the 2015 Grand Prix but Dorna believes that cancelling the MotoGP race in Brno would neither be in the interest of the FIM, teams, sponsors and Automotodrom itself.
Dorna have issued the following press release on the news that the Dutch round of MotoGP will be switching to Sunday from 2016:
From 2016 the TT Assen will be on Sunday
After carefully considering all the pros & cons, the TT Board has decided to move the race day from Saturday to Sunday, starting in 2016.
The TT Assen race day will be held on the last Sunday in June. This will have benefits for the future of the TT Racetrack, the preservation of the MotoGP and motorcycle racing in the Netherlands in general.
By changing to Sunday from 2016, it is expected that larger numbers of spectators will visit the track. In the current Dutch leisure pattern a top sporting event on a Sunday is more attractive than on a Saturday. On Sundays there is also more media exposure for these top sporting events, which is something the TT Assen will definitely benefit from. This has also proven to increase visitor numbers. By moving the training days to Friday and Saturday, the TT Assen becomes more attractive for a multi-day visit and therefore also for the purchase of all-in tickets.
The Dutch round of MotoGP, the Dutch TT at Assen, is to switch from Saturday to Sunday. From 2016, the event will surrender its unique status as the only MotoGP round to be held on Saturday, and fall in line with the rest of the MotoGP races. It will, however, remain on the last weekend of June, but will now be on the last Sunday, rather than the last Saturday of June.
The decision was taken by the circuit management after long consideration and discussions with many of the parties who have an interest in the race. The circuit also commissioned market research into the use of leisure time among the Dutch public, which showed that Sunday is the day most people set aside to spend attending sporting events, such as the Dutch TT. Circuit director Peter Oosterbaan and chairman Arjan Bos said that the market they were operating in was such that Sunday was a better day all round for sporting events. "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," Arjan Bos said. The move would also mean better media exposure for the event, as Sunday is the day with the most exposure for sports on TV and radio.
After the chequered flag waved, Johann Zarco crossed the line with a 1'37.670, stealing the top spot from Simone Corsi who had held it for five minutes until the end. Sam Lowes, fastest in the morning and the only Speedup in the provisional front three rows, could only muster the third fastest time.
The top six were all within half a second of Zarco's time and the top 13 were all within a second of provisional pole.
Sam Lowes has ended the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class at the top of the time sheets, the Speed Up rider putting in a late charge to set the fastest lap. Lowes took over the top slot from Dominique Aegerter, who had in turn nudged his compatriot Tom Luthi off the top of the timesheets. Aegerter ended in 2nd, six hundredths behind Lowes, while Luthi was another tenth of a second behind Aegerter.
Tito Rabat ended the session in 4th, nearly half a second off the pace of Lowes, and ahead of Julian Simon and Johann Zarco. Championship leader Zarco was fastest early in the session, but had to give ground towards the end. Alex Marquez had a strong session of practice too, the Moto3 champion having found some speed at Barcelona and then again at the Aragon test.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race in Assen: