97,150 turned up to watch a 26 lap race on a dry day and they were not disappointed as Assen gave the fans the kind of race they've come to expect.
Dani Pedrosa crashed heavily at De Bult. He was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with contusions to his left thumb and finger.
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.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and others after qualifying at Assen:
Results and summary of qualifying practice at Assen:
Marc Marquez has topped the final session of free practice for the MotoGP class, laying down an impressive pace to lead the way. The Repsol Honda rider ended in front of two Movistar Yamaha riders, Valentino Rossi taking 2nd, while Jorge Lorenzo finished in 3rd. Both men had good pace, but it was Lorenzo's which looked closer to the run of 1'33s which Marquez put down.
Dani Pedrosa was two tenths behind Lorenzo, and four tenths behind his teammate, while Cal Crutchlow came home in 5th, two tenths behind Pedrosa. Aleix Espargaro was the first of the Suzukis, just behind Crutchlow and just ahead of the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and the Tech 3 Yamaha of Bradley Smith.
Valentino Rossi has ended a rain-disrupted final session of free practice to head into qualifying as the fastest man. FP3 was a session of two parts, with light rain chasing the pack back into the pits after the first quarter of an hour. It never rained enough to affect the track, but caution prevailed, leaving everyone to wait for the final 12 minutes or so before returning to the track to pursue a coveted spot in Q2.
Rossi was fast in those final minutes, but only made sure of top spot at the very end of the session. He bumped his Movistar Yamaha teammate back into 2nd, after Lorenzo put in two searing laps to briefly take over at the top. The two factory Ducatis follow the Yamahas, Andrea Iannone leading Andrea Dovizioso, while Bradley Smith secured his spot in Q with a solid lap in the last few minutes. Smith finished ahead of the Repsol Honda pairing, Marc Marquez leading Dani Pedrosa. Marquez had led for the first part of the session, but dropped down the field when the pace hotted up.
Maverick Viñales was the only Suzuki rider to get into Q2, Aleix Espargaro ending up in 12th, and having to come through Q1. Pol Espargaro made it four Yamahas through to Q2, ending just ahead of Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow and Pedrosa were the only riders not to improve their times in FP3.
If the Honda is so bad, why are two RC213Vs at the top of the timesheets? That seems like a very valid question, given the public struggles which all of the Honda riders have had with the bike this year. Has the 2014 chassis finally fixed the Honda's ailments? Is Márquez back?
If only it were that simple. Firstly, of course, Marc Márquez never went away. The double world champion still possesses a gargantuan talent, and the desire and will to use it. He was hampered by many aspects of the 2015 bike, including both the engine and the chassis. The 2015 chassis, he explained at Assen, was more precise and could be used more accurately. Unfortunately, the only way to get the best out of it was to ride it like every lap was a qualifying lap. That level of intensity is just not sustainable over race distance. At some point, you will make a mistake, and the 2015 chassis punishes mistakes mercilessly. So HRC have reverted to a hybrid version, using a 2014 chassis and the new swingarm which Márquez first tested at Le Mans. That works better for Márquez: he has been forced to sacrifice some precision, but at least now he has a chance to recover from mistakes.
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.
Dani Pedrosa has topped the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Honda. The Repsol Honda rider was fast for much of the session, then set a very quick lap at the end of the session once the battle for Q2 commenced. Marc Marquez ended the session in 2nd, but he did so by setting a very quick lap early, despite having a major moment on a previous lap. Marquez is still visibly struggling to get the bike stopped, his Honda RC213V still sliding wildly and running wide into the first corner.
Valentino Rossi looked to have the strongest race pace, leading the session early and maintaining a strong pace. He ended in 3rd, ahead of Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow, both of whom posted fast laps at the end of the session to secure their spots in Q2. Jorge Lorenzo concentrated on race pace, ending the session in 6th but never showing the dominant pace he has in previous races, while Andrea Dovizioso put the second Ducati into 7th.
Aleix Espargaro ended the session in 8th, the Suzuki rider quicker on race pace than a single lap. Danilo Petrucci was the impressive filling in a Suzuki sandwich, the Pramac Ducati rider ending in 9th, just ahead of Maverick Viñales on the other Suzuki.
Free Practice opened with Marc Marquez, on his first lap out, planting himself in a dyke as he crashed his Honda. Ten minutes in, his teammate Dani Pedrosa had set the quickest time and set about beating it one lap later. Valentino Rossi got within two hundredths of a second of Pedrosa's time almost half an hour in, with Jorge Lorenzo and Bradley Smith not far off.
Marquez went third quickest with five minutes left in the session, followed by the quickest time a lap later only to be deposed by Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa hit traffic on a potentially quickest lap, but once the flag was out, only Rossi and Marquez were on pace for the top spot. Rossi set the quickest time after the flag was out with Marquez locked behind Bradley Smith on track.
The top four places were taken by the factory Hondas and Yamahas ahead of the the satellite Yamahas and Suzukis. Ducati's best time was set by Dovizioso in 9th in what was a very forgettable session for them.
Assen is a funny old track. And when I say old, I mean old, the event has been on the calendar since 1925, though there was no such thing as world championship, and the race took place between Rolde, Borger and Schoonloo, some ten kilometers east of Assen. From 1926, it moved to a route between the villages of De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen and Laaghalerveen. The roads, forced into short straights with fast sweeping kinks and bends by the complex drainage patterns of the creeks and ditches which keep the region from reverting back to peat bogs, gave shape to the track which was to follow. They still leave their mark on the circuit today, despite being a closed circuit since 1955, though the track has been much shortened since then.
What remains is a track with nary a straight piece of asphalt on it. The back straight meanders between the Strubben hairpin and the fast right and long left of the Ruskenhoek, living up to its name of Veenslang, or Peat Snake. The short stretches between the fast combinations of corners weave and flow, and the only thing keeping the front straight straight is the pit wall. As a piece of geometric design, it is a disaster. As a race track, it is glorious, proving that the best tracks are not designed on paper, but laid out in a landscape. Mugello, Phillip Island, Assen: all great riders track, each owing a debt of gratitude to the landscape which forms them.
All these fast, flowing bends where riders barely touch the brakes – comparatively, for a MotoGP race that is – reward a bike that can carry corner speed and change direction easily. A bike that rewards a steady hand and a smooth style. In other words, a rider like Jorge Lorenzo on a bike like a Yamaha YZR-M1. Lorenzo has been fearsome around Assen in the past, laying down a pace impossible for mere mortals to follow. Having won the last four races in a row, Lorenzo is in pretty terrifying form as well. "I am in the best shape of my life," Lorenzo told the press conference, joking that he had even beat his personal trainer on a mountain bike ride for the first time. The Yamaha is strong, and Lorenzo is strong. Who can beat him?