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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."

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.

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.

2016 Misano World Superbike Saturday Notes: Tense Races, and Taking Risks to Win

There are races that are thrilling, and there are races that are tense. Saturday's World Superbike race at Misano was the latter. After the two Kawasakis escaped from the pack – a pack where Misano's notorious Turn 1 chicane had wreaked havoc on the grid, as usual – Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea were never separated by more than a few tenths. You could feel that an attack was inevitable, that the status quo could not stand. Something was coming, and that made the race feel excruciatingly tense.

2016 Misano WSBK Friday Notes: On a Changed Schedule, a Familiar Ducati Refrain, and Rea's Pace

Attending races of series you don't normally cover is always informative and instructive. To paraphrase a famous quote, the World Superbike paddock is a foreign country, they do things differently there. While I feel I have a reasonable grasp of the workings of MotoGP, coming to WorldSBK at Misano both makes me all too conscious of how much I don't know, and lets me look at the Grand Prix paddock with fresh eyes.

World Superbikes is a much more human experience. The paddock is a friendlier, more relaxed place. The hospitality units are more modest and therefore more inviting, rather than the great gleaming monstrosities in the MotoGP paddock. That also creates more of a feeling of space: you are no longer jammed in between towering facades, but can still see the sky.

Then there's the paddock show. Free on Friday, but €20 extra on Saturday on Sunday, World Superbike fans at Misano get access to the paddock, and can watch the proceedings on screens set up in a giant tent, complete with live interviews with riders and commentary by host Michael Hill. It brings fans and riders together, and turns them into beings of flesh and blood, rather than the unapproachable and aloof status some MotoGP riders can attain. World Superbikes is very much the people's championship.

Zarco, Rins, Espargaro - The Next to Move in MotoGP?

While Johann Zarco is out in Japan, testing the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, the 2017 MotoGP rider line up is starting to solidify further. Ironically, it is looking like Johann Zarco will not be the rider Suzuki selects to pilot its factory MotoGP bike alongside Andrea Iannone.

Team boss Davide Brivio is in Japan along with the test team to finalize their plans for 2017. At Barcelona, Brivio admitted to MotoMatters.com that he would be going to discuss Suzuki's choice of rider for next year. The Italian acknowledged that both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins were under discussion, and though he declined to state a preference, he did say "It's clear what our choice is."

Fast Factories vs Suffering Satellites: Hervé Poncharal on the Plight of Independent Teams

"I am not a very happy man," Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told us on the Thursday before Barcelona. His problem? Attracting competitive riders to take the seats vacated by Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. Their destination was emblematic of Poncharal's problem: at Barcelona, Espargaro announced he would be reunited with his Tech 3 teammate in the factory KTM team in 2017 and 2018.

So Poncharal found himself with the looming likelihood of fielding two rookies in 2017. The Tech 3 boss signed Jonas Folger back in Le Mans, while Johann Zarco is the prime candidate to fill the second Tech 3 seat. (Zarco is currently in Japan testing Suzuki's GSX-RR MotoGP machine. He is expected to sign with Tech 3 once Suzuki have announced they are signing Alex Rins to partner Andrea Iannone.)

The original hope was either to keep Pol Espargaro alongside Folger, to ensure consistency of results, or welcome Alex Rins into the fold on a factory Yamaha contract. Either way, it would ensure the publicity which is vital to keeping sponsors happy. Two rookies and no factory connections is a lot less appealing to the people who help provide the €8-€9 million it costs to run the Tech 3 team.

2016 Barcelona MotoGP Post-Race Test Round Up - New Tires, New Chassis, Some Equivocation

On the day after the Barcelona MotoGP race, the entire grid bar the Aspar Ducatis were back at the track for a full day of testing. Conditions were ideal; so ideal that they perhaps a little confusing. Though it was hot and dry, the fact that only MotoGP bikes are circulating and laying down Michelin rubber meant the track felt different to race day, when the MotoGP bikes have to follow Moto2, and cope with the Dunlop rubber the fat rear tires smear on the track.

2016 Barcelona MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Healing Races, a Reconciliation of Sorts, and Silly Mistakes

On Friday, a young man died in a freak crash at the Circuit de Catalunya, and we mourned him. On Saturday, we went through the motions, picking up the rhythm of a normal race weekend, but in a state of mild shock. On Sunday morning, we remembered Luis Salom, the whole paddock and a circuit full of fans standing in silence, united both in the memory of a bright young talent who take took from us, and in the knowledge that it can happen again. On Sunday afternoon, we raced, and reminded ourselves of why young men and women risk their lives with the frankly rather futile objective of demonstrating that they can ride in circles on a motorbike faster than anyone else.

"It was difficult to not cry when we were in the minute of silence," Maverick Viñales reflected on Sunday afternoon. "It was a really difficult race, but I think the best way to remember Luis is racing, and trying to make the best result. I know he will be always with us." Marc Márquez felt much the same. "In the end also this Sunday, I liked it was again the atmosphere of the family, the MotoGP family. Because when we were there together on the grid, when we were racing, everybody was racing for Luis. Everybody dedicated the race to Luis."

2016 Barcelona Saturday Round Up: Dealing with Danger, Data-Driven Design, and the Right to Complain

What does the MotoGP paddock do the day after a rider dies? Carry on as normal. Or nearly normal: bikes circulate, riders compete, but conversations are more hushed, the mood muted. The whole paddock is a quieter place, bar the bellowing of racing four stroke engines.

Heartless? That is putting it a little strongly. It is in part a coping mechanism, immersing yourself in your work to avoid dwelling on tragedy, and thinking too much about danger. But it is also a response to the request of Luis Salom's family and team. When Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta asked them what they wanted to do, they said they wanted the race to go ahead.

Their wishes would be respected, but it was not the first choice of everyone in the paddock. Danilo Petrucci told the Italian press he would have preferred to have packed up and gone home, and he was not alone. "Yesterday I was crying together with my brother because [Luis Salom] was really young," Aleix Espargaro told us. "This is a disaster. With Pol we were thinking that the best thing was to not race because actually now I feel empty inside." We all felt empty inside, and still do.

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