Felice Monteleone – FMPhotoSport MotoGP News
DORNA SPORT SL Official News, Motul TT Assen Preview
A new era at MotoGP’s most historic home
Racing will take place in Assen on a Sunday for the first time, but the historic track is set for another classic showdown.
Round eight of the 2016 MotoGP™ World Championship will be held at the historic TT Circuit Assen. Assen remains as the only venue to have hosted a round of the World Championship every year since its creation in 1949. Since then it has undergone a number of changes, most recently in 2006. The track may change but the run from the Ramshoek to Geert Timmer Bocht and the line is always breath taking.
The MotoGP™ World Championship family came together in Barcelona remembering Luis Salom with three incredible races. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) battled it out until the last lap, a moment costing Marquez a chance of victory. With Rossi taking his second win of the year, ‘The Doctor’ is now well and truly back in championship contention. Assen is a special track for the 37-year-old Italian, taking seven wins there in the premier class and the scene of his 100th win in 2009. In 2013 he broke a 44 race drought when he returned to the top spot for the first time since returning to Yamaha.
One of Rossi’s most exciting Assen victories came in 2015, fending off Marquez’s ambitious last chicane move and forced to run across the gravel. Marquez was forced to settle for second, missing the top step of the podium in Assen for just the fourth time in his career. The Motul TT Assen gives Marc Marquez a near perfect chance to extend his points lead over Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). With 125 points, the Honda rider heads to Assen with a ten point lead over Lorenzo, Rossi a total of 22 behind.
This is the closest the top three in the MotoGP™ World Championship has been after seven rounds since 2012 when Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) were split by 19 points. No clear title favourite has emerged with both Rossi and Lorenzo suffering two DNFs so far in 2016 and Marquez crashing in Le Mans.
The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya was a terrible race for Lorenzo, a lack of gripping destroying his chances of victory. His Sunday got a lot worse whenAndrea Iannone (Ducati Team) collided with him at Turn 10, the pair fortunate to walk away unharmed. For Lorenzo it meant zero points, for Iannone it means a back of the grid start in Assen.
Unfortunately for Lorenzo his recent record in Assen is mixed, largely due to issues out of his control. In 2011 he came together with Marco Simoncelli and in 2012 Lorenzo was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at the first corner. His bad luck in Assen continued in 2013 when Lorenzo broke his collarbone during Thursday practice, making a heroic comeback from surgery to race on Saturday. Lorenzo’s lone premier class win in Assen came in 2010, third in 2015 his first return to the podium since.
The factory riders had better watch out as Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) has hit a run of form, taking his best finish of the year before topping the post-race test. Crutchlow has only once finished outside the top ten in Assen and took pole position for the 2013 race aboard the Tech 3 Yamaha, going on to take third.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) is another Honda rider who was back to his best in Barcelona, taking his first front row of the year and converting it to just his second podium. Honda brought a number of new parts to the test including a frame and an exhaust. Despite having raced in the premier class since 2006, Pedrosa has never won at the historic Assen circuit.
In Barcelona neither Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) nor Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) achieved the results they wanted. Assen offers a chance to do it all again. It’s a special track for Espargaro who took his first premier class pole there in 2014.
The battle for top Independent Team rider continues to be led by Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), sixth overall and 11 points ahead of Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing). A steady stream of points in each round have Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) third in the battle and 11th overall.
Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) will be forced to miss his second round of the year as he continues to recovery from the injury sustained in Mugello. Once more the tall French rider will be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro aboard the GP14.2.
Just ahead of the event it was also announced that Alex Rins would line up alongside Andrea Iannone at Team Suzuki Ecstar in 2017 and 2018. As such Aleix Espargaro will depart Suzuki at the end of 2016, expect an announcement on his future soon.