Historic TT Assen welcomes MotoGP™ riders for Saturday racing
Looking ahead to Saturday’s racing at the Iveco Daily TT Assen, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro and Stefan Bradl addressed the media in the Netherlands on Wednesday.
The traditional preliminary press conference at the historic Dutch track saw MotoGP World Champion Marquez preview the round eight action by stating, “Yamaha are really strong here, but Valentino and Jorge (Lorenzo) are individually very fast here with their riding styles. Anyway, we will try to do our best to be ready.”
The Repsol Honda man continued, “The weather is a factor and can be unstable, but everybody will have the same problems, so we just concentrate on doing our job. I feel less pressure now than at the start of the championship because of the advantage I have at the top.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Rossi won at Assen last year and has six premier class victories to his name in total at the TT venue, in addition to two from the smaller categories. “This is a good track for the M1,” he commented, “But this year is different overall because I feel good and feel strong everywhere. Marc is stronger this season with one more year of experience, and Jorge was looking fast here last year at the beginning before his injury. Last year was also my best qualifying and starting on the front row would help here, but top five is the target for qualifying.”
Having returned to the podium and having been in the hunt for victory again last time out at the Barcelona-Catalunya round, bouncing back from a difficult patch due to arm pump symptoms and surgery, Pedrosa added, “Overall we are looking better than before. Barcelona was a big boost. My fitness is better, I was a little worried before the race in Barcelona but I was able to race well and felt good. We've had an extra ten days now so it should be okay.”
Ducati Team’s Dovizioso gave an overall assessment of his season so far, saying, “We made a step forward during last winter and we have some small updates during the season, but I think the next big step for Ducati will be for next year. I’m fifth in the championship though so it is not too bad.”
Asked about his future and whether he will renew with the Italian factory for 2015, Dovizioso replied, “It is still a bit too early, we started to talk in Barcelona and soon we will see if we can make a decision.”
For NGM Forward Racing’s Espargaro one of his current targets is to outperform his brother Pol who is having a good first season at the top level in MotoGP. The Spaniard commented, “In a couple of races we have been able to finish not too far from the winner so I am happier than last year. I like Assen and everyone says the Yamaha is strong here so I’m really looking forward to riding here. Pol is four points ahead of me so he is my biggest rival at the moment, so of course I will try to beat him this weekend.”
LCR Honda man Bradl is eighth in the general standings at present, so he wants to build on his good fifth place at the last race at Barcelona-Catalunya and a constructive post-GP test there – following his heavy falls and DNF in the previous round in Italy.
Bradl explained, “Coming back from Mugello to Barcelona was not an easy week after the big crashes. But I was feeling good from the first lap in Catalunya and we managed to do a good race weekend. We are not far from Germany here at Assen and it is always good to have support from the German fans here. I am optimistic, because we found some more rear grip and a constant lap time in the post race test in Catalunya.”
Earlier in the afternoon Bradl was joined by premier class colleagues Scott Redding and Cal Crutchlow, Dutch Moto3™ regulars Scott Deroue and Bryan Schouten, and one Dutch wildcard rider for this round -Thomas Van Leeuwen - for a meet and greet with schoolchildren and fans in the centre of Assen.
Celebrating the visit to one of the most historic venues in MotoGP™ the riders dressed in some antique racing gear and rode VéloSolex bicycles around the town.
The TT Assen is unique on the MotoGP™ calendar in that it is the only Grand Prix at which races take place on a Saturday, as opposed to the usual Sunday - and the reason for this stems back to midway through the first half of the 20th century.
Also, Assen is the only venue on the calendar to have hosted a Grand Prix every single season since the World Championship was inaugurated in 1949. Furthermore, the Dutch Grand Prix event itself was first hosted on a Saturday, in 1925.
“In 1925 was the first Dutch TT, but not at Assen,” explains Egbert Braakman, who was the Race Secretary at Assen between 1970 and 2006. “It was in a village called Rolde, seven kilometres east of Assen.”
“The reason why it was on the Saturday is that the church was near to the start-finish area. The town council didn’t want to have a situation in which people who wanted to go to church on a Sunday could not, as all of the roads were closed for the race. That is the reason the race was staged on the Saturday. That proved a success, so we continued to do it on the Saturday. It is now a real tradition to have the Grand Prix on the Saturday, but all other races at the circuit on a Sunday.”
Assen has hosted a Grand Prix every year since 1925, with the exception of the six from 1940 to 1945 because of the Second World War.