Success in motorcycle racing is a fickle beast. Getting everything just right to get the best out the bike and rider is a difficult undertaking, with a thousand factors standing ready to throw a spanner in the works. The bike has to have the right balance of stability in braking, nimbleness in corner entry, and strength in acceleration. The rider has to be in peak physical condition, mentally on top of his game, and ready to seize any opportunity which presents itself. When track conditions are ideal, the rider has to be able to find the limit of adhesion. When track conditions or the weather are not playing ball, the rider has to guess the right time to attack, and the right time to hold off. They have to judge how the conditions are changing and when they are ripe to be exploited. Get it right, and you dominate. Get it wrong, and you are lost in the pack.
You also have to be lucky, or know how to make your own luck. The qualifying session for the MotoGP class at Assen showed just how big a role luck can play, the weather playing a massive role in proceedings. The weather changes fast at Assen. In a country as flat as the Netherlands, the wind blows cloud and rain in quickly, and carries it away just as fast. Bright sunshine can change to heavy cloud in a few minutes, with rain following on behind. Which is just what happened on Friday afternoon. Sunshine made way for gray skies, the air pregnant with moisture. It spotted with rain in the morning, briefly during FP4, but only really struck during Q2. It threw the plans and running order of MotoGP into disarray, with smart and lucky riders winning out, the ill-starred ending up well down the grid.
The weather demonstrated how sometimes, disarray can turn to your advantage. Skies had been getting heavier all throughout Q1, though it was never more than a few drops which fell. That changed as Q2 got underway. Rain started falling more heavily at De Bult, the mid-section of the southern part of the circuit, just as Q2 got underway. That caused a sprint race from pit lane exit, the riders battling more like a bunch of Red Bull Rookies than experienced veterans of motorcycle racing's premier class. The sprint soon turned into jockeying for position: nobody wanted to lead, as being the first rider into a corner turned you into the guinea pig, testing grip for everyone following. Following was not much better: though you could at least see what the conditions were for the riders ahead, you did not want to get stuck in the traffic behind. Eleven riders left the pits together, getting stuck watching each other, speeding up, slowing down, and constantly trying to figure out what the best strategy might be.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Assen:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Assen:
Full Recap and Results Below:
Full Recap and Results Below:
If MotoGP FP4 is a good indicator for how tomorrow's race will unfold then Marc Marquez' competitors will be praying for rain, as it appears the young Spaniard could simply disappear into the distance. Marquez set a circuit lap record time of 1:33.462 among a string of ominously quick and consistent laps to better Aleix Espargaro's Thursday hot lap by two tenths of a second and he didn't even require a super-soft tyre.Valentino Rossi posted the second fastest time to end the session a gaping four tenths of a second behind the rampant Marquez, he was followed very closely by his teammate Jorge Lorenzo and the Espargaro's Pol and Aleix.
Dani Pedrosa finished an under whelming nine tenth shy of his teammates and has his work cut out for him to be ready for Sunday's race, while the Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone took seventh and eighth positions. The satellite Honda pairing of Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top ten.
Full Recap and Results Below:
Sam Lowes has continued his strong form and topped the third Moto2 free practice session for the Dutch TT at Assen. The rain that occurred in the MotoGP session previous and remaining thick cloud cover left the track cold and meant that Lowes' time of 1:38.897 was a full second slower than Rabat's benchmark lap from yesterday. Fellow Moto2 rookie Maverick Vinales ended up with the second fastest time after exchanging top spot with Lowes regularly.
Dominique Aegerter, Tito Rabat and Tom Luthi completed the top five while Simone Corsi took his Kalex machine to sixth position ahead of Johann Zarco and Mika Kallio. Jordi Torres and Belgian rider Xavier Simeon rounded out the top ten. In the final minutes of the session rain flags were shown as additional light showers fell, it promises to be a highly unpredictable and equally entertaining weekend ahead.
The third practice session for the MotoGP class at Assen saw light rain emerge just as riders began to exit pit lane, the precipitation then grew progressively heavier in the early stages. Most of the field took the opportunity to scrub in a set of wet tyres, looking ahead to the possibility of needing them later in the weekend.
With around fifteen minutes remaining the rain had stopped and the track had dried sufficiently to allow some of the riders trying to creep into the top 10 and QP2 a crack at putting in a last ditch lap. Alvaro Bautista tried valiantly to nudge Dovizioso out of tenth place (using the times set in yesterday's FP2 session) but fell short as the track didn't allow quite enough feel. He finished two tenths behind Valentino Rossi who topped the tricky session.
The likes of Bautista, Redding and Crutchlow will have to battle through QP1 if they aim to partake in the top twelve shoot out later in the afternoon. The outlook for the afternoons forecast appears to be quite positive and riders will be hoping to be able to make the most of a fully dry fourth practice session to hone their race setups, before unleashing in the qualifying sessions to follow.
Jack Miller has topped his second session of the weekend so far holding the fastest lap at the conclusion of Moto3 FP3 at Assen. The Championship leader set a benchmark time of 1:42.481 which was a tenth quicker than he could manage yesterday, but still a tenth shy of Bastianini's best Thursday lap. It was Bastianini's team mate Niccolo Antonelli who took second place behind Miller, the Italian finished ahead of Niklas Ajo, Efren Vazquez and Danny Kent who completed the top five.
Winner of the previous round in Barcelona Alex Marquez set the sixth quickest lap during the familiarly cool and cloudy Friday morning session and was followed by compatriot Juanfran Guevara, Karel Hanika and Mahindra's Brad Binder while Isaac Vinales rounded out the top ten positions.
If there was one factor that surprised everyone on the first day of practice at Assen, it was the weather. Everyone had been prepared for rain, and had contingency plans for when the rain would eventually come. But it didn't. It rained all around the circuit, severe weather warnings were issued for several surrounding towns, heavy rain fell in nearby Groningen, and local beaches were evacuated because of thunderstorms, but the TT Circuit at Assen stayed dry all day. The wind blew the morning clouds away, and the sun shone down gloriously on the circuit, catching out the unwary, and giving all three Grand Prix classes, plus the many support series a full day of excellent weather.
The riders made good use of the conditions, and the unexpected track time threw up a couple of serious surprises. In the morning, Pol Espargaro set the fastest time, finishing ahead of his brother Aleix. In the afternoon session, it was Aleix who was quickest, though this time Pol could not match the pace of his elder brother. That he should not be able to is hardly surprising; Aleix Espargaro's FP2 time beat the existing pole record from 2012, held by Casey Stoner. Pol could not improve as much as Aleix did, going just a tenth of a second faster, rather than well over a second. But as a satellite rider, Pol does not have the soft tire which Aleix used to set the fastest lap, Pol was quick to point out.
Stefan Bradl's LCR Honda is sporting a new livery at Assen, after the team secured a major new sponsorship deal. The tie up will see the bike in CWM's colors for three races in 2014, and will continue as a major backer in 2015.
The new sponsorship deal is so significant that it offers LCR Honda new possibilities. Lucio Cecchinello has made no secret of his desire to expand from a single bike to a two-bike team, but so far, the financial backing necessary has been missing. The deal with CWM World has the potential to be the key support which would allow Cecchinello to add a second, Open bike to his satellite Honda RC213V currently being ridden by Bradl.
Cecchinello denied that he was anywhere close to making a decision on expanding the team for 2015. 'We have only just started to talk,' Cecchinello told MotoMatters.com. He acknowledged that an extra bike was now a real possibility, however, if LCR and CWM can reach agreement on the necessary financial backing. He was keen to emphasize that things were still at a very early stage, however.
Tito Rabat has ended at the top of the time sheets following another extremely tight Moto2 practice session at Assen. The Championship leader ended FP2 a mere eight hundredths of a second ahead of impressive rookie Sam Lowes and Suisse rider Dominique Aegerter. The top three were consistently a class above throughout and ended up separated by just over a tenth.
After leading the morning session Jonas Folger had to settle for fourth ahead of Jordi Torres and Johann Zarco. Sandro Cortese posted the seventh quickest lap ahead of Marc VDS rider Mika Kallio, a rejuvenated Ricard Cardus and Pons Kalex rider Luis Salom.
Aleix Espargaro has posted the fastest ever lap time by a motorcycle rider at the Assen circuit and topped MotoGP FP2 under glorious sunny conditions. The Forward Racing rider extracted every inch of performance from his super-soft tyre to set a time of 1:33.653, which was just under a tenth quicker than Casey Stoner's long standing circuit record and put him two tenths clear of Marc Marquez in second place.
Fellow Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was a further two tenths behind in third followed by Jorge Lorenzo and another beneficiary of super-soft rubber Andrea Iannone. Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi set identical lap times ahead of morning pace setter Pol Espargaro who made it five Yamaha's in the top eight while Stefan Bradl and Andrea Dovizioso completed the top ten.
The make-up of the top ten could prove crucial if tomorrow's forecast rain appears as the quickest times from this session could end up being used to determine the automatic Q2 participants.
Ever-improving Italian rookie Enea Bastianini has topped the second Moto2 practice session at Assen in breathtaking fashion. The KTM rider continued his impressive recent form to post a scintillating lap time of 1:42.366, which was two tenths quicker than Championship leader Jack Miller and comfortably under the circuit race lap record.
Isaac Vinales set the third quickest time while Efren Vazquez and Romano Fenati were fourth and fifth respectively. Husqvarna rider Niklas Ajo ended the session in sixth place followed by last race's winner Alex Marquez and local wildcard rider Jasper Iwema. John McPhee and Miguel Oliveira rounded out the top ten positions.