Assen is the setting for round eight of the 2019 MotoGP Championship this weekend, the circuit which, arguably, produced the best-ever race 12 months ago.
The 2018 Dutch Grand Prix had it all. During the 26 laps there were six different leaders and over 100 overtakes. The leading group of eight riders battled within inches of each other. At the end of the race the top 15 were covered by just over 16 seconds – the closest in 70 years of Grand Prix racing.
Can The Cathedral of Speed produce another enthralling race this year? The odds are in circuit’s favour, with several riders looking to bounce back from the chaos in Barcelona.
Dovizioso Must Defeat Marquez at Assen
The rider who suffered most at the Catalan Grand Prix was Andrea Dovizioso. A fantastic start saw the Italian take the lead of the race into turn one. However, on lap two he was wiped out by Jorge Lorenzo.
Marc Marquez won the race and opened up a comfortable 37-point lead in the standings. Dovizioso must now take the fight to Marquez every race, he cannot afford to settle for second. It’s been suggested that the Ducati rider hasn’t been aggressive enough this season, now is the time to change that.
Although he has never won at Assen, Dovizioso has finished on the podium three times. Each podium came on a different manufacture; Honda (2011), Yamaha (2012), and Ducati in 2014. In last year’s thrilling encounter, Dovizioso started fourth and finished in the same position.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how Marquez reacts to his extended lead. Will he push a little harder knowing he has points in the bag? Or, perhaps, he may stay cautious as we’re only eight races into the season.
Either way, the reigning champion has an impressive record at Assen. The Spaniard has never been off the podium there in MotoGP, with two victories to his name.
Can Monster Yamaha Bounce Back?
Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales were also wiped out in the Lorenzo incident two weeks ago. This was a huge shame for both riders, as the Yamaha was showing signs of a revival. Viñales was particularly frustrated and aired his concerns about Lorenzo to the media after the race.
So, can the duo bounce back this weekend? The Cathedral of Speed is one of Rossi’s favourite circuits. He has eight victories at the circuit in MotoGP, with the last coming in 2017. In fact, this is the last time that he won a race. The nine-time champion also won the 1997 125cc race, and the 1998 250cc event.
Rossi was involved in the epic fight last year, eventually crossing the line in fifth. The Doctor may have finished higher had he not gone off the circuit whilst fighting Dovizioso.
Meanwhile, Viñales will be hoping to take one positive from the Catalan Grand Prix. This was that he made a fantastic start and moved up the order on lap one. Commonly, Viñales struggles for pace during the open stages of the race.
The 24-year-old finished on the podium in 2018. He won back-to-back races in 2011 (125cc) and 2012 (Moto3), before finishing second in the 2014 Moto2 race.
Young Guns are Coming
The young contenders showcased their talents two weeks ago and took full advantage of the early crash. Fabio Quartararo secured his second MotoGP pole, before battling through to finish second. Even an opening lap collision with Marquez couldn’t knock his confidence. Neither could his first-ever MotoGP crash earlier in the weekend.
This will be Quartararo’s first time at Assen on a MotoGP bike. However, the young Frenchman did finish on the podium in Moto2 last season. He also finished on the podium in Moto3 in 2015.
Meanwhile, Alex Rins recovered from another tough qualifying session in Barcelona to finish fourth. The Suzuki rider had a fantastic race-long battle with Danilo Petucci. Rins showed his aggressive side too, pushing the Ducati out of his way through turn four. As a result of Dovizioso’s crash, Rins is now only two points behind the Italian in the championship standings.
Rins was involved the leading fight in 2018, eventually crossing the line in second. At the time, this was his best-ever result in the premier class.
The weekend’s action begins on Friday (28 June 2019) with Free Practice 1 at 08:55. This will be followed by Free Practice 2 at 13:10.
Saturday’s (29 June 2019) action begins at 08:55 with Free Practice 3, with Free Practice 4 at 12:30. This is immediately followed by Qualifying 1 at 13:10 and Qualifying 2 at 13:35.
Sunday’s warm-up (30 June 2019) will begin at 08:40. The race begins at 13:00.