MotoGP: World Championship Heading To “The Cathedral”
4.54km of adrenaline: strap in for the TT Circuit Assen!
The time has come to return to the Cathedral, and we don’t need to remind you: WE LOVE IT
Wednesday, 21 June 2023
This is it. The final ride before the summer break – and our visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed – and at a track where that legendary final chicane could decide it all. There’s no better place to bring the curtain down on the first half of a spectacular season than the one that’s been part of the sport since 1949, so let’s get back to where we left off for the Motul TT Assen!
On a roll
If his Tissot Sprint wins and podiums weren’t convincing enough, does taking on the reigning Champion and coming out on top get the job done? It was one of the closest ever finishes at the Sachsenring on Sunday and that was thanks to two riders: Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team). Lap by lap, the two staged an instant classic and we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in the locker at Assen – with Bagnaia also having won here last year.
Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), meanwhile, is on his own roll of three MotoGP podiums in a row for the first time ever, just like Martin. One may not (yet?) be a win, but it’s a fine run of form as Pramac really gain some momentum. Will Assen continue that crescendo?
For Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), the run has picked back up again. And the holeshot went to the Aussie once again at the Sachsenring. A lone orange ranger at a Ducati party after a crash for teammate Brad Binder, Miller kept it on the road for another good chunk of points – and his form at Assen is fine, including that first ever MotoGP win. He, and Binder as he’ll dust himself off ready to race again, can’t be counted out of the fight at the front.
Back on it
It wasn’t the greatest weekend ever for Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) last time out, but it was a solid one. And the TT Circuit Assen is where he took that maiden MotoGP podium, so we can likely expect him right back in the fight at the front at a very different venue to the Sachsenring. Teammate Luca Marini too, with the number 10 still taking those top finishes although now looking for another real assault on the top – all the way to the finish line.
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP), meanwhile, took some good points at the Sachsenring after a crash out in Mugello and he’ll want that to prove an uptick. Miguel Oliveira (CryptoData RNF MotoGP Team) was the top Aprilia and back in the top ten despite his ongoing recovery, and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) is also getting back in the groove.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP), meanwhile, is also banking those points and top tens, but can he take another step? Finally, for Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) it’s going pretty well. He hasn’t managed to replicate that stunning top four in France yet, but he’s kept scoring and is only one of three riders to do so on every Sunday so far. He also adores Assen.
Time for a turnaround
After an impressive pre-season for Aprilia, it’s all gone a bit quiet on the frontrunning by the time we arrive at Assen. But if there’s anywhere Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) would choose to stake his claim back on the podium fight, it could well be Assen. His record at the track is exemplary and it’s where he took his first Aprilia podium too… so could it start here? Teammate Aleix Espargaro will also want to press that reset button, and his record at Assen is no slouch either. Cast your mind back to this time last year and enjoy a re-watch of THAT final chicane overtake.
At Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, meanwhile, there are also some good memories from Assen but the Iwata marque need some form. What can bring them closer to the front? What are they working on? Questions for the next time we can “talk to Lin.” But aside from the swirling maelstrom of media talk there remain the 2021 World Champion and a multiple MotoGP winner on the machinery, so what can they do? For Fabio Quartararo the mission will probably start on Friday again, and getting into that Q2. And finishing ahead of Franco Morbidelli – something he hasn’t done in the last couple of races.
For Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team), however, it’s probably points. It remains a tough season with not much to show for it yet, although that arm surgery wasn’t too long ago either. Can he make a step at Assen?
Back in the saddle
We know Jonas Folger will continue subbing for Pol Espargaro at GASGAS Factory Racing Tech 3, and another reveal is the return of Iker Lecuona to Repsol Honda Team colours after the Spaniard rode in his home round at Jerez and had a pretty solid weekend, this time standing in for Joan Mir. As Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) continues to recover, we also know it’ll be HRC test rider Stefan Bradl in the saddle in the Spaniard’s place.
All this is also the backdrop to a quiet run of points scoring GP finishes for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). He’s only failed to score once this season, at COTA, somewhat interestingly where Rins won Honda’s first race for some time earlier in the year. The arrival of Lecuona and Bradl is a new benchmark for the Japanese rider.
The biggest question of all
In the pre-event press conference ahead of the German GP, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) said he was interested to see how the weekend would go after he missed out on competing at some of his other best tracks, Termas de Rio Hondo and the Circuit of the Americas. But the answer wasn’t what he wanted. After five crashes peppered with some heroics in between, the eight-time World Champion called time on his Sachsenring weekend before the Grand Prix race. He therefore remains undefeated at the venue but looking for a lot more at the TT Circuit Assen. He has “only” won twice at the track in MotoGP, but could that work in his favour as the pressure comes off? One of the most successful partnerships in the history of motorcycle cycling is now looking at the north face of their own Eiger – and plenty thought that would never be scaled. It has been. Can they start rebuilding from here?
Assen was on the very first calendar in 1949, and as the world’s first motorsport returns to the venue in 2023, a lot has changed. But not the sheer adoration of racing, and not the crowds that flock in. It’s going to be a rollercoaster weekend of the best kind, so strap in and let’s go racing on truly hallowed ground at the Cathedral!
Friday’s practice sessions decide the automatic entrants to Q2, before the MotoGP grid qualify on Saturday morning. The Tissot Sprint is set for lights out at 15:00 on Saturday as ever, and the Grand Prix gets going at 14:00 CEST!
Tissot Sprint: Saturday 15:00 (GMT +2)
Grand Prix Race: Sunday 14:00 (GMT +2)
Moto2: Can Arbolino strike back?
Tony Arbolino’s (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) lead in the Moto2 standings is getting smaller. After that crash in France for Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), the Italian had some breathing space… but he’s not been able to beat the Spaniard since. Now it’s another new and wildly different venue, Arbolino will aim to make now the time to strike back – taking the momentum into the summer break. But can he stop Acosta?
Behind that duo, Jake Dixon (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) was back on the podium in Germany to make it exactly the same rostrum, but it was quite a different race for second. The Brit was glued to the back of Arbolino late in the race, so that’s one mission accomplished. The next? Really mix it up with the two, and Assen is a venue he knows very, very well.
Are we set for another Arbolino vs Acosta classic or can Dixon or the likes of Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools SpeedUp) get in that battle? Find out on Sunday at 12:15 (GMT +2)!
Will Öncü vs Sasaki take on Assen?
Championship leader Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) did everything he needed to in Germany to keep that impressive lead going, taking third and another podium on a day where he couldn’t quite push to fight for that win. But looking at the pace of Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP), the Spaniard will want to hit back at Assen.
Öncü and Sasaki almost created their own Grand Prix class in Germany, staging a tense chess match right to the flag and disappearing in a private duel to do so. Can they show that speed once again at Assen? Both are used to running at the front, but not quite that far in front. Öncü is also now a Grand Prix winner after coming so so close, so many times. With the pressure off in that regard, box ticked, he’ll be an interesting one to watch. As ever! Are the veterans now back in that groove?
Tune in for more Moto3 on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT+2) to find out!