Friday, June 26

REPSOL HONDAS ON TOP AT ASSEN


Marc Marquez has had a fraught first half 
of the 2015 MotoGP season.
As the World MotoGP Championship moves to the ninth of 19 rounds at Holland’s Assen circuit, defending world champion Marc Marquez is down in fifth place in the series after a fraught opening half of the season.

 As a result, the Spaniard has exactly half the points of series leader Valentino Rossi, who stands at the top of the table with 138 points going into the Assen race on Saturday.  (For the current championship points table, click here). 

Marquez started the season with a fifth place finish at Qatar, 4.3 seconds behind 2010 and 2012 world champion Jorge Lorenzo who had led most of the race, only to have his vision obscured when the lining in his HJC helmet came loose and dropped down enough to obscure his vision.  That let Rossi through to his first win of the season.

Since then Marquez has crashed out of three of the seven races run so far, clearly struggling with bad front wheel hop under brakes and battling to get the Honda turned.

But his matadorial spirit undiminished, he went to Assen on Thursday and laid down a practice lap a couple of tenths of a second faster than 2012 MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner’s 1m 33.713s pole record.  This was after a small crash on his out lap in Thursday morning’s first pre-qualifying session.

Marc Marquez has spent the first half of the season battling a
recalcitrant Repsol Honda..
.
Marquez is using the 2014 RC2113V Honda chassis with the updated 2015 swing-arm and exhaust system fitted

Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa is also looking strong after he too has had his troubles.  After qualifying second and finishing sixth at Qatar’s opening round, Pedrosa announced he was taking a break from racing while he tried to get the arm-pump issue that had hampered him so badly at Qatar taken care of.  As a result he missed three races before coming back at Le Mans.  He qualified eighth there, clearly struggling with the front-end of the 2015 Honda, and finished 16th after running off the track on the second lap.

Things improved for Pedrosa at Mugello, qualifying seventh and finishing fourth, then at Catalunya, he went a place better, qualifying sixth and finishing third.

Now at Assen, the 29-year-old Spaniard has topped Thursday’s practice.  He was fast right out of his pit box in the first session and was consistently the fastest man for most of it.  He did a back-to-back comparison of the new Honda exhaust system and worked on several different chassis set-ups before improving on his best morning time by more than a second to top the afternoon session with a best lap of 1m 33.450s.

The longest-running event on the MotoGP calendar, the Dutch TT in Assen is always held on the last Saturday in June in a carnival atmosphere that attracts race day crowds of more than 100,000.  

Repsol Honda Team head to The Cathedral looking to make a step forward
The modified Assen circuit, the longest serving of any in today's championship series.
Assen’s foundations in motorsport were laid back in 1925 during the first Dutch TT.  The modern circuit was first constructed in 1955 on the site of those brick-paved public roads that New Zealander Rod Coleman raced on for AJS.  

In 2005 the Dutch circuit underwent a major modification, reducing its length from just under 6km to 4.555km.  It has also seen small modifications in the past two years with work done to make the Ruskenhoek chicane less angular and thus a few metres shorter.  The final result is a faster circuit, in keeping with Assen’s generally flowing nature.

Known as ‘The Cathedral’, its main straight is a mere 560m long, yet Assen still boasts one of the fastest average speed laps on the calendar and its flowing turns – eleven right and six lefts – mean it remains a favourite for riders and spectators alike.

Both Repsol Honda riders have enjoyed good results in Assen with Pedrosa taking eight podium finishes there,  including his first win (2002, 125GP).   And Marquez has an even more impressive history at Assen, having won in three classes:  125GP (2010), Moto2 (2011 & 2012),  MotoGP (2014).

Dani Pedrosa has come out guns blazing in practice at Assen, lapping under Casey Stoner's 2012 pole record.  And that was just the first day...