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Everything goes down to the final 30 seconds in one of the closest top tens ever – and it’s a familiar name on top
It’s reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who will be starting from pole at the Motul TT Assen – his first at the venue in the premier class, only second of the 2018 season and 75th overall – but the pack were incredibly close together after qualifying at the ‘Cathedral’ delivered an absolute classic. The top ten are within 0.376 seconds and the biggest gap between any two riders is just 0.063, setting the scene for a stunning race day once again. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) who starts second and as top Independent Team rider, with 10-time winner at the venue Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the front row.
The mad dash for pole was true to its name as the final 30 seconds saw everything shuffle and shuffle again, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) initially seeming to have the advantage before that final lap for the majority of those in the session – and the emergence of Marquez at the top. But it’s just 0.041 back to Crutchlow and 0.059 back to Rossi, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) heading the second row despite only being 0.079 off pole.
The Italian is joined on Row 2 by the first of the Q1 graduates as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) impressed on his first run and his second to secure P5 as top Hamamatsu factory machine. Friday’s fastest Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts sixth and still within two tenths of pole, with the Spaniard hoping for a better launch off the line than in Barcelona.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) continued his solid weekend as he converted automatic entry to Q2 into seventh on the grid – as well as making it five manufacturers in the top seven. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who topped Q1 after a stunning final dash, starts from the middle of the third row – just getting the better of Iannone, who lost out in the last few seconds.
That was also true of Italian and Catalan GP winner Jorge Lorenzo, who starts tenth after having been the early pacesetter. Less than four tenths off, the ‘Spartan’ will be looking for a lot more on Sunday and keen to make another lightning launch off the line.
Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) took P11 and P12, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) taking top rookie honours in P13. Both he and fellow debutant Haifzh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who starts fifteenth, will be looking to gain some ground in the fight for Rookie of the Year – with current leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) missing the race and declared unfit after suffering a small fracture in his left hand.
Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) will be two men keen to blast past that rookie battle as early as possible in the race – starting P16 and P18 respectively after a tough weekend for both so far.
That’s a wrap on Saturday for the premier class – can Marquez extend his lead from pole? Can Rossi repeat the feat from third? Or can a darker horse a little future back get into that incredible fight, and take it down to the wire at the awesome Geert Timmer chicane…
The lights go out at 14:00 (GMT+2).
LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow secured a spot on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix after a thrilling qualifying session at Assen. The Briton looked to have timed his charge for pole position to perfection, but finished fractionally behind fellow Honda factory rider Marc Marquez and will now start from second spot tomorrow.
In sunny conditions once again, Crutchlow served notice of his pace by going third fastest in the morning’s FP session to move through to Q2. The qualifying session itself proved a real shootout with numerous riders looking for a place on the front row. In the end it was world champion Marquez who prevailed, but Crutchlow is now aiming for a place on Sunday’s podium after his fine performance.
Cal Crutchlow – 2nd
(1’32.832 – lap 8 of 8)
“Yeah, I feel great. The team did a good job, Honda did a good job and I think it was an exciting qualifying session for everybody. We’re pleased with the way the bike is working, although it seems a bit hard to ride still as it’s shaking a lot. But I feel strong here, I feel good and credit to the team to be able to put me on the front row.
“But the problem is that there are ten riders that can do the same pace. I think Marc (Marquez) has a little better pace than everybody, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to be a step ahead tomorrow. In the end, we’re happy with the job we’ve done and hopefully it will be an entertaining race tomorrow and we can be on the podium.”
Row 2 start for Andrea Dovizioso, fourth in Dutch TT qualifying at Assen. Tenth place and fourth row for Jorge Lorenzo
Andrea Dovizioso will start tomorrow’s Dutch Grand Prix at the Assen TT circuit from the second row of the grid after setting fourth quickest time in qualifying, just 79/1000ths of a second away from Marquez in pole position.
This morning the Ducati Team’s Italian rider was unable to improve on his time set yesterday and he ended up tenth overall in the combined standings, but in any case he went through into the afternoon’s all-important Q2 session.
Jorge Lorenzo was tenth quickest in qualifying and will start the eighth round of the season from the fourth row of the grid tomorrow. In the morning the rider from Mallorca was seventh quickest in the combined free practice standings.
The Dutch Grand Prix, which gets underway at 14.00 CET, will be held over a race distance of 26 laps.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04): 4th (1’32.870)
“A gap of 79 thousandths of a second from pole position is very small, but in some cases, like this one unfortunately, it can be very big! In any case I’m very happy because starting from the first two rows of the grid here at Assen is always very important, and also because I didn’t expect to do a lap of 1m32s on this circuit. The qualifying session was a bit strange, with all the riders waiting, but luckily I was at the back of the group and I had Rossi just ahead of me. I’m happy with the feeling with my bike: this morning the wind direction changed from yesterday and we struggled a bit, but in the afternoon we managed to improve. For tomorrow we’re set up pretty good and, even though there are several riders who have a good pace, we are confident we can do a good race.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99): 10th (1’33.167)
“In general we did a good qualifying session because throughout the day we constantly managed to improve our lap times and to be honest I didn’t think we could have got our time down so much. Unfortunately my position on the grid is not good at all. I was surprised to see myself in tenth place because I thought I was further up, but then I noticed that almost all the other riders were towing each other in the group with Marquez and this helped them to improve their times a lot. I think that in a normal situation we could have been on the first or the second row, but in any case for the race we’re all pretty close and anything can happen, so it’ll be important to get a good start. We’re continuing to lose a few tenths in the final sector and so tomorrow we’ll try and resolve this problem during the warm-up.”
Red Bull KTM team hunting for speed after seventh row qualification result at Assen
QUALIFYING 7th Rd. MotoGP 2018, TT Circuit Assen (NED)
In warm, sunny and breezy conditions at the TT Circuit Assen Red Bull KTM set lap-times close to the top ten through the Free Practice sessions on Saturday but will line-up for the Motul TT Assen with Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro on the seventh row of the grid.
The kinks and curves of the historic layout in the north of the Netherlands – now 70 years as part of the grand prix series – again reverberated to the howl of MotoGP but for Red Bull KTM the DutchGP meant just a second visit to the iconic circuit.
Pol Espargaro gave much encouragement on the KTM RC16 with the 10th best lap in FP3 and stayed close to the top of the leaderboard with 13th in FP4 and just before entry into QP1 where the Spaniard took 21st; just unable to replicate the same pace with a softer rear tyre. While Bradley Smith – a rider who first competed at Assen back in 2006 – concentrated on optimum set-up for the RC16 and will sit just one position ahead of his teammate for Sunday’s 26 lap sprint. Both riders were less than 1.5 seconds from Marc Marquez Pole Position effort.
Smith: “We made another good step today and found another half a second and almost managed a 1min 33. We did our job and we are improving. We made some good lap-times but everybody’s level just keeps getting higher. The overall result might look like a bad day but we are only 1.3 from first so it is our ‘normal’ gap. It will be a long race tomorrow, and a physical one in these temperatures and with the tyre ‘drop’. We have to focus, be smooth and fast and bring home some points.”
Espargaro: “FP3 and FP4 was really good and consistent with a good rhythm but in QP1 it was windy and I just struggled to get grip and acceleration. I used the soft tyre and I could not get anything special from it or turn through the long corners we have here in Assen. So I was suffering a lot and I think we need to try a harder compound on the rear; in FP4 I had a good feel with used hard rear. We need a good start tomorrow to overtake a few guys and then set our rhythm, which is pretty good.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “Overall we had some bright moments today. P11 in FP3 was a great thing and also a bad thing at the same time! We struggled here after having a good test and having brought some new things to Assen. I think we have been focussing on improving the bike and that means we have missed some of the fine-tuning necessary at the races. The work is for the benefit (long term) of the project but at the moment, looking at the results, it hurts. I hope we can turn things around tomorrow and looking at race pace I think the situation is a bit different. It is very tight, everybody is pushing but anything is possible. It might not be our highlight of the season here but we’ll do what we can and then look towards the next race.”
Zarco delivers thrilling Qualifying performance – Syahrin to launch Dutch GP from fifth row
Monster Yamaha Tech3 star Johann Zarco showed a fantastic effort this afternoon at the TT Circuit in Assen. During his first Q1 session of the year, the fast Frenchman snatched the top position last second and did an excellent 1’33.072 in Q2, which made him miss out on the pole position by just 0.281 seconds, starting the Dutch GP on Sunday from the middle of the third row.
Yet, Hafizh Syahrin was leading the Q1 session after his first flying lap but was unable to improve on his fast lap time as he run into traffic on track. Thereby, the Malaysian rookie missed out on his first second Qualifying of the ultra-competitive premier class field by only 0.066 seconds. Syahrin lowered his fastest lap from Friday morning by incredible 2.172 seconds and is set to attack from P15 on the grid for tomorrow’s 26 laps race at 14.00 local time.
Position: 8th – Time: 1’33.072 – Laps: 7
“Today has been a better day than Friday, but we had some ups and downs in the course of the practices, which makes it difficult to work consistently on improving myself. We have some good things, some bad things and it kept changing. Finally, we were coming from far in the Qualifying. On the last lap of Q1 I could save my Q2 and then we started well. We also finished well, I improved my best lap time by more than five tenths, so it’s a lot, plus we are not far from the pole position. Everyone is so fast, which complicates the job. Overall, I’m positive about this day and apart from the final position, the lap time was great. I need to find the pace and an easy feeling during Warm Up in order to be ready for the race tomorrow.”
Position: 15th – Time: 1’33.666 – Laps: 8
“I was very close to Q2, just 0.066 seconds, which is unfortunate, but the time I did was behind another rider, who held me up later, so I couldn’t improve this little bit I needed to make the step. I saw my time and went to the front, but I knew that it required another try to go to Q2. Anyway, I’m really happy about the work we did in the team. I will try to get my rhythm for tomorrow’s race in the Warm Up and we try to keep focused on the race.”
Assen (The Netherlands), 30th June 2018
The high temperatures at the TT Circuit Assen today matched the hot action in the final stages of today‘s Q2 session. With many riders waiting to make a move until the last minute, the outcome of the qualifying was anybody‘s guess. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales rode on the limit on their last flying lap and secured third and sixth place respectively.
Rossi had more than one mission during today’s Q2 session. Having suffered a fast crash in FP4, he used his first run to complete three laps to get back into the groove and recover his feeling with the bike, before putting his head down during his second stint.
Leaving the garage with four and a half minutes left of the session, the Doctor found himself in tenth position and had time for two attempts to better his ranking. He left it late but found a good spot on the track for his final try and clocked a 1’32.850s, just 0.059s from pole, to take third place, on the front row.
Similar to his teammate, Viñales delayed his start in the hope of finding some clear space on track. His first hot lap put him in fourth place, but he dropped down the order as the pace quickened. Unable to improve his time on his next try, he dug deeper and posted a 1’33.557s that put him in fifth place, before heading back into the pits with six minutes remaining.
He hurried out of pit lane one and a half minutes later eager to give the time attack another go, but the level of competition proved to be fierce. Multiple riders set red sectors in the final minute of the session and dropped below the 1’33 mark. The Spaniard was one of them and posted a 1’32.984s final lap, earning him sixth place, 0.193s from first.
Today’s two practice sessions weren’t as easy as yesterday. Valentino suffered a crash in FP4 and Maverick didn’t have the same feeling on the bike as yesterday, so this made qualifying more challenging. Vale took a bit of time in qualifying to get a good feeling on the bike again, before pushing in the final stages. It wasn’t easy to recover his feeling within a few laps, but he still qualified on the front row. Doing that so soon after a fall is a good result and shows his fighting spirit. Maverick has been fast throughout all the sessions, riding with the race configuration. Even though he missed the first row, starting from sixth position is not a bad result, especially considering how close the times of the top riders are. Tonight we’ll check if there’s any possibility to improve both riders’ bikes’ settings, which we will verify during the warm up. We expect tomorrow to be a hard race, with many riders capable of challenging at the front, but we’ll make sure to be ready for the fight.
I’m so happy about the front row because I crashed in FP4, so I lost some feeling. It wasn’t easy, but I did three laps with the first tyre and recovered my line and my rhythm, and after that it was a ‘waiting game’. Everybody was waiting but I was in a good position. It was exciting because it was a really hot lap! Normally the top riders are really close, but this weekend even more so. You have many riders and three or four different bikes that can fight for the victory, so this makes it really important to start from the front row. Now we just wait for tomorrow. We hope the weather will stay like this. We have to improve some details and also the tyre choice will be very important, because all the three options are not so bad. It will be important to find the right way.
It was more difficult to be competitive compared to yesterday, but today we tried to give our best as always. We were focused more on riding with a heavy bike, so I had some issues when I pushed for a hot lap time, but anyway I think we can do well tomorrow. We still need to discuss the tyre choice with Michelin and the team. Starting from sixth is not bad, and for sure I will try to make a good start. I’ll be on the attack in the early laps and try to repeat what we’ve done in the practice sessions. We’ve worked a lot to prepare for the race, let’s see if it pays off. There are many riders with the same rhythm with different tyres, so it’s going to be an interesting race and tricky for sure. I know we can be there, if we work well tonight and choose the correct set-up.
Repsol Honda MotoGP
Career pole number 75 for Marquez in Assen, tough qualifying for Pedrosa
So close was today’s qualifying session in Assen that the riders on the front row ended up within just 0.059”, whilst the top-10 were split by less than 4 tenths of a second.
Well aware of how tight things were going to be today, and will be tomorrow, Marc Marquez worked hard with his crew to prepare for both the race and for the time-attack, which earned him his 75th career pole and 47th pole in MotoGP (his first in MotoGP at Assen).
The Championship leader topped all three sessions today, showing good race pace and blistering speed.
Opposite feelings in the other side of the garage, where Dani Pedrosa was unable to improve on his pace from yesterday and tomorrow will have to start from the sixth row of the grid.
pole position 1’32.791
“So far this weekend, things are going better than we were hoping for. The pole has not been one of my strongest points this year, and actually this will be the first time I’ll start form the top spot, because in Austin I earned the pole but was moved back to fourth. I was very happy with the rhythm I could keep in FP3 and FP4 and now I’m even more happy for the Q2 result. We’re trying and working in a good way. At this track stability is one of the main targets to achieve and step by step we improved that a bit. Our first goal is a podium finish but honestly we now have the possibility to fight for the victory. We must remain focused and work well in tomorrow’s warm-up to try and make another little step to improve the stability and to make the final choice for the tyres.”
“Today was very difficult. I missed the passage to Q2 this morning and then in Q1 my pace wasn’t fast enough. In the afternoon I also struggled with the wind. My start position is clearly not good but we must try and stay positive for the race and tomorrow fight to recover. It will be important to make the right tyre choice and then get a good start.”