Ahead of even a single wheel turned in anger, an action-packed Thursday kicked the Motul TT Assen into gear, coming to a close with the pre-event Press Conference. There, reigning Champion and Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Moto2™ Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to talk a little racing before the flag drops.
First to speak was Marquez, who arrives with a significant lead after the chaos in Catalonia but was quick to remind everyone it’s far from the end of the season just yet. “I’m disappointed we’re only on the eighth race of the Championship and we have 12 in front of us…but anyway, yeah, very happy about performance this season. Overall I’m riding in a good way, we try to manage the different situations that we can in the best way. We know we’ll arrive at races and struggle, more we’ll have more passion. We had a good test in Montmelo, we have some things to try in different layout. Two important races will be here and Germany before summer break, then yeah it will be good to go on a short holiday in the best way!
“Last year we arrived here with some doubts. We normally struggle a bit here, Suzuki and Yamaha are riding in a good way. But last year we had the pace, it was the best race for me and the fans. We won, but more importantly we had the pace. This was the most important, we will try to find again this special feeling this racetrack. It’s very nice, especially sector 3 and 4 and yeah, we’ll try to do the best job on Sunday!”
Rins was next to speak and last year he was second to Marquez, so on an amazing run of form this year it could be another stunner. First he talked about THAT battle in Barcelona. “I was trying to go forward from Petrux but it was difficult, maybe because of the hot conditions, but we were suffering a lot. We also suffered a lot in the race trying to pass the Ducati, the pressure was close and the bike was like floating. I saved one near crash and went home with points, which is the important thing!”
It is. But Assen is somewhere he’ll likely have sights set even further forward, so what’s his top tip? “The key is just go full gas. This track looks a good track for Suzuki but also for Yamaha. As you saw last year the group was massive, a lot of riders at the front. We will try our 100%, I enjoy a lot this track and overtaking at the fast corners, but we’ll try do a good job.”
Petrucci is also a fan of Assen, and he’s had some serious success here. On a run of rostrum form, can he do it again? “This is one of my favourite circuits. Last year the race didn’t go our way but anyway we are in a positive moment, for sure in Barcelona we struggled a bit more than Jerez, Mugello, Le Mans. But we managed to score a podium which was important. I was lucky to escape the big crash but I was quite good managing the race with Alex and Fabio, it was very fast, very difficult to stay there.” So this weekend? “I think we can fight for the podium. Hopefully the weather will be nice and I’m happy to ride this track!”
The next man on the mic was Jack Miller, who’s another man in form. He debriefed Barcelona first, another good weekend for the Queenslander.
“The finishing rate this year has been top five or zero so we’ll try make it a top five this weekend rather than a zero. Barcelona was a not a bad weekend, a track normally I don’t like too much. The Ducati goes well there but for some reason I never go that well there so to pull off a top five I was happy. It was an awesome battle through the whole race with Danilo, Alex and Fabio. I just ran out of grip at the end even though I was on the medium, I just couldn’t hang in the last five laps. But it was a lot of fun, a lot of bumping and barging and I’m assuming it’ll be like that again this weekend!”
If last year is anything to go by it may well be. But before that, back in 2016, Miller ruled Assen as he took his first premier class win…and he’s definitely not allowed to forget it!
“Every time we get to about a week away, all I get tagged in on Instagram is me drinking out of my boot so it’s pretty good. It’s a track I’ve had success at in the past and I’ve always been pretty quick here, so I like it a lot. Last year was an awesome race, we were just hanging off the back of the group, couldn’t quite bridge the gap, but I got to watch it all unfold. I had front row tickets so hopefully this year we can be involved in it and rub some paint.”
One man missing last year, by virtue of instead fighting for and getting on the podium in the intermediate class, is Fabio Quartararo. The man of the moment in many ways and coming into Assen from his first premier class podium, he could prove a key presence. But first up, the Frenchman talked about his recovery from arm pump surgery performed before Barcelona.
“Well, my feeling is much better than Barcelona, of course, we took out some fluid in the arm but we arrive much better than we expect in Barcelona. Here I’m almost 100%, so I’m happy about the recovery.” But specific expectations? Close to his chest as always. “Well for sure we have gained a lot of experience from now to Qatar. It is going on a really good way, we will make the same work here – make a good Friday, to be in the Q2 and bring a good result home…”
Finally, Alex Marquez spoke. Now the winner of three in a row for the first time in his career, this weekend he’s the Championship leader and on the verge of a few more firsts. But not victories here, he’s done that before in Moto3™.
“We arrive here with good form but it’s only race seven so we need to keep working. We can be happy, but we need to keep like this. The change in the end, in the past I had the speed but we missed the quality, especially in the race. After Jerez, we found it with some small changes and with the mentality. When you believe in yourself and know you can do it everything is easier. It’s one track I like, I’ve had good results at but the objective is to get the maximum points and I’ll be happy with a lot of points because that’s important for the championship.
“In my hands only is that I can do my work on track. I’m winning races, I’m trying to win this championship because it’s my dream and it’s what I have to do. It’s only this that I have in my hands. What is coming you never know. What is clear is that if I stay in Moto2 I’ll stay with Marc VDS because we’re working so well, I have the right people with me but we’ll see what happens in the future. I’ll do my work at the track and see what happens…”
What happened in last year’s Dutch TT was an all-time classic. Will 2019 serve up the same? Tune in for the rest of the weekend with track action beginning on Friday morning and lights out for the MotoGP™ race on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).