MotoGP: Were they right to change bikes?
MotoGP: Why change bikes?

At the TT Circuit Assen, where the MotoGP class met for the eighth round of the season at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’, the Motul TT Assen, the whole weekend was hindered by mixed weather conditions. After a wet second day of Free Practice and Qualifying, race day was also wet during the warm-up, but despite rain threatening it was dry in time for the race.

Dry lap to start with at the Cathedral of Speed

The race got underway in the dry but then 20 laps in the white flag was waved after a rain shower to signal that the riders were permitted to return to the pits to change bikes that were prepared with a wet set-up should they chose to do so.

Many riders refrained, and chose to grin and bear the remaining eight laps in the damp conditions, but two riders in particular made the choice to switch straight away.

Zarco on pole and led once again

Rookie, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) who has been having a fantastic debut season was on pole for the Assen GP as he stole the position on his last lap at the end of Qualifying. He got a fantastic start and led the way for many laps (and not for the first time this season). After 12 laps passed however, he lost his lead to Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who took over at the front.

Zarco tried to respond but in doing so, came into contact with the back of Rossi and ended up losing several positions as a result. He re-joined in fourth, but this was just the start of things unfortunately going wrong for the Frenchman. After missing out on another place to Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who overtook him to leave him fifth, he then made the decision to change bikes.

Zarco received ride-through penalty

Changing bikes probably was a good decision, as Zarco was soon enough able to recover positions lost when he returned to the pits to change bikes, but, he received a ride-through penalty for exceeding the speed limits in the pit lane and once again had to return losing even more time and positions on track.

It was a sad sight, seeing the French man wasting more time, but he pushed on and despite everything going wrong, he still managed to finish in the points. Crossing the line in 14th, over one and a half minutes behind race winner Rossi, he collected two championship points.

Zarco feeling positive despite disappointment

Despite the troubles he faced Zarco felt the need to say that race day was “actually positive”. He found that he “made a very good start from pole position when it was dry at the beginning” and when he “took the lead” he found it was a “great feeling”.

He noted that “no one passed” and he “did the best that [he] could by riding [his] references”. Then he found that he “started to fight with the other riders and [they] changed places”. He noted that at “two point on the track” he was “struggling a lot compared to them”, yet he found he “managed to stay in the group for a bit”, then it rained.

Zarco nervous to crash in the damp conditions

He was honest in admitting that he “was nervous about crashing” as he knows that they are “on the limit anyway” and that when they see rain, “it can be scary”. He knew that he “could not push any more with the slick tyres” and so he “took the decision to swap bikes”.

He found that “in the end it didn’t rain enough to make a difference” but he was still sure he made the right decision saying he “could not carry on with [his] dry bike”. He reassured himself saying “this is part of the game” and although they “made some mistakes which includes a ride through penalty” with which he “didn’t lose so many positions”, he went on to conclude that it was a “positive Sunday”.

Being “competitive at the beginning and in the dry conditions” and that fact that he was “able to stay with the leaders to fight for the podium” confirmed this. He revealed that “this is the target” and so they place to “build everything up in order to reach” their targets in which he feels they “are close”.

Lorenzo also made the decision to switch bikes

He finished just ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) who also made the decision to change bikes and who crossed the line in 15th claiming the last championship point available. Lorenzo had a completely different journey throughout the Motul TT Assen though. Starting from 21st on the grid as he lacks confidence in the wet conditions experienced on the Saturday, he immediately began o recover positions and was battling for 15th before he decided to make the change.

Lorenzo reflected on how he felt that he “experienced a race like the ones in 2014 or 2016”. He admitted that “unfortunately with these changeable weather conditions” that he is “just not able to go fast”. He described that “when it began to rain” he thought that the “situation was going to get worse” and so he decided to “return to the pitted to change the bike and go back out again on rain tyres”.

He then found that the “rain actually didn’t increase” and instead he had to “settle for 15th place”. Despite the rain he feels that they are “still missing half a second a lap” which will enable him to “stay with the leading group”, and so he said that they now have to “turn the page as soon as possible and look ahead”.