Ahead of the ninth round of the MotoGP at the TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands, the pre-race press conference took place and present was championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Movistar Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi who won the previous round at the Barcelona GP and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Track modifications ahead of ninth round at Assen
The Assen GP is normally raced on the Saturday, but this year, in an attempt to involve the more ‘modern’ fans it has been brought in line with the rest of the fixtures on the calendar and will be raced on the Sunday instead. Also, ahead of the riders visiting the circuit, changes have been made to the final chicane for safety reasons.
Assen is known as a circuit that hosts some amazing battles on track and the final chicane is usually the deciding factor. The artificial grass, which can be extremely slippery when wet, has been removed; it has been the cause of a few incidents previously. Instead, a kerb has been added to warn riders of the change; the kerb is intended to create vibrations to increase awareness of its presence however they should be able to ride over it with ease.
Rossi looking to collect another win
Rossi claimed the 25 points at the Barcelona GP, after a bad start he worked his way up to the front of the field where he battled with Marquez in the final laps before eventually breaking away slightly and claiming the win. The nine times world champion also won the Assen GP last year, after starting from pole position and after another epic battle he went on to win what he described as “one of the best weekends” for him last year. At the press conference he spoke about how he was able to “win after a hard battle"; the Italian felt that throughout the weekend at Assen last year he was “strong”.
Michelin have since become the new tyre manufacturers and with this major change in mind he is hoping to “understand” the tyre situation quickly and said, “We have to be strong from the start to understand our potential.” Speaking about the track modifications Rossi reminisced about the chicane describing it as “a great place in the past”. He remembered the battle he had last year with Marquez and mentioned other occasions including Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey and when he lost out to Loris Capirossi when they rode in the 250cc class. Rossi said, “If there’s another tight last lap it’ll be interesting!”
Marquez starting where he left off at Barcelona
Marquez finished second at the eighth round of the MotoGP season after being forced to settle for second as he nearly crashed out when battling with Rossi. Despite only claiming 20 points he is still leading the championship with 125 points; he has a ten point lead over second place Lorenzo who crashed out of the Barcelona GP when Andrea Iannone (Ducati) hit him from behind.
At the press conference Marquez spoke of how his “biggest worry” at the start of the season was the first European races; however they finished second at the Mugello GP and the Catalan GP and said he was “happy with these results”. After the race weekend riders stayed behind to test at the Circuit de Barcelona; Honda have been working all season on improving their acceleration. Marquez said that despite the “new parts” they were able to test he “expected more” from it. However despite this he said they “worked hard and took some positive points”. Heading into practice he plans to “start with the same bike” that he raced on in Barcelona on the Sunday.
Lorenzo injured and concerned about tyres
Lorenzo was present at the pre-race press conference where he indicated that he will be heading into the ninth round injured from his crash with Iannone. Iannone was considered to be at fault by race direction and will have to start the race from the back of the grid as a result; a consequence Lorenzo did not feel was harsh enough.
Last year Lorenzo finished third at the Assen GP but remains “optimistic” this time round. Speaking about last year he feels he had “a mix of bad luck and a bad feeling in special conditions”. Despite only finishing third; a result Lorenzo would not be happy with himself, he still feels it can be “positive here in the future”. He blamed the tyres for his result last year saying, “With the graining and the track it was worse and worse for us.”
The riders’ attention was brought to the weather at Assen which will play a huge factor this weekend as it is set to be mixed conditions. Marquez said that “dry weather would be better for the show” and Lorenzo said that he would prefer that the race was either “all wet or all dry” on the day.