Marquez Leads the Way as Honda Marks a Milestone
TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands, June 30, 2019
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) brings the MotoGP points lead with him to Assen this weekend, when he will help Honda celebrate a very special anniversary.
On Sunday history will be in the air as Marquez tries to increase title advantage aboard his 2019 RC213V, after former Honda winners Mick Doohan and Kunimitsu Takahashi entertain the crowd with a lap of honor aboard two historic Honda racing machines. This month marks 60 years since Honda began its World Championship adventure in June 1959.
Two Sundays ago at his home Grand Prix at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, Marquez scored his fourth MotoGP victory of the year and increased his championship lead from 12 points to 37 points, after an incident eliminated several of his title rivals from the race.
Marquez will be determined to continue his dominant form at Assen, where he has a spectacular record. The youngster won his first Grand Prix at the track in 2010, when he took 125cc victory on the way to that year's 125 world title. He immediately followed that success with Moto2 wins in 2011 and 2012. He won the MotoGP race at his second attempt in 2014 and took a breathtaking win last June, when the top 15 over the finish line were covered by just 16 seconds, an all-time record.
The 26-year-old Spaniard's latest MotoGP victory was his 48th, making him the fourth most successful rider in the history of the premier class, after Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini and Doohan.
It is fitting that Honda celebrates its 60th anniversary of world-class racing at Assen, which is the only venue that has hosted a round of motorcycling's World Championships since their inaugural year in 1949. Honda first competed at Assen in June 1960, when Jim Redman took fourth place in the 125cc race, aboard an RC143 twin, and eighth place in the 250cc race, with an RC161 four.
Since then the company has won 62 Dutch TT races (21 MotoGP/500cc, six 350cc, 14 250cc, 18 Moto3/125cc and three 50cc), counting to its total of 778 Grand Prix victories, by far the most by any manufacturer.
Before Sunday's MotoGP race Doohan (who won five consecutive 500cc Dutch TTs with Honda between 1994 and 1998) will ride a lap aboard a 1990s NSR500, while Takahashi, who in 1961 became the first Japanese rider to win a Grand Prix, rides an RC142, a replica of the 125cc twin with which Honda made its World Championship debut in 1959.
Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) is keen to get back to work at Assen after a difficult race-day at Barcelona-Catalunya. The three-times MotoGP World Champion slid out of the race on lap two, unfortunately taking three rivals with him. None of the fallers was hurt in the incident.
Despite that difficult ending to his weekend the 32-year-old Spaniard had shown promising speed aboard his RC213V, thanks to ergonomics improvements following a trip to HRC in Japan between the Italian and Catalan GPs. Like Marquez and the rest of the MotoGP grid, Lorenzo stayed on at Barcelona-Catalunya for a one-day test, during which he made further steps forward with his adaptation to the RC213V.
Lorenzo' winning form at Assen goes back even further than that of team-mate Marquez. He won his first Grand Prix at the track in 2004, in the 125cc class. Two years later he won the 250cc Grand Prix and again in 2007. Since graduating to the class of kings he has taken one victory, in 2010. In last year's thrilling Assen MotoGP race he finished in seventh place, only 4.462 seconds behind Marquez, and less than a second behind sixth-placed Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V).
Crutchlow aims to be back inside the top ten once again this Sunday after he also slid out of the race at Barcelona-Catalunya, where riders struggled all weekend with a very slippery track surface.
The 33-year-old Briton finished the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on the podium and has shown podium pace at several other rounds, only to suffer ill luck. He took strong finishes at Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello, so he hopes for another strong outing at Assen.
Crutchlow has scored one podium result at Assen, with a best recent finish of fourth in 2017, a fraction of a second behind third-placed Marquez.
Assen will always hold special memories for Honda's fourth MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who won his first World Championship race at the track in 2016, when he beat Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli, who have also since graduated to the premier class. He also finished on the podium the following year and last season made his MotoGP debut at the track, finishing 19th.
This year the 27-year-old from Chiba is equipped with a 2018-spec RC213V, with which he has already shown some dazzling speed. Earlier this month he finished the Italian Grand Prix in a brilliant fifth place, 6.535 seconds behind the winner, a difference of just 0.28 seconds per lap. Nakagami is looking forward to this week, confident that he can produce another great performance.
Honda riders have enjoyed huge successes in the premier class at Assen, commencing with victory for its first 500cc Grand Prix bike, the four-cylinder RC181, in 1966 and 1967, with Redman and Mike Hailwood on board. Since then Randy Mamola, Wayne Gardner, Alex Crivillé, Doohan, Tadayuki Okada, Alex Barros, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner, Jack Miller and Marquez have won premier-class races at the track.
Honda's very first wins at Assen came on June 24, 1961, when Tom Phillis took 125cc victory on an RC144 and Hailwood won the 250cc race on and RC162, topping an all-Honda podium with Bob McIntire and Redman.
Assen has hosted motorcycle racing since the 1920s and staged its first world round on July 9, 1949. The circuit has changed several times since then. The current layout was used for the first time in 2006 and retains much of the circuit's challenging character of fast and flowing sections, through which one corner leads into the other, making accuracy of riding paramount.
Assen is the only world round named a “TT”, instead of a “Grand Prix”. This tradition goes back to the 1920s, when Assen was given permission by the organizers of the Isle of Man TT to call its event by the same acronym, which stands for Tourist Trophy, harking back to the earliest days of racing, when riders used modified touring motorcycles.
The Dutch Moto2 round makes a little more history. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) goes into the race leading the Moto2 World Championship for the first time, so this weekend will be the first time ever that two brothers have gone into an event leading the premier- and intermediate-class title chases.
Marquez has been on dazzling form at recent events, taking a hat-trick of victories at Le Mans, Mugello and Barcelona to lead the series by seven points, ahead of Americas winner Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex).
Marc's 23-year-old younger brother made a steady start to the new season, then found race-winning pace once he had tailored the set-up of his Kalex machine to suit his riding technique. He finished third at Assen last June, just behind winner Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo, who both graduated to MotoGP this year. In 2014 Marquez won the Moto3 race at Assen, on his way to that year's Moto3 world title, so he knows he has a good shot at another victory this Sunday.
Thirty-two-year-old Swiss rider Luthi has stood on the Moto2 podium twice at Assen – when he finished third in 2010 and second in 2017.
Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up Speed Up) has moved himself into title contention with a strong run of four podiums from the last five races. The 23-year-old Spaniard is 15 points behind Luthi and just one ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex), who has had a very up and down start to the season. The 22-year-old Italian won three of the first four races but lost his advantage with three crashes in the last five races.
Grand Prix rookies Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) and Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) make their debuts at Assen this weekend.
The circuit is particularly difficult to learn, so the 20-year-old Thai rider and 26-year-old Indonesian will have to work very hard with their crews to get up to speed. Chantra has already scored points this year – with a stirring ride to tenth in Argentina – while Ekky Pratama is still chasing his first world-class points. Last time out Chantra finished just two positions outside the points and Ekky Pratama scored his best result yet.
Moto3 World Championship hopeful Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) goes into the Dutch TT second overall in the title hunt, thanks to three podium finishes from the first seven races. The 21-year-old Italian was aiming for another top-three result last time out but was denied by a technical glitch.
Dalla Porta stands 23 points behind series leader Aron Canet and five in front of Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who won last month's Spanish GP.
Italian Grand Prix winner Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) holds sixth in the title standings, equal on points with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) who came so close to scoring his second Grand Prix victory two Sundays ago. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka staged another of his amazing fightbacks, racing through to lead the race from 24th on the grid, only to fall just four corners from the checkered flag. No doubt Toba will be in the lead battle once again this weekend.
When Toba slid off at Barcelona-Catalunya he let Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) through to win the first Grand Prix of his career. Boosted by that victory the 21-year-old Spaniard goes into the Dutch round of the series aiming for another podium finish. Ramirez's success moved him two points ahead of French GP winner John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW).
Ramirez's debut win also extended Honda's advantage in the Moto3 Constructors World Championship. Honda is chasing its third consecutive constructors title in the category and its 19th since its first success in the 125cc class in 1961.
Grand Prix rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) scored his best-ever GP result at the last race, so the 18-year-old from Tokyo goes into the Assen weekend with renewed confidence. Ogura finished the Catalan GP in sixth position, just 1.008 seconds behind winner Ramirez. This result was especially impressive considering that the youngster had missed the previous race through injury.
The eighth round of the 19-round 2019 MotoGP series is followed immediately by the ninth round, which take place at Germany's Sachsenring on July 7.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
“To be consistent and precise in the fast change of directions is really important to go well at Assen. I'm looking forward to racing there again as we have had some good battles in the past and have put on a great show for the fans. I am sure we will have a great race on Sunday. The weather is also looking good, so I am confident we can have a strong weekend.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team:
“We come here after our most consistent weekend of the year in Barcelona. The end result was not as we wanted, but all weekend we were able to be competitive and keep improving the bike, this is what I want to do again this weekend. If we continue to work in this way with the Repsol Honda Team, we can again have the speed like we did in Barcelona.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
“Once again we showed we had the speed at the last race but it didn't quite work out for us. It's good to be going to Assen again. The track is really special and historic; especially this year, when Honda celebrate their 60 years in Grand Prix racing. That's a big landmark and I'm happy to have played a small part in the company's racing history. The track is unique in all kinds of ways. I really like the layout – I've been on the podium there and last year I finished less than four seconds behind the winner in one of the greatest MotoGP races I can remember. The LCR Honda CASTROL team is doing a great job this year and we hope we can again be in the front battle on Sunday.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
“We come to Assen after the race and a good test at Barcelona-Catalunya. The test was useful, also for the future. I was happy to test the latest factory bike because it was very interesting and positive to feel the difference between the 2018 and 2019 bikes. Of course, I'm really confident for this weekend because Assen is a circuit I like. The critical thing is always the weather, because the weather is often quite unstable at Assen. We will try to prepare well for all conditions, and if the weather gets hot we will focus on race-distance performance. During the last race weekend we had some struggles on Saturday to make a good lap time, so we will try to improve in that area, because a good grid position is really important for the start of the race. So as always the focus will be a good qualifying and the second part will be the race. We are confident and we will try to show our potential, as always.”
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“Assen is a very nice circuit and I've always enjoyed it very much. It's a fast track where any mistake is a big penalty, so you must be very focused. I'm curious to see how this year's engine behaves on this track. It will be a weekend of hard work in which we will have to prepare for a race that will not be easy. We have arrived at a very good moment after three victories and we will try to take advantage of that form and maintain it to reach the summer break in the best possible situation. I am very motivated and looking forward to this Grand Prix. The objective here doesn't change. We need to focus on our work from the first moment and try to finish the race in the top five.”
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
“I am looking forward to Assen. Assen is a really nice and flowing racetrack, apart from the section that they modified a couple of years ago. That's not as flowing anymore, but the track is generally really nice. The weather should stay dry this weekend, which is almost unbelievable because it almost always rains there. It is supposed to be hot, which I think is good. I am confident of being able to go with the front group again. We tested in Barcelona and worked in a direction that will be positive for Assen too. I am ready and I am looking forward to work with my team again. I hope I will be able to play a leading role again.”
Jorge Navarro, HDR Heidrun Speed Up:
“The target as always will be the podium. Assen is a very special racetrack, with a lot of history and an unusual layout and character. I think that if we keep working as we have done at the last races we can be fast once again. I've never had great results there in Moto2, but I've been very close to the podium in Moto3, so I feel like I can be very competitive this time, because we have such a good bike now.”
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“Since the last race I have been training very, very hard for Assen and now I'm ready. My foot and hand are coming better from the surgery I had after Le Mans, so I think I should be okay this weekend. As usual, the target will be to keep learning about Moto2 and new tracks – Assen is a big challenge so I think this will be a very interesting week for me.”
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“Assen is another new track for me, so I have been learning about the layout by watching videos and my aim is to continue the work we did at the last race. I will try to learn the track quickly and I will do my best to get a better finishing position than last time.”
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
“I like Assen. I finished sixth there last season, so I think we can do another good job this weekend because we have a very, very good bike. At every circuit we use more or less the same set-up which is very important because it allows me to focus more on my riding. My plan for the weekend will be the same as usual – try to ride alone in practice to find my rhythm, then be ready for whatever comes in the race. I think it will be another close battle, so we will have to be fast and smart.”
Niccolo Antonelli, Sic58 Squadra Corse:
“Assen is a fast and beautiful track but not that easy to ride. My hope is to be able to be fast from the FP1 session. The weather forecast says it won't be raining and that will help us to make a good job from the Friday. My main goal is to be in the top five in the last laps of the race and then be able to fight for a podium result.”
Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers:
“This weekend we will be looking forward again after the disappointment of Barcelona. I believe that we can fight close to the front, even though Assen is a very complex circuit that requires a riding style that is different from most racetracks. The main thing is that I have a great bike and a great team, so if we work hard and the race goes our way, there's no reason why we cannot be in the battle for the podium.”
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
“At the last race we had very good speed, so my target this weekend will be the podium, working hard towards that goal from the FP1 practice session. I like the Assen circuit and it looks like the weather will be good this weekend, which will help us prepare better for the race. I will concentrate in every session and until the checkered flag on Sunday.”
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
“Last year I had a wild card entry at Assen. I think this track is one of the most difficult circuits of the MotoGP championship season, so let's say my target is a top-ten finish. I finished the last race in sixth position, so if I can get a top ten I will be happy and if I can do better than sixth place I will be really happy. As always I will try my maximum and on Sunday we will see where we are.”