Referred to as The Cathedral of motor racing, the Circuit van Drenthe in Assen is the only venue the World Championship Grand Prix Series has been to every year since the series started in 1949. It’s also been the site of some great racing and many first-time winners, including Barry Sheene, Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies.
Although the track has undergone some transformations over the years, it still retains its signature set of corners - the right-left chicane right before the finish line. It’s there that both zeroes and heroes have been made of some of the best riders in the world.
In today’s press conference the famous chicane known for its epic battles was brought up and the riders present - Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovisioso, Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith - were asked to talk about their favorite memory from races at the revered track.
Dani Pedrosa’s favorite memory brought him back to his 250cc GP days when he made a big comeback from a bad start.
“My best memory was in the old track,” Pedrosa said. “I was racing 250. I was in the front row. In the start I was second. I had some kind of a problem with carburation so when I go for the start the bike didn’t move from the position. And actually when I was not even close to the first corner, I looked back - I was last. So from front row to the last. I think it was 33-34 positions… and then I think in the first lap I overtook up to 11. So this was my best memory here.”
Pedrosa’s championship rival Jorge Lorenzo has two memories - one good, one bad.
“Well, I have two important moments in the chicane,” Lorenzo said. “In 2005, I was fighting with Dani [Pedrosa] and Sebastian Porto with the collarbone broken just one week or two weeks ago. So I made the pole position, I was leading all the race but two laps before the end they pass me in the chicane. I lose the race in the last lap. So all the race struggling to finish third in the last lap, no? For the chicane.
“And then my best memory there was in 125 in 2004,” Lorenzo continued. “In the last lap I enter in the finish line first position, but I make mistake in some corner. I was on the grass so I was coming in fourth position, but I recover in 3 or 4 corners to the first and I won the race before enter the chicane. So it was a very good memory.”
Marc Marquez’ memory was one of those not so fond ones of the chicane.
“For me, maybe 2009,” Marquez started. “Was with KTM. I was fighting, I don’t know, for fifth position and we were a big group. I remember the last lap that we were maybe five guys together on the brake point and I enter first on that chicane, but I exit last. So you know I brake too late and then I go to the gravel and everything, but I try. This is what this was exactly.”
Andrea Dovisioso does not have fond memories of the chicane after falling victim to it many a time.
“For me the last chicane never was a good memory,” said Dovisioso. “When I fight I don’t remember how many years, two–three years, I always lose a position. So it is not so good memory for me.”
German Stefan Bradl was another rider without fond memories of the track’s signature section.
“Also me, I mean... I had some times to think about, but nothing really positive,” Bradl said in his typical dead-pan style that had the press room laughing. “I remember just the crash in 2011 - the rear overtake me in mixed condition. I will say Assen is not bad, but I cannot say that I really love it.”
MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith had the battle between Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden in his mind as the best racing he witnessed at The Cathedral’s infamous chicane in 2006.
“For me actually the race that sticks out, and I don’t remember what year it was, but it was actually watching MotoGP,” Smith said. “The last lap battle between or the last three-lap battle between [Colin] Edwards and [Nicky] Hayden… I mean that was unbelievable racing. Obviously, you know unluckily for Colin ending up hitting the Astro Turf and crashing, but that’s probably the best memory for racing that stands out.”