Photography by Gold & Goose
Those who believe that Marc Marquez will be beaten at some point during the 2014 MotoGP World Championship point to this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at the Circuit van Drenthe in Assen as the place that defeat will come. The rest… well, they just look toward this Saturday’s race believing that Marquez will leave the Netherlands with his eighth straight win.
Two weeks ago at Catalunya, Marquez showed that he’s at least a bit human, the defending MotoGP World Champion crashing during final qualifying and losing out on pole position – for the first time all year. But come race time, he was back at the front and he came out on top after a battle that went the distance with his teammate Dani Pedrosa.
“We are still enjoying a really good momentum, but we know it can’t go on forever,” Marquez said in a Honda team release. “I really like Assen and have had some good results in the lower categories, and last year we took second in my first visit there on the MotoGP machine. The weather is always unpredictable there so we will, as always, work hard from the first session to find a good setup.”
As for the weather… Saturday (race day at Assen) is supposed to be wet.
If Marquez is beaten at Assen, many believe the man to do the deed is Valentino Rossi. After all, he won the race last year and has an impeccable record at the TT – eight total wins there with six of those coming in MotoGP.
“Assen is a great track and a good track for Yamaha,” Rossi said. “The weather will be very important here. You never know if it will be hot or cold or dry or wet. Last year's race was unforgettable, but honestly this year I feel I am strong almost everywhere so we have to try hard to beat the competition.”
And then there’s Pedrosa, Marquez’s teammate and the man armed with the same motorcycle as the runaway championship points leader.
Pedrosa also has a good record at Assen, the now 28-year-old scoring his first GP win there in the 125cc GP in 2002. He has finished on the podium at Assen in four of his eight MotoGP starts.
“It was good to be back at the front and fighting in Catalunya,” Pedrosa said. “I’m looking forward to going to Assen and hope I’m one step fitter again as last year I didn’t really have a good race, so I hope to improve. The weather is usually tricky so you must make the most of any dry track time. I like the track but it’s important to find a good setting and feeling with the tires as there are a few very fast corners.”
The other Yamaha challenge could come from Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, though the Spaniard is still struggling to find the form that normally makes him a contender at any of the rounds. And no one will soon forget his performance of a season ago when he suffered a broken collarbone, flew back to Spain to have surgery and returned in time to finish fifth in the GP.
“After a bit of a disappointing weekend in Barcelona where I gave my best even when some circumstances didn’t help us, we travel to Holland with plenty of optimism,” Lorenzo said. “In Barcelona we struggled a bit with the acceleration, especially in the last part of the track where we used to be so strong in the past. This year that issue didn’t allow me to fight in front for the victory. Afterwards, during two test days, we found some solutions to solve that problem and we tested new things to try to cut off the distance with our main rivals. I look forward to racing in Assen; it’s maybe my favorite circuit. It’s a nice layout defined by some quick corners and a short straight that looks good for us, and especially for the Yamaha. In recent years I couldn’t got so many good results, but instead I always could find a good set up and ride in my best way. Last season I finished fifth after a surgery on my collarbone and I suffered a lot but finally I could conclude a very special race. Anyway, looking into the future it is the best opportunity to do my best and try to get my first win. We will see.”
American Nicky Hayden is looking forward to Assen and hoping that time off between races will help his injured right wrist feel better on the bike.
“We had a tough weekend at Catalunya but we still managed to have a good race,” Hayden said. “Hopefully this weekend at Assen is less of struggle – I like the circuit a lot and I have a lot of good memories after some good results in the past. I am looking forward to getting there and seeing how I feel: hopefully I will be stronger than last time. I am sure that the team will continue to work hard and the chemistry between us will continue to build as it has been doing all year. On paper we should be more competitive at Assen than we were in Barcelona because the straights are shorter and the layout should suit our bike. The weather is always changeable in Holland but I am looking forward to getting there and riding and hopefully challenging for a better result than Barcelona.”
Ducati’s challenge at Assen should come first from Andrea Dovizioso, though the Italian is one of few riders who doesn’t rank the Dutch circuit as one of his favorites. He has, however, been on the podium twice in MotoGP at Assen with thirds in both 2011 and 2012.
“Assen is a strange track because of the layout and also because of the weather conditions that we normally find during the race weekend,” Dovizioso said. “For us last year’s race was very difficult, but after the result we obtained in Barcelona, where we cut the gap to the leaders by half from 2013, we hope to continue this positive trend in the Netherlands.”
His teammate Cal Crutchlow does like the Assen layout and he qualified on the front row there a season ago on the Tech 3 Yamaha. He then finished third in the race.
“Assen is definitely one of the tracks in the championship that I like the most,” the Brit said. “I had a great race there last year, taking the pole and sharing the podium with Rossi and Marquez. There’s no doubt my championship so far has been difficult, but I’m going to Assen with confidence, and we’ll all give 100 percent, you can be sure of that.”