Photography by Gold and Goose
Aleix Espargaro used the open class soft option tire to full advantage Thursday in MotoGP practice at the Dutch TT in Assen, where the NGM Forward Racing Yamaha rider clocked the best time of the day with a 1:33.653 - which is under the track record of 1:33.7 set by Casey Stoner two years ago. Series leader Marc Marquez led most of the session, but ultimately ended up second fastest with a time of 1:33.864 on his Repsol Honda. His teammate Dani Pedrosa was third with a 1:34.069.
Americans Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden were 15th and 17th, respectively.
Espargaro is getting a bit of a streak going – he was also fastest in the first practice day in the last round at Catalunya.
The Iveco Daily TT Assen is unique on the MotoGP calendar in that it is the only Grand Prix at which races take place on a Saturday, as opposed to the usual Sunday.
Repsol Honda’s remarkable young World Champion Marquez is still undefeated in 2014.
Marquez may have seen his run of successful pole position qualifying results come to an end at the Barcelona-Catalunya with a Q2 crash – his first of the season – but come race day the 21 year-old delivered the goods again as he won a brilliant battle at the front over Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa.
Spaniard Marquez is now 58 points clear at the top of the standings following his seven race winning streak, with his nearest rival Rossi perhaps looking the most likely to be capable of ending his victorious run.
Last year at Assen Rossi returned to winning ways with his first victory since 2010, delighting the Dutch crowd with a great ride from fourth on the grid. Marquez finished second that day by just over two seconds and he has a good record at The Cathderal of motorcycle racing having notched up three wins at the historic venue in the 125 and Moto2™ categories.
In third place in the standings going into the Iveco Daily TT Assen is Dani Pedrosa, who was in hunt for victory at Catalunya until a last-lap error that saw him touch the rear wheel of Marquez. Pedrosa appeared more comfortable and competitive again after arm pump hindrances earlier this season and along with Marquez he will strive to win at Assen for Honda, at what is considered to be a good track for Yamaha.
Last year’s visit to the TT was one to forget for Jorge Lorenzo who battled through the pain barrier to finish fifth, from 12th on the grid, having broken his collarbone in Thursday practice and having flown back to Barcelona for surgery in order to be ready to race. Lorenzo won at Assen in 2010, but has since struggled at the Dutch venue.
Fifth in the current World Championship standings is Andrea Dovizioso who has been in the top 10 at every race so far, in contrast to his Ducati Team colleague Cal Crutchlow who will go in search of a good result at round eight, having had a difficult time since his arrival with the Italian factory.
The likes of the Espargaro brothers, Pol (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and Aleix (NGM Forward Racing), will be in the hunt for more crucial championship points, while Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) and Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) are riding to secure their racing contracts for 2015 and potentially beyond.
Bradl returned to form at Catalunya with a solid ride to fifth and his aim is to stay ahead of the likes of Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and climb higher up the standings in the top 10.
Danilo Petrucci (Octo IodaRacing Project) will attempt to return from injury at the eighth round of the season, having traveled to Barcelona but having been unable to ride as his fractured left wrist had not recovered sufficiently from his Jerez Warm Up crash earlier this year.
MotoGP FP2 times from Assen – June 26, 2014
1 41 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 301.2 1'33.653
2 93 Marc MARQUEZ SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 307.7 1'33.864 0.211 / 0.211
3 26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 310.9 1'34.069 0.416 / 0.205
4 99 Jorge LORENZO SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 306.8 1'34.148 0.495 / 0.079
5 29 Andrea IANNONE ITA Pramac Racing Ducati 307.5 1'34.277 0.624 / 0.129
6 38 Bradley SMITH GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 310.3 1'34.286 0.633 / 0.009
7 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 305.6 1'34.286 0.633
8 44 Pol ESPARGARO SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 308.0 1'34.408 0.755 / 0.122
9 6 Stefan BRADL GER LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 308.5 1'34.457 0.804 / 0.049
10 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati Team Ducati 310.5 1'34.460 0.807 / 0.003
11 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 308.1 1'34.466 0.813 / 0.006
12 45 Scott REDDING GBR GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 292.9 1'35.445 1.792 / 0.979
13 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Ducati Team Ducati 305.7 1'35.469 1.816 / 0.024
14 68 Yonny HERNANDEZ COL Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati 305.7 1'35.537 1.884 / 0.068
15 5 Colin EDWARDS USA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 298.8 1'35.590 1.937 / 0.053
16 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN Drive M7 Aspar Honda 298.6 1'35.787 2.134 / 0.197
17 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA Drive M7 Aspar Honda 293.0 1'35.891 2.238 / 0.104
18 17 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Honda 296.4 1'35.925 2.272 / 0.034
19 23 Broc PARKES AUS Paul Bird Motorsport PBM 289.5 1'36.046 2.393 / 0.121
20 8 Hector BARBERA SPA Avintia Racing Avintia 295.4 1'36.270 2.617 / 0.224
21 70 Michael LAVERTY GBR Paul Bird Motorsport PBM 294.2 1'36.280 2.627 / 0.010
22 9 Danilo PETRUCCI ITA Octo IodaRacing Team ART 289.4 1'36.657 3.004 / 0.377
23 63 Mike DI MEGLIO FRA Avintia Racing Avintia 292.8 1'36.724 3.071 / 0.067