MotoGP™ World Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by fellow title competitors Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). 22 points split the three and Assen looks set to be a crucial weekend for all of them.
Fresh off topping the post-Catalan GP test, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) made his first appearance of 2016 in a press conference, the Brit bringing his trademark humour to the event. Alongside him was Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40), the Moto2™ World Championship hotshot recently announcing his move to Team Suzuki Ecstar for 2017. Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who Rins is replacing, was unable to make the press conference due to a late flight.
His lead is only ten points, but Marquez is more than pleased with how the start of the season has gone: “My biggest worry before the season was these first races especially in Mugello and Montmelo. We finished second there both times, happy with these results.” Honda are still looking for more acceleration and tested some new parts after the Catalan GP, but things aren’t looking too different for Marquez in Assen: “We had some new parts but honestly I expected more from the test. We worked hard and took some positive points. I will start with the same bike I raced Sunday in Montmelo.”
Assen hasn’t been kind to Lorenzo in recent years, 2015 the first time he stepped on the podium since 2010: “I had a mix of bad luck and a bad feeling in special conditions here. Last year we were third and I think it can be positive here in the future. I’m very optimistic here.” After a torrid weekend in Barcelona, optimistic is all he can be: “With the graining and the track it was worse and worse for us. If it wasn’t enough then I had the incident with Iannone, it could only be worse with an injury.”
Of the three championship rivals, Rossi appeared the most excited for the weekend: “I think that last year was one of the best weekends for me. At the end I was able to win after a hard battle with Marc but also during the weekend I was strong and started from pole.” But with Michelin stepping in as the tyre supplier, nothing is certain: “This year is different and we arrive with different tyres to understand so we have to be strong from the start to understand our potential. Usually the Michelin tyres here in Assen were strong and fast in the past.”
While the leading three are all looking to carry their early season form onwards, Cal Crutchlow is hoping to start his year in Assen: “The start of the season hasn’t been to plan. We had a positive test on Monday and now we’re in Assen at a circuit I’ve had strong results at in the past.” The Brit also confirmed his plans for 2017: “I’m having a baby, well Lucy is having a baby in a month. Obviously I will be with LCR next year too.”
Crutchlow wasn’t the only rider announcing his 2017 plans, Rins joining the press conference to share his excitement over his move to Suzuki: “Finally I can say next year I will ride with Team Suzuki Ecstar. I’m really happy to announce this because during my whole career we’re working to get to MotoGP and I can finally say I’ll be against these guys. I spoke to Maverick [Viñales] and asked his opinion and he said it’s a great team.”
Marquez and Rossi’s last lap coming together at the final chicane in 2015 stole headlines. For safety reasons the final chicane has been altered, grass removed and extra tarmac added. Rossi doesn’t think the changes will detract from any last lap battles: “That chicane was a great place in the past, not just me and Marc but also Schwantz and Rainey, Capirossi one time beat me in the 250s. If there’s another tight last lap it’ll be interesting.”