2013 Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: Earned Poles, Racing Lotteries And Lorenzo's Reasons For Racing

What an intriguing weekend the 83rd running of the Dutch TT at Assen has turned out to be. (Well, I say weekend, it's still Friday, but in any racing paddock, the weekend starts once bikes roll out for the first practice, and ends when the final press conference of the day is completed.) The story lines are plentiful, made possible by mixed conditions, low grip and a barrel load of ambition.

First, there's the MotoGP polesitter. Cal Crutchlow took his first ever pole in the class on Friday, with a perfectly-timed lap to blast ahead of Marc Marquez and earn himself a Tissot watch. He left it to the very last lap, but cut it very fine indeed. He crossed the finish line with just 3 seconds left on the session clock, giving him a final attempt at pole. He had worked out he would make it across the line for one last shot by looking at the sector times displayed on the digital dashboard, but when he exited the GT chicane and saw the starter already out with the checkered flag, he had gotten a little nervous.

There was no need. His flying lap was outstanding, putting over a third of a second into Marc Marquez, who had attempted a similar strategy to Crutchlow by crossing the line late. Crutchlow may have been helped by Dani Pedrosa crashing out early in the session. The Repsol Honda man got back too late to try to go out for another attempt, and having set a time good enough for 5th place, in the middle of the second row, saw no need to risk everything to rush for a lap.

But Crutchlow's main concern was the absent Jorge Lorenzo. This was not a 'proper' pole, Crutchlow insisted, because Jorge Lorenzo was not present. He was very happy with pole, and he was boosted and motivated by having bagged his first pole, but for it to really count, he had to secure it against a healthy top three, Crutchlow explained. For everyone else, Crutchlow had straight up earned it; he put in the fastest lap when the chips were down, and they all count.

Starting on pole does not necessarily mean you are a shoe-in for the win, however. Conditions at Assen have been so mixed that it is hard to get a sense of who is fast and who is not. Only FP1, FP4 and qualifying have been completely dry so far, and even FP1 took place in cold conditions on a green track. That leaves only FP4 to go by, and it is hard to get a sense of who is really quick. "Many riders are on the same pace," Dani Pedrosa said. "Even the CRT riders are quick. It's hard to predict a favorite."

It is clear that five riders are quick: Cal Crutchlow and Marc Marquez have excellent pace, and Dani Pedrosa looks to be around the same pace. Stefan Bradl - now changed from Nissin to Brembo brakes, and using a different suspension package - is faster than he's been all year, and should be right there with the lead trio to.

The dark horse is Valentino Rossi, who is comfortable and quick, and full of self-belief, something he has been missing since Qatar. The solution for his braking problems he tested at Aragon is working at Assen too, allowing him to brake much deeper than he has been able to previously. The factory Yamaha man believes he could have secured second spot, if he hadn't made a mistake, and he is feeling very comfortable on the bike. This was his best qualifying of the year, both in terms of results but especially in terms of feeling, Rossi said. A happy, confident and comfortable Valentino Rossi is a dangerous Valentino Rossi. Though his times in FP4 appear to put him behind the front four, it would be very foolish indeed to rule him out.

In Moto2, the battle is hotting up, with two men equally matched on pace. Those two men happen to be the two rivals for the 2013 Moto2 title, and both Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding have a keen eye on each other. Use of the word rivals here is no journalistic hyperbole, these two men are determined to beat each other. They both spent more time talking about the other than on explaining their own performance, making it clear that the only thing that counts tomorrow is crushing the other man.

It could be a hard, long and bitter battle. Redding and Espargaro are both on the same pace, a step faster than the rest. Espargaro has to win, to ramp up the pressure on Redding and to try to claw back points in the title chase. The set up change found at the Mugello Moto2 test - apparently, a reduction in rear tire pressure to help create feel - has boosted Espargaro's confidence, and he is out to destroy Redding. Redding, on the other hand, knows he just has to follow Espargaro around, settling for second if he can't beat him, and beating him if he can. This is a proper needle match, an emotional drama which adds to the on-track excitement as well.

In Moto3, another piece of racing history was made. After Danny Webb's pole on the Mahindra 125cc bike in 2011, Miguel Oliveira added a Moto3 pole for Mahindra at Assen. The pole is a boost for the Indian manufacturer, and for Suter, who have been contracted to produce both the engine and the chassis. Pole is one thing, the race is another: the top five are all within the same tenth of a second, and Oliveira and Alex Marquez set identical times. Oliveira secured pole on the basis of his second fastest lap, which was faster than Marquez, while there was nothing to choose between Maverick Viñales, Luis Salom and Alex Rins.

Mahindra could find themselves expanding to sell a number of bikes next year, as teams abandon the underperforming Honda in favor of the KTM and the Mahindra. That will be good for racing in India, where the popularity of the sport is growing. Though no fast Indian riders are on the horizon at the moment, Indian fans can now at least get behind an Indian brand, with Mahindra getting ever closer to the Austrian KTMs.

The big question, though, is about Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard returned to the MotoGP paddock at around 5pm, little more than 24 hours after he left it with a broken collarbone. It has been a very hectic few hours indeed. Once diagnosed with a broken left collarbone after his monster highside during a wet FP2 on Thursday, Lorenzo was moved from the medical center at the circuit to a hospital in Assen. After checks were made, surgery was scheduled to plate up his broken clavicle. Fate intervened, with the operating theater suddenly needed for emergency surgery on a patient in a life-threatening situation, and so Lorenzo was left with no choice to look elsewhere.

Elsewhere turned out to be Barcelona, where they could guarantee could undergo surgery in the early hours of Friday morning. Lorenzo flew to Barcelona on chartered private jet, and went from the airport straight to the operating theater, where he had a two-hour operation to plate up the complicated broken collarbone. When he awoke from the anesthetic, he was once again passed fit to fly, and took another private jet back from Barcelona to Groningen. He arrived back in the paddock exhausted, and retired to his motorhome to start his recovery.

Why did Lorenzo rush to Barcelona to have the injury plated, and then rush back to Assen again? Because he hopes to be able to ride, as simple as that. Will he be able to ride? First, he has to pass a medical test, which will include doing ten press ups to show that he has the strength in his shoulder, and can endure the pain. A test to check whether he is still not dazed from the anesthetic may be a better test, but if his shoulder can hold up under the press ups, he should be strong enough to race.

The real question is why Lorenzo wants to race. Does Yamaha have some kind of a plan? That is hard to say. Clearly, whatever points Lorenzo can score could come in very handy at the end of the year, and limiting the damage to Pedrosa is important. Starting from 12th on the grid should allow Lorenzo to score a top ten finish or better - Cal Crutchlow tips Lorenzo for a podium, or at the worst a top five - he will give very little at all to Pedrosa, and gain points that he might otherwise regret losing when the title is decided.

Some sections of the fan base and in the paddock are speculating that Lorenzo's return is a complex way of taking an extra engine, without risking very much. Using a 6th engine at Assen would mean he would have to start from pit lane, but - and the regulations are extremely ambiguous about this - Lorenzo could potentially have been counted as having started from pit lane if he simply lines up on the grid, and then pulls in after the warm up lap. It is unclear from the rule book whether Lorenzo actually has to start, or if he even has to line up on the grid, for the penalty to be regarded as having been applied. If Lorenzo goes out in the morning warm up and uses two new engines, he will automatically incur a penalty, and be forced to start from pit lane. But if he doesn't actually start the race at all, does the penalty count as having been applied? Or will he be forced to start from the pit lane in the Sachsenring? From my reading of the rule book, it is all as clear as mud.

Of course, there is the small matter of actually having two spare engines at the track in Assen for Lorenzo to have sealed ready for use. Both Lorenzo and Rossi have three engines in use, so carrying another two spare engines with them would seem an unnecessary thing to do. If the engines aren't even in Holland, then the whole discussion is moot.

Whatever the outcome of Lorenzo's medical test, and whatever his decision on whether to race or not, we are in for a fascinating weekend. Confusion reigns, and that is surprisingly often, quite a good thing.

Back to top


If Lorenzo uses 2 new engines in WUP - #5 & #6 - he has to serve a penalty and that penalty may not actually be starting from pit lane at all?

I wonder how Jarvis will defend this, should it happen, given his recent statements saying Yamaha's engine situation was under control?

I really can't believe the powers that be will allow such flagrant manipulation of the rules..clear as mud or otherwise.

How on earth can he be fit enough to hang on to a 220mph GP bike, a little over 24hrs after waking up from surgery to a busted collarbone?

Absolutely crackers..

I think Mr Emmett means that using one new engine would the fifth of the lawful limit of five and entirely within the rules. He could either use another new engine (6th) in the race and start from pit lane, or - more interestingly - use a second new engine in the morning warm-up and be required by the rules to start "the race" (this race?) from pit lane.

However, despite (hopefully) passing a medical test, he and his team could still decide it's safer not to race. And if he does not line up on the grid, has the pit lane start penalty been performed? (I believe it has.)

I don't consider it to be a "flagrant manipulation of the rules". Rules is rules, so to speak. The man may miss a grand prix and forfeit an important opportunity to score championship points. Natural law is still penalising Lorenzo for his error; the question is: what exactly can be salvaged from a bad situation?

Dorna should know by now that the more dumb rules there are, the more creative ways there are for the inventive to interpret - and yes manipulate - them.

From the perspective of an injured rider prone to re-injury I can see that starting from pit lane might even be preferable to being mid pack - let the turn 1 shenanigans happen in front then pick off most or all the CRT's and the Ducatis for an "easy" top 10. If he doesn't even end up having to start the race in order to serve the penalty then more fool Dorna for writing such flimsy rules.

I recall Rossi voluntarily taking an engine penalty in order to fast-track the GP11.2 or whatever it was called (the de-stroked 1000, the testing of which was meant to be part of the following year's testing allocation). If that wasn't flagrant manipulation then nothing has been. I reckon if the shoe was on the other Yamaha teammates' foot then you'd be proclaiming the genius and tenacity. :)

As for the infinitely dislikeable Lin Jarvis, he is hardly going to say anything other than "everything is under control", it's the company line... but of course they do not want to only have one engine up their sleeve so early in the season!

Racing just 2 days after a broken bone and surgery is certainly not for the feint hearted - crackers alright! But these guys have absolutely the best of sports medicine at their disposal, and are all tough as nails - Lorenzo already proven to be amongst the toughest. Five points might be very important come October. I wish him all the best if he tries and look forward to settling down to watch events this evening.

Hard to see anything but the usual frontrunners again though, Crutchlow and Bradl seem unlikely to challenge over a race distance. Pedrosa is ominously relaxed, Marquez is just Marquez and Rossi has good race pace and the track probably suits him.

In sales, the best deal you sometimes never get is the best one. Likewise, the best race is maybe the one not run. Jorge is at risk of further injuring himself and others with this stunt. After a surgery he was presumably put under for, i cannot believe he would think to race. There is brave and then there is obtuse bordering on stupid. As an unimportant personal anecdote, several years ago i was in the pits and stated i wasn't well and extremely exhausted. I went out anyway after a while and had a huge off breaking both my legs and ankles. It was terrible and could have been avoided had i listened to myself.

If this then becomes another stunt and he takes an engine to take advantage of (surprise) another poorly written rule by Dorna then shame on him, Lin jarvis and yamaha. We often read of the long memories of the japanese manufacturers when they feel their honor and integrity has been assaulted and have seen their actions towards the offending riders. I would find it hypocrtical and shameful if they do this.

David, as a journalist we hold in high esteem this position needs to be heard. Sideline the reporting here and advocate for safety and integrity.

Aside from some fatherly obligation to look after their rider, I can't see anything wrong with taking best advantage of stupid rules. So long as he can prove himself to medical staff, he needs only to do 2 slow out-laps to use his 5th and 6th engine in w/up, then at the most he can tour out of pit lane after the pack and pit on the 1st lap. No real risk to Jorge and it's doing nothing more than the best of a bad situation. You can be sure Jorge and all the team would be much happier with 5 engines and a healthy rider!

you simply CANNOT do ANYTHING that bears load with a freshly operated on clavicle; you can THINK you are ok, but trust me - since I did this injury last fall & am no pussy - you CANNOT hope to race anything including a bicycle.

if he can do 10 press ups, he is not that badly injured.


the pain is UNBEARABLE as soon as you apply load. this will be either part of a rule-testing ruse or the anesthetic talking!

If Lorenzo is cleared to race, takes an extra engine, starts from pit lane and gives it his best, I would applaud both Lorenzo and Yamaha. I think it would reflect a champion's fighting spirit and brilliant tactics on the team's part.

If the above happens without Lorenzo honestly trying to compete then I take an entirely different view on the matter. If Lorenzo is cleared to race without them having any intention of actually racing then the physician's tests and decision making process is wholly inadequate. It would reek of bureaucratic shenanigans or worse, incompetent physicians unconcerned with rider safety.

I truly hope Lorenzo is able to compete.

I've just witnessed one of the most astonishing feats of bravery and feel completely humbled..not to mention a bit of a naysaying armchair cynic after my earlier comment.

Lorenzo's effort in WUP was the performance of a true champ. Total focus and commitment. He is one tough little bastard.

I wish him well and would personally allow him as many engines as he wants from here on in..


If Lorenzo can do this he should. Only the rider knows his limits and how an injury feels.
Lorenzo has a lot to play for and the competition mind-set knows few limits - look at Haslam, Edwards, Crutchlow, RdP., Cummins, Andrews, etc. Most riders have to/want to get back in the saddle ASAP.
Last years WSB title was decided by half a point - if Lorenzo gets one point it may be all he needs and I will have my fingers crossed for him all through the race, if he's out there.
Personally I think they are all astounding - Stoner 's return I couldn't really understand, but he obviously had a point to prove and his performance at Phillip Island alone was amazing. The consequences of a further accident don't bear thinking about. But let's applaud them and the system that permits it, not criticise - it is part of the spirit of motorcycling that they represent and in this risk-averse world I love to see it, even if I could not do it myself.
Engine-wise - he has had a disastrous weekend. Last year he lost an engine here through no fault of his own. If the rules as they were set allow him to gain a new engine or two I don't begrudge him the chance - the engine rule is a poor way to decide a championship and if this negates a problem later in the season then good for him.

I am astounded that he was cleared for flight- twice- in a state most would never be permitted to fly. Perhaps the rules are different for privately chartered flights?

To be allowed to 'compete', whatever his intention, would be odd. Edwards on a start run hitherto unmatched was declared unfit to ride at the British GP (I think?) a few years ago and he openly admitted, apparently to the doctors at the time and n television that he intended to go out for the warm up lap, start from the pits then pull in after one lap. This was a week after his similar operation. He was not allowed. That said, Yamaha will be working the politics much harder for Jorge than they would've for Colin.

These are all interesting comments but hadn't considered MSS 58's point of the supposed honour of the Japanese vs interpretation of words rather than spirit of the law.