Assen is a circuit unlike any other. The rich history of the Assen TT Circuit goes back almost 100 years and with over 50 WorldSBK to its name only Phillip Island has seen more Superbike track action although arguably no circuit has seen more exciting action than Assen.
Whether it's Carl Fogarty or Jonathan Rea, the heroes of WorldSBK love Assen to a rider. It's fast and flowing and is a circuit that can be ridden any number of ways. There is no ideal way to lap the 4.542km circuit but there are some secrets to unlocking the speed. Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes sat down with MotoMatters.com to offer his insight.
“You come across the start finish straight in fifth gear and as you approach Turn 1 it's tighter than you'd think,” explained Lowes. “The apex is slightly blind because the track drops away ever so slightly so you aim for a point and with experience you learn that it's that little bit tighter than expected. You're in second gear through the first corner so you'll short shift into third for Turn 2, but this is a section where the bike is always sliding and if you're not careful at the start of the race to manage this you'll pay for it at the end of the race with tire degradation.
Madijk to Ossebroeken to Strubben
“You're back to second for Turn 3 and this is a really long right hander with a lot of different lines through 3 and 4. You can take a late apex or you can carry speed and try to fire the bike into Turn 5. There's a lot of variety through here for riders but I try to focus for a late apex for Turn 4 to be in a good position for Turn 5 where you're back to first gear. This is a really tough corner in low temperatures, because it's the first left hander in a long time so it's easy to crash here.”
From the end of the opening sector riders find themselves on the flat out blast to Turn 6, the fabled Ruskenhoek. A super-fast right hander at the end of the straight but for Lowes the excitement of Turn 6 is tempered by needing to be in the right place for the next corner.
Ruskenhoek to Stekkenwal to De Bult
“The exit of Turn 5 is really important. You need to make sure that you can a really good exit because it leads into one of the overtaking opportunities of the lap. In a race you might sacrifice the entry to be stronger on the exit. You want to be smooth on the exit and avoid too much wheelie but it's first to fifth on the straight. Into Turn 6 it's exciting! You touch the limiter through there so the bike wants to push towards the outside of the track but it's exactly where you don't want to be! You need to be on the right side of the track on the way into Turn 7. Being in the right track position at 6 is crucial because it allows you to open up Turn 7 which then takes you into Turn 8.
“This is a great second gear corner. In the dry it's good through this section but there are some ripples on the exit of Turn 7 that can catch you out in the wet. The banking into Turn 8 is really good because you can really throw the bike into the corner with a lot of force. It's a lot of fun and on the exit there's a long kerb where you can run onto. For Turn 9 you are back to second after the short straight and it's really flat through here and Turn 10.”
From Turn 10, the Mandeveen, riders are on almost flat-out blast all the way to the final chicane. It's all about finding a balance and the right line. Controlling a Superbike through this section is a real challenge for a rider who will have to think about being fast enough to attack into the GT Chicane but also have to manage their tire to avoid excessive wear on the rear tire.
“You need the front end working well through 9 and 10 but on the exit you'll short shift into third and the bike starts to slide a lot through 11. This corner is a lot like Turn 2 where the bike is sliding and you need to keep tire wear in mind during the race. With the back sliding it's a lot of fun through here but you've got to be thinking about your exit, because your exit here affects everything all the way to the chicane at the end of the lap.
Meeuwenmeer through Hoge Heide to Ramshoek
“You click into fourth gear just before Turn 12 and it's a little bumpy through here. It's so important to be fast through here because it's all about building your momentum but you need to be brave through this part! It's the quickest section of the lap and you're into fifth gear on the exit for Turn 13 and 14 where you can cut the kerb a little bit on the way in. There's so many lines through here but the only thing that matters is that you're ready to knock it back a gear into fourth and then be in the right place for Turn 15. If you're wide through here you fall off the camber of the circuit and it makes you slow and easy to pass into the chicane. I'm in fifth gear for 13 and 14 and then back one for 15 and then back to second gear for the last chicane.”
The final chicane has seen fortunes turn in an instant and it's produced many of the iconic images of WorldSBK history.
“This is the best passing place on the circuit, and where we've so many famous moments in Assen and WorldSBK history, but if you don't get the section right leading into it you'll never be close enough to make a move. Turn 11 onwards is so crucial as it sets everything up for you. The chicane is fast and a fun corner for all of us because there's always the chance to make a move or defend. I love Assen because it's a fast, flowing circuit and really enjoyable to ride. You set the bike up for the second half of the lap because in the first section it's about having the bike that can turn a bit faster but it's such a small part of the lap that you focus on the second half of the lap. It's a great track and usually produces some close and exciting racing. I'm looking forward to it again this weekend!”
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