Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Corner Speed, Conditions, And Consistency - Is The Championship Nearly Decided?

When we say that conditions make a huge difference in MotoGP, we usually meant that a track which was drenched in rain, or a one which was drying and changing, effected the outcome of the race. But there are a couple of race tracks in the world where the wind can have a huge impact on the way a race plays out. One of those places is Assen, where the wind sweeps up from the south east unimpeded by any geographical obstacles and straight into the faces of the riders coming out of the Strubben hairpin and heading down the Veenslang back straight. (Though like all of the straights at Assen, it isn't really that straight. It weaves and winds down to the fast right at the Ruskenhoek.)

On Sunday, the wind, which had picked up significantly compared to the day before, produced three barnstormers of races. It kept a huge group together until the end of the Moto3 race, it produced a thrilling Moto2 race decided in the last laps, and it even helped to bunch the MotoGP riders up, and create drama for most of the race.

The wind, combined with the fact that Assen has so many high-speed changes of directions make it immensely physically demanding. Hustling a MotoGP bike from side to side is never easy, let alone when you have to do it at over 200 km/h. The laws of physics turn momentum into an unstoppable force which you have to overpower if you are to make the next corner.

Physically draining

Those physical demands took their toll in MotoGP. A week after having arm pump surgery, Fabio Quartararo survived Barcelona relatively unscathed, taking pole and securing his first ever MotoGP podium. Despite having two weeks extra for the wound to heal, the physical demands of the Assen track made it a very tough weekend for the Frenchman. Not that that stopped him: he grabbed pole once again, his second in a row, and scored another podium.

He knew straight away he was in trouble. Quartararo could post a fast lap, but coming in after long runs he was in trouble. There was some pain and weakness in the arm, and a build up of fluid. Before every session, his arm would be bandaged up, and he had the right sleeve of his leathers loosened up a bit to create some room. The main difficulty was that with the operation wound still healing, he couldn't have massages to help restore the bloodflow and disperse the fluid, the usual remedy for arm pump and tired muscles after each session.

The effects of that weakened arm were visible when he came out of the Strubben hairpin and headed down the Veenslang. As he hit fifth and sixth gear, his Petronas Yamaha M1 was shaking violently, and as he struggled to hold on, he backed off the gas, allowing Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, the riders he fought over the podium with for most of the race, to catch him and pass him.

It had also been a mistake in choosing his line down the back straight, Quartararo said. "It was a little bit my fault," he told the press conference, "Also because when I was behind Maverick and Marc I tried to be even more on the inside, but the bike was moving even more. I saw that they were going more to the outside, and it was much better. I think it was the combination of the wind and me doing the wrong line at this stage. But the last lap I was going more into the outside and the bike was much more stable. So like I said, we took experience and I think it’s good to see how they ride."

Never give up

In a graphic illustration of just how tough it is to ride at Assen, Johann Zarco pulled in with unmanageable arm pump at the end of lap 16. He had suffered the problem in previous years on the Yamaha, but it was too much for him on the much more physical KTM. "It is a hard track for all the riders, I think, because I got these problems but I was able to manage it the last two years," Zarco said afterward. "I got the same problem this year but it was worse because the bike was moving but also in many other places. The good thing was the first ten laps and to be able to catch them with pace and be able to overtake as a racer. At the moment there is too much compensation which is destroying me. I did a few mistakes and had to stop. I had the feeling I was not holding the bike anymore and before something bad happened I had to stop."

Would Zarco consider surgery to address the arm pump issues? "Not at all," he said. "I will not do any surgery. This is not the solution and I never had this problem before. I’m not relaxed enough on the bike. I do not want to do this kind of operation. The worst thing is motocross for arm pump. The top guys are not doing the operation. Fabio did it but he is younger and this is his choice. I will not do that but I will improve myself and find a solution to be back on the top."

Pulling in because he couldn't complete the race is a new low for Zarco's career at KTM. Poor results, expletive-laden garage tirades caught on camera, and an air of defeat, of being beaten down by the bike, and now stopping at two-thirds distance because he is unable to finish the race, and implicitly blaming the bike. KTM and Zarco is not a happy marriage, and at the moment, it is hard to see how it will improve.

Zarco will have to hope that salvation will come through the work which Dani Pedrosa is doing as test rider for KTM. If Pedrosa can help make the bike that little bit easier to ride, then Zarco has a chance to succeed. There are signs that Zarco is improving, but he needs some real progress soon. The only upside is that even if he doesn't, KTM have few options to replace him next year, and could decide to give him another year until 2021, when the current two-year contract cycle will make almost everyone available.

Yamaha track

To the race. Marc Márquez' prediction turned out to be accurate."For me, if Yamaha can come back with a victory, it's at this circuit," he said on Saturday afternoon. "So they know, they are pushing and tomorrow they have pressure because of course it's been a long time without a win and they will try because they know that the bike is working very good in this circuit. It is for me the best bike at this circuit."

Maverick Viñales took convincing victory on Sunday, battling hard for the first 20 laps with Marc Márquez and Fabio Quartararo before finally pulling out a gap. But victory had not been easy: getting past Márquez, especially, was difficult, because of the different strengths of the Yamaha and Honda.

Viñales' strongest point in the circuit was out of Duikersloot and Meeuwenmeer, which put him right on Márquez' tail coming through Hoge Heide, the terrifying right-left kink where high speeds reduce the track to a narrow ribbon of asphalt, making it very hard to pass. Márquez was much stronger in braking for the Ramshoek, able to stay ahead of Viñales and line up the GT chicane.


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I don't think an apology is needed. Great write-up as ever.

Congrats to the Yam riders and really sorry to see Rins go, what a shame, he should have fought for a win.

I foresee the future... this will be VR's last season (gasp).

yes, I felt the same way (about VR) yesterday. We sat next to the Rossi grandstand, and I felt a few of them thought the same.

I hope not. but the current situation is rather gloomy. Still, there is some little hope, though - at least IMO. In the previous lap before losing the front and sadly taking out poor Nakagami, Rossi set a fast lap, which indicated he had found some speed. Before writing him off, something that has been discussed on and off since 2012,  and more importantly, before he calls himself out of the game, I think he might give it another try and change the team in the garage. He is old, yes, he is not as fast as he used to be, yes, he cannot win another championship unless, many stars and planets, and most galaxies align, yes, but it looks like that the crazy inconsistency has more to do with the inability to find a good setting on FP1 than anything else. And that cannot be just on him. It's a team work. Is he giving the wrong feed back which results in wrong set up? I find it hard to believe that after so many years he is unable to articulate a problem. Maybe he is too fussy, and the team gets confused... It is unacceptable that one day everything is ok and the next the whole garage is totally lost. 

Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I would love to see him win a few more.

It is always a great pleasure to read the lively prose and insightful analysis that David gives us. I don't believe anyone, even perhaps Mat Oxley, whom I very much enjoy reading, gives us the same depth of thought that one finds here. In this space we always seem to be kept right on the racing line with the rubber-side down and at the limit of what can be said about the racing. Thanks again for a great read. (and I hope Valentino finds his mojo again because he is a great champion, maybe Mat can get him to do a real interview on this...)

Anyone notice Marc's demeanor in park ferma? He was definitely not happy. He put on a big smile/etc for the interview, but his 'aura' prior to the interview said it all. With all the Honda's struggling, the bike must be extremely difficult beast to ride. Again, if not for Marc....the mighty engineering genius of HRC would be at the rear end of the grid. 

I think what MM is showing is that he can see it’s going to get harder and harder over the next couple of years, with these young guns coming through so strongly. Put Quartararo or Rins on a really well sorted bike and he’ll have trouble on his hands. And it’s coming - Yamaha are bound to sort out their troubles one way or another and the Suzuki is very nearly there already.

This is all a little reminiscent of VR back in about 07 or 08, when his run of utter dominance started to undergo serious, sustained challenge. I for one don’t think MM is going to stroll to trophy after trophy for the next 3 or 4 years; as others have said, he’s flattering the Honda, and it’s a bike that can be beaten. It’d be interesting to see him change horses though - I suspect he’d do rather well on any of the top marques. 

thank you David, as usual. 

It was an interesting race for so many reasons! Maverick is back - and so was he, two weeks ago before being taken out by Jorge. It's too late for the championship, but definetly promising for the rest of the season, for his confidence and mental approach. Not sure that Yamaha is out of the woods though

Quartararo: wow! the kid is a natural. and no matter Yamaha's woes, he was lucky to get his motogp chance on that bike, and hopefully his manager will not make the dumbest move ever as Zarco's did. bright future ahead.

this race's main topic is Ducati, and not the fact that in this circuit they cannot exploit their power but their management, again! I do believe that if they had not lost Lorenzo, we might have seen a very different championship. Instead, Dovi is losing the sparkle, and Petrucci is in the most uncomfortable position ever - messy to a catch 22 level : he must not interfere with Dovi and at the same time he must beat Dovi to keep his seat in Ducati... how sick is that? This is certainly not the way to win a championship.

The other intresting fact, as it's already been mentioned, is that the new crop guys at the front make Marquez look... not so young, and Dovi and Valentino dinosaurs!  there is so much talent right now. Fascinating and exciting!

as you mentioned moto 2 in your report, I will say that it was appalling to see young Marquez pulling and pushing Baldassarri with a vengence  while he was lying in the gravel: despikable and shameful. what if the guy had something broken? I don't think I've ever witnessed such reckless harmful behaviour. He should be penalised. And honestly looking at the helicopter footage I do have a tiny doubt about who clipped whom. But I'll watch it carefully again. Still, that behaviour deserves some form of penalty. 

As for Balda, he has to learn consistency. He is good but he cannot win one and bin one on regular basis... Yes, Binder did great and was impressive. Not so sure that the motogp move to KTM is a present, given the struggles they are facing. How many guys from Moto 2 are expected to move up to Motogp ? When is silly season starting ? Are the rumors true about a seat in a ducati satellite team being offered to Alex Marquez with the intention of luring his brother over to the ducati official team? 

So good that another race is on just in a couple of days!


Oh let's not start up that Rossi should retire nonsense yet again.  Time after time he has proven that incorrect.  He was right there in Barcelona.  He was surging and the race looked like it was going to be a brutal battle with both Factory Yamahas in the mix. 

In Assen, in FP1, Rossi's #1 bike had a technical issue and that put him and his team on the back foot for the rest of the weekend.  The weekend was down to FP1.  He was also unlucky in hitting the grass for 2 mm forcing him into Q1.   Rationality over irrationality every time.  He was desperately trying to make up places, cooked a corner and went down.  It was a mistake.  He apologized to Nakagami in the litter and in the press.  He knows he made a mistake.

Let's give it the season to decide if she should leave or not.  Either way he has another year on his contract.  If this continues Fabio will get his seat when contracts renew.  Fabio may even get it anyways due to age, and the future. 

I also wouldn't write off Lorenzo either and I don't see the same about him retiring.  He'll be back, and eventually he will find his way on the RCV just as he did on the Ducati.  That bike has been perpetually built around and developed around Marc and his riding style.  Lorenzo rides completely different and the RCV has a vague front end for anyone not named Marquez.  Cal is similarly lost.  But I wouldn't write either of them off either.


I didn't say he should retire (that's between him and Yam) I'm merely making a forecast based on the evidence. He is 40 years of age, much older than the rest of the grid, his teammate is now looking consistently faster than he is, and he doesn't look quick out of the box anywhere. He seems to struggle more than ever, and seems liable to bin even when he's going well (look at that race when MM closed on him last season). I'm forecasting that he, after an extraordinary career, will see that enough is enough. I do appreciate that is painful for fans like yourself. And no I wasn't one of those baying for this in the past (when A Espargaro and J Zarco were said to be the great new things who should take his place, yes that stuff was silly).

Lorenzo? No why on earth should he retire? He's a great rider, as he started to show on the Duc last year (shame they parted company).

for a great read, and especially for clueing us in on what happened with Alex Rins.