The Dutch round of MotoGP, the Dutch TT at Assen, is to switch from Saturday to Sunday. From 2016, the event will surrender its unique status as the only MotoGP round to be held on Saturday, and fall in line with the rest of the MotoGP races. It will, however, remain on the last weekend of June, but will now be on the last Sunday, rather than the last Saturday of June.
The decision was taken by the circuit management after long consideration and discussions with many of the parties who have an interest in the race. The circuit also commissioned market research into the use of leisure time among the Dutch public, which showed that Sunday is the day most people set aside to spend attending sporting events, such as the Dutch TT. Circuit director Peter Oosterbaan and chairman Arjan Bos said that the market they were operating in was such that Sunday was a better day all round for sporting events. "All of the major football games, all of the big sporting events are on Sunday. People expect to go to a big event on a Sunday," Arjan Bos said. The move would also mean better media exposure for the event, as Sunday is the day with the most exposure for sports on TV and radio.
A major objective of the switch is to increase attendance, not so much on race day as for practice. Though Bos and Oosterbaan hoped that race day attendance would rise, they saw the most possibility for gains on Saturday. "We have been to a lot of races in recent years, at Le Mans, in Italy and in Spain. We have been surprised at the number of people who turn up for qualifying, and at the range of events on offer. By switching the race to Sunday, we hope to replicate that experience at Assen." To that end, circuit facilities are to be given an upgrade, with the seating areas around the track being turned into proper grandstands, and with a special event space to be built, which would be able of hosting a range of entertainment in the evening during race weekends. This was all part of a €12 million investment program to upgrade facilities at the track.
Bos and Oosterbaan emphasized that the decision was not taken at the behest of MotoGP series organizers Dorna. "When we told Carmelo Ezpeleta, he was delighted, but he has never put any pressure on us to change," Bos said. "This was a decision we took for the good of the circuit, and for the future of MotoGP in the Netherlands." As part of that future, the circuit is now discussing an extension of its contract with Dorna to host the race from 2021 to 2026. Though that was yet to be agreed, Bos and Oosterbaan said that the proposal had been received very favorably by Dorna.
The switch to Sunday means that this Saturday's race will be the last ever Dutch TT to be raced on Saturday. Whoever wins in Assen will go down in history as the last winner of the traditional Saturday race. But that tradition is something of a historical curiosity. The original race in 1925 was forced to switch from Sunday to Saturday, after complaints from a local Dutch Reformed pastor who did not want the roar of motorcycles coming past the front door of his church on Sunday. The Netherlands, and the region around Assen, are a vastly more secular society than they were 90 years ago. Bringing the Dutch TT at Assen into line with the rest of the MotoGP races will bring far more benefits than downsides. The management of the circuit believe it is a crucial step to secure the long term future of the race in the Netherlands, and at Assen.