Motul TT, Assen: Qualifying roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Andrea Dovizioso will start from pole position as his teammate, Andrea Iannone, is scheduled to start from last but the weather means anything could happen.
Both FP4 and Q1 had been littered with falls, riders approaching Q2 with a healthy amount of caution during their first laps. The rain had eased but the track was clearly still too wet for slick tyres, resulting in the first wet Qualifying session of the new Michelin era.
Crashes were almost immediate as Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) fell at Turn 5 on his out lap. His fall was quickly followed by Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who came off at Turn 8, grabbing a spare scooter to get back to the pits as quick as possible.
For just the fourth time in his premier class career, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) will line up in pole position. Conditions were incredibly tricky but ‘Desmo Dovi’ showed his skill and experience to set a 1’45.246 to take pole by over half a second. This is his third pole while riding with Ducati, his last coming in Qatar back in 2015. Andrea Dovizioso’s lone MotoGP™ win came at the British GP in 2009 in wet conditions, he could be on course for a second one if the rain remains.
It proved to be a good day for Italy, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) taking second on the grid. Like Dovizioso, Rossi is known for his ability when the conditions are less than ideal. With both Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) having less than ideal sessions and starting down the order, Rossi has an excellent chance to close the 22-point gap in the championship. It’s still a three way title battle and momentum is on Rossi’s side heading into Sunday’s race.
Leading the Independent Team charge and rounding out the front row is Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich). The Brit will start from the front row for the first time in the premier class, his last front row coming at the British GP in 2013 when he was battling for the Moto2™ World Championship. This comes as a welcome confidence boost for Redding who has been hit by a number of technical issues early in the season. Ducati riders have classically gone very well in the wet, his teammate scoring a podium a the British GP in 2015.
A relieved Marc Marquez will start the Motul TT Assen from fourth place, not quite able to re-create his magic wall-jumping pole from Austin. Given the circumstances it certainly could have been much worse. Just behind Marquez is fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) in sixth. The Brit is not overly confident for Sunday’s race, labeling it a lottery if it’s wet.
Completing the second row is Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP), the Colombian inside the top ten on the grid for the first time since Germany in 2015 when he was fifth.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) completed the top ten in the session.
Andrea Iannone was ninth but will start Sunday’s race from last due to his penalty from Catalunya, moving everyone else up a position. Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will need any bit of help he can get after only managing 11th place in the session. There’s a lot of work to do for the factory Yamaha rider from tenth on the grid, his up and down love affair with Assen continuing.
Although they started on wets, the Moto2™ World Championship quickly found the TT Circuit Assen dry enough to run on slicks. Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) was the first to explore the uncertain conditions and had set his best lap time of the weekend before too long.
This spurred on his fellow Moto2™ riders and soon everyone hit the track with slicks fitted. Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) again proved to be a master of timing his flying laps, the Swiss rider setting a 1’37.954 before the rain returned. With 23 minutes of the session left, the heavens opened and secured Luthi his second pole of 2016. In Le Mans, where he started from pole, Luthi went on to finish on the podium.
0.448s back on Luthi was Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), the French rider having spent most of the weekend towards the top of the timesheets. After a torrid time at his home Grand Prix, Zarco has found the form that won him the 2015 Moto2™ crown and is looking for his third straight win of 2016 on Sunday at Assen. In 2015 the French rider also won the Dutch GP on his way to the title, fitting a set of clogs for his backflip celebration.
Aegerter’s early adventure on slicks paid off as the Swiss rider secured third to complete the front row. Having been 16th in FP3, third was a significant improvement and sees him return to the front row for the first time since Mugello in 2015. Despite racing fulltime since 2007, this is only Aegerter’s sixth front row start across all classes.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) is set to lead the charge from the head of the second row of the grid. The Brit was half a second back on Luthi’s time but only a tenth slower than Zarco, gaps deceiving in the tricky conditions. Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top five and is guaranteed to make for some exciting racing on Sunday.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40), Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) formed the remainder of the top ten.
Several riders went out after the rain fell later in the session, but no one was able to improve their times. These laps could prove crucial should the run in similar conditions. Assen is known for unpredictable weather, as the intermediate class found out in 2014.
Before the session it looked as though Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was an odds on favourite for pole position but the rookie’s session didn’t go to plan. A crash with over half an hour to go at Turn 8 left his Honda a wreck. He had only managed two laps and found himself in 32nd, and thus last. With ten minutes to go he headed back out on track, his team having performed a minor miracle to repair the bike.
Rain flags once again made an appearance with less than ten minutes to go, riders pushing to overcome the conditions for a last fast lap. But for Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) the work was already done. The Italian set a 1’42.463 to take the fifth pole of his career and the first of 2016. Bastianini looks to break the current pole position curse, the last 12 pole setters in Moto3™ unable to convert pole to victory, ‘The Beast’ was the last rider to win from pole way back in 2015 at Misano.
After showing well in Free Practice 3, Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) took just his second front row start in the World Championship. Second on the grid matches his previous best result, second in Mugello two rounds ago. The Italian is yet to take a podium despite having run on the world stage for a season and a half before 2016.
Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) made it an all-Italian front row to celebrate the 800th race in the lightweight class. Like his teammate, this is Bulega’s second front row start. His previous came in Jerez when he converted pole to a debut podium. Bulega is the highest placed rookie on the grid but has already proven he can battle with the best.
With Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) in fourth, it was an almost perfect session for SKY Racing Team VR46. He starts round eight ahead of championship rival Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), both out to make the most of Jorge Navarro’s (Estrella Galicia 0,0) absence.
Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) was sixth with home hero Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) set to start his home race from seventh, his best ever grid position. Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) completed the top ten, all within 0.3s of pole position. In fact all of the top 20 were within just a second of Bastianini’s time. Canet would eventually set the 16th fastest time.
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) and Alexis Masbou (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) will all be demoted three positions for riding slowly during various sessions.
Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) made an unforced error early in the session, sliding off at Turn 5. Fortunately the damage was slight and he was back out after minor repairs. But a second crash would end his session, the Italian set to start 13th.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) broke his leg while training and was replaced by Lorenzo Dalla Porta for the weekend. Dalla Porta leads the replacement riders after taking 12th on his Honda debut, having previously ridden the Husqvarna and KTM.