Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) will start tomorrow’s Dutch round of the 2019 MotoGP series from the second row of the grid, two places in front of fellow HRC rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V).
This afternoon’s Q2 qualifying session – staged in unusually warm and sunny conditions for Assen – was super-quick and action-packed. Four different riders took their turns at the top during the 15-minute session, with the quickest three all inside the track’s all-time lap record.
Marquez led the early stages, then had to perform one of his magical saves at turn one soon after he had started his second run. That no doubt blunted the 26-year-old Spaniard’s challenge and he had to be happy with fourth place, 0.273 seconds off the front row. This is the first time he has qualified off the front row this season, but the five-times MotoGP World Champion isn’t concerned about that, because the race pace he rode in the earlier FP4 session was excellent.
Marquez goes into the eighth round of the championship holding a 37-point advantage over his closest pursuer. Last year he won an unforgettable multi-rider battle for victory at Assen and is confident he can once again challenge for a podium result tomorrow.
His team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) was forced to withdraw from this weekend’s proceedings after falling heavily during yesterday morning’s FP1 session. The three-times MotoGP king went down at the high-speed turn seven. While tumbling through the gravel run-off he sustained a stable fracture of his T6 vertebra and a trabecular fracture of the T8 vertebra. After undergoing tests and treatment at a local hospital the 32-year-old Spaniard has returned to his home in Lugano, Switzerland.
Crutchlow rode an excellent qualifying session to go sixth fastest, five tenths slower than Marquez. The result was thanks to the 33-year-old Briton’s dogged determination and hard work, following a challenging Friday and ninth place in this morning FP3 outing. As usual, Crutchlow dug deep this afternoon, when it really mattered.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who won the Moto2 race here in 2016, has had another strong weekend. The 27-year-old from Chiba fought back from a difficult Friday to finish the first three practice sessions an excellent fifth fastest, only four tenths of a second behind pace-setter Fabio Quartararo. Nakagami just about repeated that performance in qualifying, going sixth fastest, but that lap was cancelled because he had fractionally exceeded track limits at the chicane, so he ended up with eighth fastest time, to put himself in the middle of the third row.
Tomorrow’s MotoGP race will be preceded by a lap of honour by two Honda racing legends, the climax to this weekend’s celebrations of Honda’s 60th anniversary of World-Championship racing.
Kunimitsu Takahashi, who in 1960 became the first Japanese rider to win a Grand Prix race, will ride a Honda RC142, the machine with which Honda began its world-class racing adventure at the 1959 Isle of Man TT. And five-times 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan will ride a 1989 Honda NSR500, which Eddie Lawson rode to that year’s 500cc world title.
At the end of Assen race day the paddock will pack up in a hurry to travel to the Sachsenring for next weekend’s German Grand Prix.