Google Ads
martes, septiembre 19, 2023
HomeMotorcyclesAssen Friday MotoGP Round Up: Finding Speed, Quartararo Tempering Expectations, And Ducati's...

Assen Friday MotoGP Round Up: Finding Speed, Quartararo Tempering Expectations, And Ducati’s New Exhaust |

Google Ads

Is Assen going to be another Ducati-fest? Possibly. Marco Bezzecchi was fastest, and there were three Ducatis in the top four, five Ducatis in the top ten. But those bare numbers flatter the Italian factory: the other two Ducatis in the top ten were Luca Marini and Alex Marquez in ninth and tenth, with two KTMs, two Aprilias and a Yamaha in between them.

It’s not just that there is a good mix of bikes in the top ten. The gaps between them are minuscule. From Jorge Martin in second to Luca Marini in ninth, the gap is just over a quarter of a second. Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo, Brad Binder are all separated by a few hundredths. This is looking very close so far.

Marco Bezzecchi dominated the timesheets on Friday, fast in both the morning and afternoon, and fast on both old and new tires. The Mooney VR46 rider started off well, and got better as the day went on. «The base that Matteo put the bike was already quite good I felt comfortable since the beginning,» he told us. They changed the bike in the afternoon, and while it was better, Bezzecchi was still working to get completely comfortable with the bike.

Speed aplenty

Even without those changes, Bezzecchi was fast. This is a track he always goes well at. «My riding style is good for fast corners. On slow corners I always have to work more to be closer to the other riders. On fast corners it is always natural for me,» the Mooney VR46 rider said.

Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia were not so happy in the morning, despite ending up second and fourth in the afternoon. «In the morning I didn’t feel so well with the front end of the bike,» Jorge Martin told us. «I was struggling a bit in the fast corners. But finally we did some changes. And I improve in the afternoon. Even on Sector 4 I was the first. So I feel confident.»

Bagnaia felt positively miserable in the morning. «It was a long time ago that I was angry like this on my bike,» the factory Ducati rider told us. «I was struggling a lot and did not know why. The bike was shaking like crazy and when I went out for the first exit I was so tired to ride.» It was obvious just how difficult the morning session had been when Bagnaia pulled back into the pits with a couple of minutes of the session left. He had been on a quick lap, but a vicious shake through Hoge Heide and Ramshoek had sucked the joy out of riding, and forced him to pull back into the pits.

They had started with the setup from last year, the settings which had brought Bagnaia the win, and had set him on the path to the 2022 MotoGP crown. Those settings hadn’t worked with the GP23, however. «The bike looks so different at this track,» Bagnaia said. They made some changes in the afternoon which helped Bagnaia improve both his outright lap time and his pace, the factory Ducati rider easily the quickest rider on used tires.

The changes had made the Ducati Desmosedici more stable through the fast corners, Bagnaia explained. «I don’t like it when the bike is so nervous. I like to have more stability, so maybe a longer bike but when you also have a longer bike the grip is so low and it’s like a truck. So to change direction it was important to find a balance. We just tried to…I asked for more stability and more weight on the front and we reached a good setup.»

Bagnaia has the advantage of not having to chase a quick lap time in the morning, to concentrate on working on setup in Practice 1, and waiting for Practice 2 to chase a spot in Q2. «I prefer not to make the time attack in the morning, because if you do it then, then you filter the problems of the bike,» the Italian said. «It is better to keep riding with the same tires and see clearly where is the drop and where you can improve riding.»

Doing that requires confidence, however. The belief that a top ten time is always within reach, and also that the weather forecast is entirely reliable. After overnight rain on Thursday, which left the track a big green, the weather has been bright and sunny, and the forecast is for nigh on perfect conditions.

Google Ads

The one thing everyone complained about was a lack of grip, especially in the morning. «I really like the track but the grip was not so high, especially with the medium tire,» Fabio Quartararo said. «In the morning, I was spinning a lot and that’s a symptom that the grip is not so good,» Jorge Martin agreed. «And then in the afternoon, I felt a bit better. So I think that the track is getting clean and I feel like every day we are going to be faster and faster.»

The lack of grip, combined with a slight mismatch in front tire choice, made for a lot of crashes. There were 26 crashes on Friday, more than double the 12 which occurred here last year. Augusto Fernandez, Miguel Oliveira, Enea Bastianini, and Johann Zarco crashed in the morning on the medium front and rear, while Marc Marquez and Augusto Fernandez (again) crashed in the afternoon.

There was a lot of concern about front tires. Michelin are trapped in the system of having to choose the tires for the full year at the beginning of the season, and so have to try to find a mixture of tires which will work across the full range of temperatures which can occur at a particular race track. Assen is one of those places where it can vary wildly, with temperatures in the morning sometimes barely cracking 10°C, or, as this weekend, likely to exceed 30°C on Sunday.

The front tire is the biggest bone of contention. Michelin have three compounds: the soft, or P; the medium, or K; and a new hard, G, which is between the more commonly used hard tire, the H, and the K medium. The problem is, the riders say, the K simply hasn’t worked very well this year, especially compared to what they were expecting from last year. And the G is closer to a medium and a hard, which means it is both not different enough from the K medium at Assen, and not hard enough to cope with the scorching temperatures expected. All the work done on tire setup on Friday will probably have to be thrown in the trash by the time Sunday comes around.

The wind at Assen is always a factor, and this weekend is no different. There were strong and gusty winds from the northeast on Friday, making life difficult for the riders. «It was a bit tricky this afternoon with that cross wind, turn six was pretty dodgy, front was bouncing around quite a bit, but then turn seven was unreal,» Jack Miller told us on Friday afternoon. «You just let go. Didn’t even touch the brakes just hang off the side of the bike and she’d blow in. Makes you feel like a legend in some corners and like a beginner in others!»

Both KTMs seemed to be working well, though their race pace looks to be a bit behind that of Pecco Bagnaia. Jack Miller’s crew had lifted the front of his bike a little to make it work a bit better in the long corners, explained. «My whole career I’ve ridden a bike that’s very down in the front, compared to a lot of the other guys that ride the bike, whether it’s Ducati or Honda or now KTM,» the Australian explained. «So just trying to rotate the bike back around but also keeping my body position in the right spot. That keeps me comfortable and able to push.»

That changed had made a material difference, he said. «Now it feels good,» Miller told us. «The bike, I was quite keen to see what it would do here in terms of this high speed changing directions. Because the bike is quite nimble, quite agile at high speed and I think here in Assen it’s probably one of the faster change of directions that we have on the calendar. The bikes working really well, it’s reacting really well once I put it on the other side of the tire.»

Two riders who are fast with race pace are Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo. They don’t appear to quite have the pace of Bagnaia, but they are clearly in the second group behind the world champion. Quartararo was urging caution, however, especially as he was struggling with his foot. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider had ridden without painkillers in the morning, before realizing he would be better off taking them in the afternoon.

Curb your enthusiasm

The fear for Quartararo was that being quick straight away left them with nowhere to improve. «Hopefully we can make something great tomorrow,» the Frenchman said. «We know that on Friday we are well but on Saturday and Sunday the others make big steps, so I hope we can make a small one tomorrow.»

Quartararo was tempering his enthusiasm, however. «It is the same bike as before,» the Monster Energy Yamaha rider pointed out. «In this track, yes, we have always been super-fast so hopefully we can get the best of ourself from tomorrow and if we can qualify on the first two rows then this would be great.»

Marc Marquez’s ambitions are even less ambitious at Assen. After five crashes at the Sachsenring, including the warm up crash where he broke a rib in his upper right chest, the Repsol Honda rider was mostly concentrating on regaining his confidence, rather than chasing fast times. The broken rib was hampering any attempt at quick time, as it was painful to apply any force through his pectoral muscles. Such as, for example, applying pressure on the handlebars to oppose the kind of forces that occur under braking.

Caution vs valor

Withdrawing from Assen was not an option, as the dent his confidence had taken at the Sachsenring would stay with him throughout the summer break unless he rode here. «I mean, I’m competing because I haven’t been racing for one month and half,» the Spaniard told us. «And with the feeling of Sachsenring, to be two months without the bike, believe me that’s not the best for a rider.»

«So I need this weekend,» Marc Marquez reiterated. «I need it for the mental side. I need to keep riding, keep going and of course, when you have a difficult moment, it’s not like there is motivation. Motivation is not there, but you need to keep your routines. You need to keep the same way to work. You need to keep it the same way to believe and then believe to change the situation in the future. But at home the situation will never change»

The Honda riders were also providing some feedback for HRC. Both Marc Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami had alternated between the Kalex frame and the HRC chassis for much of the day, much to the irritation of the Japanese rider. Nakagami wanted to focus on just a single chassis, and there wasn’t really enough difference between the Kalex and HRC frames to make a difference.

The biggest step had been the electronics on the Honda RC213V. Test rider Stefan Bradl had tried at new electronics setup at Misano, and that had worked well. Nakagami had used it, and found it to be an improvement. «They had a different idea and I tested it this morning and I liked it,» the LCR Honda rider told us. «It was slightly better. Yeah, after that I kept the different setting on the electronics. It was good.»

KTM had a new tail wing on Jack Miller’s bike. The change is only minor the difference being the point where the wing meets the tail. The side struts are much more shaped, instead of being straight up and down. Brad Binder stuck with the old tail. As tails are outside of the MotoGP aero body as set out in the regulations, KTM are free to do whatever they like with the tails.

Yamaha, meanwhile, had reintroduced the stegosaurus tail again, last seen at the Valencia test last year. Neither Franco Morbidelli nor Fabio Quartararo were convinced they made a huge difference, though. «Not a lot,» the Monster Energy Yamaha rider said. «But we tried them in the Sunday race in Sachsenring and I felt it bit better and also today there was maybe something better but nothing huge.»

At Ducati, they had a duct on the side of the bottom exhaust pipe. It appeared on all of the Ducatis, the GP23s and the GP22s alike, and they have apparently had this alternative exhaust for a couple of years now. It’s just that now, I had a chance to look at it more closely and actually see it.

What’s it for? Hard to say without seeing where the pipe leads beyond just, ‘somewhere behind the fairing’. Former crew chief Chris Pike had a theory, however. The exhaust gases rushing past the pipe at that angle were creating suction, so the pipe would be ideal for extracting pressure from a point where the pressure was higher than expected. Where that is? Hard to say.

Finally, to the future. Will there be a 23rd or 24th rider on the grid in MotoGP next year? Only if there is a new, factory entry, someone with knowledge of the situation informed me. A KTM branding exercise a la GasGas would not stand, I was told.

That leaves KTM with a problem. They must risk losing Pedro Acosta unless they can create a seat by premature retiring Pol or firing Augusto Fernandez for the 2024 season. At the moment, a ride with KTM has not been settled. But you believe it will not be that far off.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting You can help by either taking out a subscription, supporting us on Patreon, by making a donation, or contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to here.

Google Ads


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments