NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro showed he will be a force to be reckoned with at this weekend’s Dutch TT after the Spaniard set a new Circuit Best Lap time of 1’33.658 at the Assen circuit. Espargaro was second quickest in the morning’s Free Practice 1 session behind his brother, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro, but Aleix improved again in the afternoon Free Practice 2 session to head the field using the combination of the soft compound slicks front and rear. His stunning lap saw him top the combined times by 0.211 seconds over Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez who was second quickest. Third quickest on the first day of action at Assen was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa with a personal best lap time of 1’34.069.
After a cool start to the day, sunny conditions boosted track temperatures to a peak measurement of 43°C at the end of FP2. The low track temperatures in FP1 resulted in almost every rider utilising the extra-soft front slick for this session, before all the riders switched to either the soft or medium front slick for FP2. For both of today’s sessions, most riders preferred their softer rear slick option; medium for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders, and soft for the Open-class and Ducati riders. If dry conditions present themselves tomorrow, it is expected that some riders, particularly from the Factory Honda and Yamaha teams will evaluate their harder rear slick options.
In addition to Aleix Espargaro setting a new Circuit Best Lap record, the top eleven riders on combined times today were quicker than the race record lap time of 1’34.548 — a strong indicator that a dry race on Saturday could be run at record pace. However, the forecast for the rest of the weekend indicates a chance of rain, with ambient temperatures similar to today.
“I love Assen and I didn’t expect to be so fast from the first day. It’s a great satisfaction to sign the new Circuit Best Lap, especially on this legendary track. I’m confident as we have a good rhythm with both soft and hard tyres and tomorrow we will keep on working with the soft tyre, that can be an option here for the race. Our target is to finish tomorrow on the front row. We arrive after a very positive race in Barcelona and we want to continue in this direction”.
“Today went pretty well and I’m happy, because last year we suffered a lot at this track. I think is a good track for both Honda and Yamaha; they were better here last year but maybe this year we have taken a step forward and I feel very comfortable and happy with the pace that I have. We’ll see tomorrow, because it seems that we’re not so strong in the low temperatures, but I am convinced that we can match the competitors level”.
“Today we were fortunate to have two dry sessions here in Assen. In the morning the track was cooler but in the afternoon we had a very good track temperature, which allowed us to improve our feeling a little and in general we had good conditions for riding. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what condition the track is in, and then hope for a good qualifying session”.
“This morning with low temperatures and a soft tyre in front we didn’t have any problems but in the afternoon we found some issues. We don’t have enough weight on the front so for tomorrow we will try to put more on to solve this problem without compromising the rear. We’ve made the bike more stable to improve the pace but it’s still not perfect, we need to make further adjustments to make some tenths. Let’s see if the weather stays the same so we can solve the problems. The bike is a little better, I was expecting more but we still have to work on it. I hope the sunshine stays as we need to find two or three tenths more.”
“I’m just in seventh place but we are all very close. I’m not so bad, especially in the last exit we modified the bike and I was able to improve my lap time, which is positive. We have to work a lot because after three or four laps the rear starts to move a lot and we have to slow the rhythm. For tomorrow this is the target, to improve the bike, especially the rear to use the tyres and get ready for qualifying so we can start in the top five.”
“Overall I am very pleased with how the first day of practice in Assen has gone. The settings and speed we found through our work at the post Barcelona GP test has been carried straight over to this round and I have been able to ride comfortably and at pace from the start. There weren’t too many modifications that needed to be undertaken today but we still tried a few settings for both the rear and the front of the bike to increase stability for this high speed track, especially when compared to the layout of Barcelona. However, now we will use this afternoon to analyse today’s data to make further steps of progress, to be prepared for what will be a tough contest in qualifying.”
“Today has been a really positive opening to the weekend here in Assen and I can’t deny that it was nice to finish the morning session on the top of the timesheets for the very first time in MotoGP. Now we will keep working hard to one day be in the same position on a Sunday afternoon. However, the big positive from today is that our rhythm is very close to my fastest lap time as I didn’t really manage to squeeze the last bit out of my bike and me during my fast lap. But I did the whole session on my own and normally it’s not easy for me to understand the right line during the very first day so I am truly pleased and convinced that we still have plenty of margin to improve tomorrow.”
“Like in Mugello and Montmelo, here we have several fast corners, where we are struggling a lot, but today we tried different settings in order to improve my feeling and actually now I feel more comfortable. Our position in the timesheets doesn’t tell all the truth: I could have been was faster, but I couldn’t prove it because I found a lot of traffic and I was not able to make one clean lap. Therefore, I’m confident ahead of tomorrow because my feeling on the bike is much better right now. Today we also used some new braking parts tested in the Barcelona post-race test: we are talking about small details, but for us they are very important to make a little step forward. Tomorrow we will continue to work to improve cornering and we will se what we can do”.
“This morning was good, and also the afternoon session was not bad! The only thing is that this circuit has a lot of very fast corners and the bike is always spinning and wheeling… I went straight this morning on Turn 6 and I had a very scary time because you realize how fast you are going only when you go off the track! We are struggling a little bit on Sector 1, but in the other sectors the situation is not bad. I have a little bit of chatter in the front end, and we also need to find some more rear grip, but overall I’m very happy with the bike and I think the guys of the team are happy as well”.
“We did a good job today and I am quite satisfied, especially if I compare the feeling I have here this year with what I had twelve months ago. We did some tests with both bikes, but the changes to the set-up didn’t give the expected results and so we reverted to what we had before. My time was good even though it wasn’t a perfect lap, but I did two almost identical laps and this is a good sign. I’m quite happy therefore with the bike’s feeling, a bit less because of the fact that there are a lot of very quick riders out there. It was important to get into the top ten because of the risk of rain tomorrow.”
“It’s been a tough day. After our usual briefing yesterday the plan was to just ride the bike today and not make so many adjustments with the settings. But I didn’t feel too comfortable, the lap time is too far away from the other guys and the other Ducati riders. We will have to improve a lot to get into the top ten tomorrow. I feel a bit at the limit with the front of the bike, so now we have to investigate the data to understand the reason why.”
“We made a couple of changes to have more load on the front and we tried some new things. We improved a bit the set up and I feel more comfortable, but the biggest improvement comes from me. I have been racing here for almost 20 years both in WSBK and MotoGP, I know all the braking points, the references, but I need to start fresh and get the best possible result with this bike”.
MotoGP Assen 2014 Combined Free Practice time
- 1. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’33.653
- 2. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’33.864
- 3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’34.069
- 4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’34.148
- 5. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Pramac Racing 1’34.277
- 6. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3 1’34.286
- 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’34.286
- 8. Pol EspargarÃ² (SPA) Monster Yamaha Tech3 1’34.408
- 9. Stefan Bradl (GER) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’34.457
- 10. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team 1’34.460
- 11. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Go&Fun Honda Gresini 1’34.466
- 12. Scott Redding (GBR) Go&Fun Honda Gresini 1’35.445
- 13. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Ducati Team 1’35.469
- 14. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Energy T.I. Pramac Racing 1’35.537
- 15. Colin Edwards (USA) NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’35.590
- 16. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Drive M7 Aspar 1’35.787
- 17. Nicky Hayden (USA) Drive M7 Aspar 1’35.891
- 18. Karel Abraham (CZE) Cardion AB Motoracing 1’35.925
- 19. Brok Parkes (AUS) Paul Bird Motorsport 1’36.046
- 20. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Racing 1’36.270
- 21. Michael Laverty (GBR) Paul Bird Motorsport 1’36.280
- 22. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Octo Iodaracing Team 1’36.657
- 23. Mike Di Meglio (FRA) Avintia Racing 1’36.724