Assen TT kicks off with glorious Dutch sunshine

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Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were able to begin their Dutch weekend unaffected by the predicted rain.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were able to begin their Dutch weekend unaffected by the predicted rain as sunshine and warm weather set the scene for the first Assen TT practice sessions.

Both riders were quick to find pace in the first morning session, enjoying what is a favourite circuit for the two. Lorenzo and Rossi were consistently among the fastest riders in the session, ending with Lorenzo third, 0.206 seconds from first and Rossi sixth, 0.444 seconds from the front.

The afternoon practice saw more of the same from Lorenzo, the Spanish rider consistently in the top four and wrapping up the final practice of the day in fourth in the combined times, 0.495 from first.

Teammate Rossi worked on two different settings in the afternoon session and he ended the day in seventh in the combined times, 0.633 seconds from first.

Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Bradley Smith kicked off proceedings in a firm and encouraging manner to clinch 5th position in the morning's overcast yet dry practice session with his time only 0.385 behind his teammate who topped FP1. The clouds withdrew in the afternoon and glorious sunshine soaked the 4542 metre legendary Assen circuit where Smith persevered to notably improve his morning time by over 6 tenths of a second which meant that it was also quicker than last year's pole position.

The 23-year-old British rider set his best time with his Yamaha YZR-M1 around the fast flowing track on his 20th and final FP2 lap which resulted in him being just over two tenths of a second from 3rd position and in 6th position. Smith's strong start to the weekend sees him prepared and geared up for tomorrow's qualifying session, illustrating his clear intentions to finish round 8 of the Moto GP world championship as the leading satellite bike.

Pol Espargaro began the opening practice period in superb form by finishing in 1st position after setting a phenomenal time of 1.34,530 which was a just over a tenth away from last year's pole position time. Furthermore, the reigning Moto2 world champion blazed through the speed trap at 312.7 kilometres per hour to set the quickest speed of the weekend so far.

In the afternoon session Espargaro who visits the Iveco Daily TT Assen Grand prix for the first time aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, continued his confident streak to set a best time of 1.34,408, only slightly over one tenth of a second back from his teammate. With his pace already up to speed, the 23-year-old Catalan is confident to be able to compete for another top grid spot in qualifying tomorrow.

The Dutch TT couldn’t start better for the NGM Forward Racing Team on the legendary Assen racetrack with Aleix Espargaro on top of the time sheets. With a superb 1’33.653, Espargaro also signed the new Circuit Best Lap that belonged to Casey Stoner (1’33.713) from 2012.

Aleix, who will celebrate his 150th GP this weekend, was able to find a good set up and ride fast quickly in the morning session, setting the second fastest time behind his brother Pol, while his team mate closed 12th.

Espargaro further improved in the afternoon riding with good rhythm with both soft and hard tyres. In the FP2 Colin Edwards continued to work on the set up of the machine, improving the confidence and he finally closed in 15th place with 1’35.590.

Jorge Lorenzo (4th / 1'34.148 / 19 laps): “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.”

Valentino Rossi (7th / 1'34.286 / 21 laps): “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.”

Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director: “A positive first day here in Assen, we were able to work well and put together a good base set up. The pace is good, tyre life also. For sure we still have some things to adjust but overall things are ok. Most likely we won’t be able to benefit from today’s work because it looks like rain is coming for the rest of the weekend. It’s raining for everybody though so we will all start from zero together. We will work to be ready and give our best.”

Bradley Smith (6th / 1'34.286 / Laps : 41): "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."

Pol Espargaro (8th / 1'34.408 / Laps : 43): "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."

Aleix Espargaro (1st / 1'33.653): “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”.

Colin Edwards (15th / 1'35.590): “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”.

Yamaha Racing

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About this article
Series MOTOGP
Article type Practice report
Tags aleix espargaro, assen, bradley smith, colin edwards, jorge lorenzo, motogp, pol espargaro, valentino rossi