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The Gauloises TT Assen set for 75th anniversary

The Gauloises TT Assen set for 75th anniversary

The Gauloises TT Assen set for 75th anniversary

There are no two ways about it: the history of the road-racing sport in Europe and of the 80-year history of the Dutch TT go hand in hand. The magic motor races on the TT Circuit Assen have survived all the storms, and the national in-crowd on farm roads in 1925 has developed into the "Cathedral of motor sports" in the 21st century.

It is generally known that the Dutch TT is followed by a long train of traditions, even among motor sports fans in the countries surrounding the Netherlands. The races are always held on Saturday; since 1926 it has virtually been held at the same location, and it is the only Grand Prix that has counted, uninterrupted, for the world championships of the FIM since 1949.

In themselves, these are exceptional facts, because in comparison with Italy, and England and Germany in earlier years, the Netherlands cannot boast a large-scale, influential motor industry. In the small polder land, this country has always depended on a moderate climate and the racing talent is growing primarily on narrow street tracks, where races are held only once per year. The TT Circuit Assen was also a real street track up through 1954, even though it was quite a bit longer than most of the other tracks, with a round exceeding 16 kilometres.

All the best drivers were invited to start in the ‘Grote Prijs van Nederland der KNMW' (The Grand Prix of the Netherlands of the KNMV), because it wasn't until 1971 that the short version of the track, also called ‘Klein-Assen' (Little Assen), was regularly used for national championship races.

These narrow public roads south of Assen were flanked by hundreds of trees until 1955, and celebrities such as Jimmy Guthrie, Dorino Serafini and Georg Meier raced their motorcycles in between at full speed. Already in 1939, the top speeds of the Gileras and compressor BMW's were easily 200 km/hour. Fortunately, there was a natural chicane in the form of a few curves at the Oude Tol, slowing the speeds. In Hooghalen and Laaghalerveen the spectators could almost touch the riders, or as Carlo Ubbiali once said: ‘You saw people's heads on the shoulder on the inside of the curves.'

Ubbiali experienced the transition from the infamous old track to the 7.7 km-long track, which was considered the most modern in the world in 1955. After it moved, the famous atmosphere remained, fortunately. There were still farms on the inside of the track, and spectators still came in great numbers. Indeed, the Dutch TT of Assen was more than a motorcycle race; it was an annual event for many, and the last Saturday in June usually ushered in the holiday period. People came to the picturesque, almost remote province of Drenthe to see the best motorcycle riders in the world in action, close up: International stars in a cosy, rural atmosphere.

After the Second World War, Dick Renooy's unexpected victory on his Dutch Eysink in 1948 was the first sports high point of a Dutch rider, not surpassed until 1968 by Paul Lodewijkx with the 50cc Jamathi. This marked the introduction of great Dutch triumphs with Wil Hartog (500cc - 1977), Jack Middelburg (500cc - 1980) and Hans Spaan (125cc - 1989). Sidecar star Egbert Streuer really put the icing on the cake, by beating both Bernard Schnieders (1987) and Peter Brown (1991) in Assen.

In an international context, the Grand Prix in Assen made a positive figure, even with famous British riders to such as Geoff Duke and John Surtees, even though a riders' strike in 1955 was needed to draw the organizers' attention to the not too generous starting fees that were paid out … It was usually English-speaking celebrities who saw to the striking events at the TT Circuit Assen. Jim Redman (1964) and Mike Hailwood (1967) served up a unique event by winning three GP races with their factory Hondas in one day. However, the record holder with 15 TT wins is the Spaniard Angel Nieto, the great tormentor of the Dutch 50cc stars Aalt Toersen, Jan de Vries and Henk van Kessel.

Mick Doohan almost found Waterloo in Drenthe, while father and son Graziano and Valentino Rossi both managed to win in Assen! The Italians are happy to come to ‘Olanda', but Doohan clearly had a problem with it, because he felt that the unique racetrack with the ‘banked' curves no longer fit in with modern times. Growing along with international developments in sports is the crucial factor that all organizers must deal with today. The MotoGP is a popular worldwide event, and Asian countries are making eyes. Over the last few years, TT Assen has worked hard to upgrade the total accommodation, primarily focused on the safety of the track and the facilities for the riders, teams and sponsors. Since 2002 they have primarily invested in facilities for the spectators, such as the stands and parking places. The end is not in sight as yet, because the shortening and refurbishing of the North Loop for the next phase, which will begin in September 2005 and which will be ready for the 76th TT of Assen in 2006.

The 75th Dutch TT of Assen will be held on Saturday 25 June as a public event occupying a unique place within and outside of the motorcycle world, and the TT Circuit Assen is once again the only track where all three World Championship disciplines (MotoGP, World Superbikes and World Endurance) have found accommodation, thus adding yet another unique chapter to racing history.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2005, GAULOISES TT ASSEN

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