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The last week of June means one only thing for the MotoGP™ World Championship: the Dutch TT. Even though this season the long tradition of racing on Saturday will be broken, the home of motorcycle racing in the Netherlands remains soaked in history. Featuring strongly in the story is the Aspar Team, who have celebrated no fewer than ten wins at this track since Jorge Martínez ‘Aspar’ stepped onto the top step of the podium for the first time in his career there on 30th June 1984.
‘Aspar’ took a total of five wins at Assen, his most successful circuit during an illustrious career. He had more victories at the Spanish and Italian Grands Prix, but in those days the events were shared between different circuits (Jarama and Jerez for Spain; Misano, Imola, Monza and Mugello for Italy), so none of them witnessed as much success for the Spanish rider as the famous Dutch TT track.
The 1988 season was the best of Jorge Martínez's career and Assen was arguably his finest day. He had won there twice before, on the way to his first two world titles, but on 25th June 1988 “Aspar” achieved a Grand Prix career first: two race wins on the same day.
Reports from that day all highlight the difficulty of the achievement and at the time the rider himself admitted that it had not been an easy ride. “There was a moment when I started to think I couldn't win,” he said, reflecting on the 125cc race. “My whole body was hurting. I don't know where I got the strength from but I was able to increase the rhythm and escape.” Even after all these years, the Valencian remembers every detail of that famous day.
"They had to lift me off the bike at the finish, I almost passed out" Jorge 'Aspar' Martinez
“It was a very tough day,” he recalls. “At the start of that week in Alzira I ate a cuttlefish sandwich with mayonnaise in a bar and got food poisoning. I travelled to Barcelona with a fever and met up with the team and as soon as I got to Holland they put me on a drip. I was left very weak and if I thought the 80cc race was tough, I didn't even think I would make the end of the 125cc race. They had to lift me off the bike at the finish, I almost passed out.”
This, of course, was an era when it was commonplace to race in two different categories, or even three, on the same day. “They were different times, different tracks, different bikes. The riders were different, the margins were bigger and you could do it. The more professional things have become, everything has changed and it gets harder every year. I was the last rider to contest two races in a day, in 1993 at Mugello in 125cc and 250cc.”
The head of the Aspar Team remembers Assen as “a talisman circuit, the Cathedral of motorcycling. They used to say that a win there was worth half a title. It is where I won my first Grand Prix and my memory of that is spectacular. It had a surface with incredible grip, even though seventy or eighty percent of it was not a permanent circuit but public roads. It was brutal, very technical, with no run-off or curbs – just asphalt and grass.”
Five wins as the Aspar Team
From 1988 it was another sixteen years before an Aspar Team rider repeated victory at Assen. Argentinean rider Sebastian Porto, on the Aprilia Aspar 250, claimed the 2004 250cc Dutch TT on his way to second place overall in the championship. Porto would go on to repeat his victory in the quarter-litre class the following season.
Twenty years on from that famous double for the team boss, there was another one for the Aspar Team at Assen. In 2008 Gabor Talmacsi took the honours in the 125cc class, before Álvaro Bautista followed up an hour or so later in the 250cc race.
Finally, the tenth victory for the team at Assen came in 2009, with what would prove to be the final victory in the career of Sergio Gadea. On the podium, incidentally the 200th for the Aspar Team, he was joined by Nico Terol and his team-mate Julián Simón, although a retrospective penalty for Terol lifted Bradley Smith to third place to secure a podium lockout for the Aspar Team.
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