“I think Marquez is the favourite,” says Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) as he debriefs qualifying and looks ahead to the race at the Motul TT Assen. The Italian recovered from a crash in FP4 to get back in the swing of things in style on Saturday, and an incredible Q2 has set us up for a race to remember. And despite the prediction of Marquez’ pace, the rider from Tavullia feels positive about his own speed for Sunday, just looking to refine some details: “It’s really, really close, and three or four different bikes that could try for the win. After Marc, there are three, four or five riders with the same pace – so it will be important to see if we can improve a bit…”
That’ll be the task for Warm Up but with ten wins at the track already, it’s a signature venue for the number 46. Starting from third – something he says is crucial given the tiny margins – could we be headed for another final corner showdown?
“It could be decided at the last corner,” agrees Rossi, “but when we say that…it never happens! Let’s wait and see…”
At Assen, however, it famously does – and did in 2015. One of the first key clashes between the two titans of Rossi and Marquez, it was the Italian that came out on top that day. And Marquez, although he says he expects a group race, says one name first when asked for his key rivals in 2018: “Valentino, Viñales…maybe Crutchlow. But the two Yamahas and Dovizioso. […] Yamaha are very strong here but it’s positive we are there.”
‘There’ could be a little modest, but with the top ten covered by less than four tenths, it may be better to err on the side of caution. Then asked the golden question, however, the Championship leader smiles: “You think I’ll get to the final lap fighting for the win and not try it? If I have the chance, I’ll try!”
Within reason, the number 93 is quick to point out – but he’ll weigh up the possible gain for a win versus the risk. So will we see it all go down to the wire again? Whatever race day brings it’s sure to be another spectacular at Assen, and Marquez may have one ace up his sleeve approaching that Geert Timmer chicane:
“The final sector is my strong point…”
Tune in for the Motul TT Assen from 14:00 (GMT +2).