This time last year we had no idea what spectacle we were going to be treated to on Sunday. Assen 2018 was one for the ages and now, when we can add rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) into the mix – all of whom didn’t feature at the front in Assen last year – we might just be set for another incredible weekend of MotoGP™ action.
The aforementioned trio were joined by Championship leader and last year’s Dutch GP winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the Motul TT Assen pre-event Press Conference, with the Spaniard mentioning Honda usually struggle a bit in the Netherlands – before last year’s triumph.
“Yeah of course last year we arrive with some doubts. We normally struggle a bit here, Suzuki and Yamaha normally ride in a good way. It was a big group, it was the best race for me and the fans. We won, but more importantly, we had the pace. This was the most important thing, we will try to find this special feeling again. This racetrack is very nice, especially sector 3 and 4 and yeah, try to do the best job Sunday that can be the podium or victory.”
There’s no doubt Marquez will be in the battle for victory barring any unexpected mishaps, and someone who joined him in last year’s scrap was second place finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). He and Suzuki have taken another step forward in 2019 and he’ll be confident of at least repeating his P2 from last year this weekend – if not go one better.
“The key is just go full gas,” commented Rins. “This track looks a good track for Suzuki but also for Yamaha. As you saw last year the group was massive, a lot of riders at the front. We will try our 100%, I enjoy a lot this track and overtaking at the fast corners, but we’ll try do a good job.”
Petrucci is on a hattrick run of podiums in the premier class for the first time in his career and heading into the 2019 Dutch GP, the charismatic Italian is confident he can fight for a fourth straight podium on one of his favourite circuits. Something he’s done before in 2017…
“Yeah, this is one of my favourite circuits. Last year the race didn’t go in our better way but anyway we are in a positive moment, for sure in Barcelona we struggled a bit more than Jerez, Mugello, Le Mans. We managed to score a podium which was important. I have been lucky to escape the big crash but I was quite good to manage the race with Alex (Rins) and Fabio, it was very fast, very difficult to stay there. I think we can fight for the podium.”
After picking up his first premier class podium, Quartararo will be looking to spray the bubbly once more on a track he scored a P2 at in the Moto2™ class in 2018. The Frenchman says he’s feeling “almost 100%” after undergoing arm pump surgery just over a week before the Catalan GP, so the Yamaha rider is in fine shape heading to Assen as he – once more – aims to put a cat amongst the pigeons on Sunday.
“Well my feeling is much better than Barcelona of course, we take out some fluid in the arm but we arrive much better than we expect in Barcelona and here I’m almost 100%, so I’m happy about the recovery,” confirms the 20-year-old.
“For sure we have gained a lot of experience from now to Qatar. It is going on a really good way, we will make the same work here - make a good Friday, to be in the Q2 and bring a good result home.”
Also aiming to be in the podium fight this time around is Miller. The Australian famously won his first MotoGP™ race in Assen during the 2016 campaign and after a very positive start to 2019, there’s no reason why we won’t be seeing the Australian flag on the rostrum again this year.
“Every time we get to about a week away it all I get tagged in on Instagram is me drinking out of my boot so it’s pretty good,” began Miller, talking about his 2016 celebrations. “It’s a track I’ve had success at in the past and I’ve always been pretty quick here, so I like it a lot. Last year was an awesome race, we were just hanging off the back of the group, couldn’t quite bridge the gap, but I got to watch it all unfold. I had front row tickets so hopefully this year we can be involved in it and rub some paint.”
Rubbing some paint is what we saw last year and with the competition even fiercer in 2019, Quartararo, Petrucci and Miller will be hoping to join Marquez, Rins, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP machines of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) – as well as other definite potentials – in fighting for the win on Sunday.
FP1 will give us an early indication as to who we might see at the forefront in Assen, tune in for it at 09:55 local time (GMT+2) on Friday morning to see that session unfold. Can they do it again?