This afternoon’s qualifying session for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of the Netherlands was anything but smooth with rain falling as the clock began its 15-minute countdown.
Movistar Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were quick to leave the pits as the first drops fell but were soon embroiled in a desperate pack of riders attempting to lock down a fast time before the track was too wet. With no clear space for a clean hot lap and grip rapidly disappearing the two returned to the pits with just over five minutes remaining, Lorenzo in ninth with a 1’42.259 and Rossi in 12th with a 1’43.625.
Both returned to the track for a last attempt but the track conditions made it impossible for any improvement. As a result Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s race from the third row in ninth position and Rossi will start from the fourth row in 12th.
Today’s qualifying session was different from the usual MotoGP script with the rain occurring just as the session began, leading all riders to undertake only a couple of laps and in one fierce pack. That did not hinder Bradley Smith’s determination to battle as the leading satellite bike in tomorrow’s race, who skilfully guided his Yamaha YZR-M1 around the fast flowing Assen circuit to 6th place in qualifying. The young British rider produced a firm display today with his performance from yesterday afternoon enabling him to glide straight through to Q2, after this morning’s FP3 session experienced slight rainfall which prevented the riders from improving their lap times. In the second 15 minute shootout session, the 23 year old rider formidably powered through the tricky conditions to produce a best time of 1.40,818 which will see him start tomorrow’s race from the second row. The lap was fractionally off 3rd place by the blink of an eye with a gap of only 0.086 and his positive qualifying leaves the British rider primed to forcefully battle to beat his previous best result this year of 5th in Austin.
Pol Espargaro will begin round 8 of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship from 11th on the grid after having experienced unlucky circumstances during qualifying today. The reigning Moto2 world champion opened proceedings in a truly inspiring manner by clinching 1st place in the dry morning practice session yesterday. He then progressed instantly through to Q2 courtesy of his FP2 time and had to face his first ever wet experience of his young MotoGP career in the most inconvenient moment of the weekend where everything comes down to one lap. He remained resolute in the tricky conditions, before pulling off a lap time of 1.43.085. Nevertheless, the solid rhythm the Spaniard showed over the whole weekend sees him remain determined to storm to success in tomorrow’s 26 lap dash around the 4542 metre ‘cathedral of speed’.
Tomorrow the MotoGP race at the legendary TT Assen will see Aleix Espargaro get away from pole position on the grid, ahead of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa on row one.
After having set the new Circuit Best Lap yesterday, Aleix Espargaro chose the perfect strategy in a qualifying session affected by the rain. He waited the best moment to set a best lap time of 1’38.789, taking his first ever pole position in career.
It was a very special moment for the whole NGM Forward Racing Team and Colin Edwards congratulated his team mate. Aleix’s result was a shiny spot in a difficult day that saw the Texan rider struggling for lack of confidence. Tomorrow Edwards will take the start of the TT Assen from the 6th row (1’35.484).
9th / 1’42.259 / 8 laps
“It was a pity because I think with dry conditions we could stay in first row, but it was dry but spitting in some places like normal Assen circumstances. Like this it’s very difficult to go with slicks and understand the limit of the track. You can feel good in two or three corners and suddenly arrive on one corner and it’s wet and you crash. I tried to let some riders run in first position but they didn’t want to so when we arrived in the last corner I decided to push. Maybe it wasn’t the right strategy. It’s a lesson to learn for the future. The pace is good but obviously it’s not going to be easy to overtake the in theory slower riders tomorrow. I hope to pass some people on the first corners and little by little move up. The race is long and if we have a good pace we can fight for the podium.”
12th / 1’43.625 / 8 laps
“It’s a shame because I was competitive today and in all the practices so I thought I could fight for a good position for tomorrow. Unfortunately we had rain at just the wrong moment and I have to start from the fourth row. This changes a lot and everything will be harder. Jorge is close to me but our competitors are on the front row so it will be hard. On the dry I know I can be competitive, I have a good pace so we have to try the maximum. We improved a lot the stability of the bike for today, so I can push. Especially this afternoon I was really good so I am happy with the pace. We have to wait for tomorrow to see what the conditions are but I hope for a dry race.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Unfortunately this afternoon was a waste. The rain and probably the position of our riders when the rain began to fall compromised the work we’ve done during these two days. The riders are satisfied with the bike setting and the pace is good, so to start from the third and fourth row is not the best place where we would like to be. We have to deal with that and we still believe that we can achieve good results.”
6th / 1’40.818/ Laps 4
“It’s good to get the second row for the race around here tomorrow as the start is always vital to the race whether it’s wet or dry. I am still a little disappointed with myself as I was in a pack of twelve riders and perhaps I should have dropped back so that I could have undertaken the lap on my own without the traffic or distraction of the others. The bike felt good today despite the ever-changing conditions but it was a bit tricky at times. On my only lap, I had a big moment in the last section of the track and at one point I touched the grass so for sure I could have gone faster which is a shame as I painfully close away from my second front row start of the season. Anyway, it’s a decent position to start from and I will use it to get the best possible result tomorrow whatever the weather decides to do.”
11th / 1’43.085 / Laps 6
“I have no words to describe how disappointed I am. The feeling with the bike and the confidence I had this morning had been amazing and until the qualifying session it had probably been my best day on a MotoGP bike. That’s what really upsets me. However, I think we have just been unlucky. In the first and only actual lap I had, I passed Jorge and tried to follow Marc who managed to do a good time. But he then slowed down and hindered my pace in the first sector. I lost too much time before I was able to pass him, so I couldn’t improve my lap time anymore. Afterwards the rain was too intense to lower it further and that’s why we are starting in 11th position. Nevertheless we have to be positive and I am happy to say that in the case of a dry race, we are really competitive even when starting from the fourth row, which will not give us an easy task to ascend up the field.”
1st / 1’38.789
“I’m really happy. It’s so far a perfect weekend: yesterday we set the record of the track, today the pole position and tomorrow it will be a special feeling to take the start of my 150th GP from the first spot of the grid in front of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. We have been fast in all the sessions and when it started to rain at the beginning of the Q2, I decided to wait just 30 seconds to avoid to be packed in the group. It was a risk but it paid and it was the right decision. I want to thank the whole team for the great work”.
“It was a difficult day, I’m struggling a lot as I don’t have the feeling with the front. I want to congratulate the whole team and it was great for Aleix getting the pole position. It’s a shiny spot for everybody and I’m happy for the whole team that is doing a great job”.
2014 MotoGP Netherlands
1 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha ESP 1’38.789
2 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1’40.194
3 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’40.732
4 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1’40.786
5 Cal Crutchlow Ducati GBR 1’40.796
6 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1’40.818
7 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1’41.140
8 Stefan Bradl Honda GER 1’41.982
9 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’42.259
10 Alvaro Bautista Honda ESP 1’42.884
11 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1’43.085
12 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1’43.625
13 Karel Abraham Honda CZE 1’34.907
14 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda JPN 1’34.930
15 Yonny Hernandez Ducati COL 1’35.056
18 Colin Edwards Forward Yamaha USA 1’35.484
(Daniel Pedrosa, 1-1-2010)
Fastest Lap Ever:
(Casey Stoner, 30-6-2012)
Last Years Winner: