This year the circuit,which is situated south of Gronigen in north Holland, has been slightly reduced to 5.997 kms. For many riders the track and it's unique banked curves is the ultimate challenge. Although there are no long straights the average speed for a lap is still the fastest of all grand prix venues.
Vast crowds have been attracted over the years to watch the riders race through the succession of fast flowing bends such as Haarbotch and Ramshoek. The circuit and facilities have constantly been updated.This year a new 'floating' grandstand has been built over the gravel trap at the chicane leading into the start and finish straight.
World Champion Valentino Rossi won the race last year after a tremendous battle with Sete Gibernau in which they touched on the last lap. Gibernau won the previous year with Rossi victorious in 2002. Max Biaggi won for Yamaha a year earlier but it was the Honda Pons team
who dominated in 2000. In a race which was run in two parts because of the rain, current Camel Honda rider Alex Barros won a superb victory riding the NSR Honda, with his team-mate Loris Capirossi third, despite competing with a broken hand.
Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda team-mate to Barros, also has happy memories at Assen, with a winning double in 2001 clinching the Australian the World Superbike Championship.
Assen is the last classic grand prix venue remaining on the MotoGP calendar. Fans from all over Europe will flock to 'the Cathedral' on Saturday.As for the last 80 years the only thing that could spoil their ultimate enjoyment of such a unique event , could be the weather.
FROM THE SADDLE
“Assen is one of the tracks I like best, for lots of reasons. I love technical and tough circuits, and this is one of those ‘par excellence’. It’s tight, there aren’t many reference points, there’s
off-camber bends, so you need to be precise in your riding, because you’re not going straight at any point. It’s just a sequence of curves and changes of direction which all link in to each other and it requires a lot of physical effort, especially in your arms. I’m happy to be getting back into form after the Le Mans crash because I want to enjoy myself in Assen and have a good race at the front for a crowd who love our sport profoundly.”
“I was disappointed to not be able to use the test day after the Grand Prix in Barcelona due to the rain, because I would have liked to have continued to work on the bike’s set-up, In the race weekend we did some good things, but I need to make further progress so I can ride as I want. We’ll try and get this in Assen, a physically challenging track, and has the sort of characteristics that most of us riders really appreciate.”
Length: 5.997 kms
Pole Position: Left.
Right corners: 14.
Left corners: Nine
Longest straight: 0.603 km
Lap record: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1m59.472s - 181.609 km/h
Pole time 2004: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1m58.758s - 182.701 km/h.
Race winner 2004: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 38m11.831s - 179.877 km/h
2004 results Alex Barros and Troy Bayliss.
The Assen circuit one of the longest in the MotoGP World Championship and it also has the highest average lap speed. The average lap speed recorded last year was an impressive 181.157 km/h. This average speed is three km/h more than the next fastest circuit, the Australian track of Phillip Island, with an average speed of 177.785 km/h.
Hard rear suspension settings are commonplace at the Assen circuit. The track surface has been built to evacuate surface water as efficiently as possible and as a result the camber on the track is extremely pronounced; in other words there is a significant height difference between the centre and the edges of the track. Since there are various sections of the circuit where a series of corners are taken as if it were in a straight line, the rider must travel from one edge of the track to the other and this action means that the bike travels at great speed from the lower edge of the track, up and over the camber and back down to the other edge, rather like a roller-coaster ride.
Since the bike is travelling at high speeds, the rear suspension moves through nearly all its full movement and so hard springs must be used. This can often lead to serious crashes particularly due to the high speeds reached. The choice of rear suspension is conditioned by a series of fast, banked corners that make the rear springs work a lot.
To give an idea of the pressure on the rear shocks at this circuit, in certain corners there is as much as 650 kg of pressure exerting through the corner on the shock absorber. However, the front suspension, which is normally conditioned by the sharp braking, is set to very soft. This circuit is probably the one where the brakes are least used and practically all the braking points are preceded by open corners that the rider approaches by softly braking and easing off on the throttle. Since the carbon discs of standard size normally used do not reach an optimum working temperature in Assen, many teams prefer to fit much smaller discs so that they reach the desired temperature more quickly and work more efficiently.
The only relatively sharp braking point is the chicane coming onto the main straight, and even though it is not particularly sharp, it is one of the most spectacular points on the track since the outcome of many races are decided at this last passing point before the finish line.
Another important factor at the Dutch circuit is the weather. A high percentage of recent Grands Prix have been rain-affected. One advantage however at this circuit is that it has good levels of grip, even in wet conditions, and the pronounced camber on the track stops puddles being formed.
Regarding gear settings in Assen, all the gears are used so ensuring the right ratio setting is vital to achieve a good race result. The first gear is only used in the De Strubben corner and it is very important to pick up speed onto the rear straight. However, the second gear is used in practically all other slow corners like the Haarbotcht, Madijk, Ossebroeken, Stekkenwal, De Bult, Mandeveen and the famous chicane before the straight called the Geert Timmer Bocht. The third gear ratio is the only one that can be modified since the fourth is also used in the Meeuwenmeer and Ramshoek corners. Sixth must be set bearing in mind that it is used in the two straights and although the top speeds reached are very similar on each straight, we must always sacrifice one of them to optimize the maximum speed on the other.