Come on, you have to admit it. There can be nothing like race weekend. And heart-stopping, foot-stomping, scream-at-television-worthy racing is best had in twos. Combine The Cathedral (also known as the TT Circuit Assen) with the new kid on the block, Argentina’s Circuito Termas de Rio Hondo, and you know it is a weekend that calls for some quality racing.
Of course, time zones be damned. No wonder then I am sitting up, way past my bedtime, eyelids propped up by matchsticks, and writing. Pardon any garbled English or unwarranted biased ranting. It is the hour, I say!
Hail The Cathedral
Assen played host to the World Superbike Championship this weekend and Friday started off in auspiciously, promising much excitement as Ducati’s Davide Giugliano grabbed the crown of fastest time. In World Supersports Florian Marino left Michael van der Mark and Jules Cluzel a few seconds behind, and played leader. There was no doubt then that Saturday would be fun!
So, Qualifying kicked off to the music of gathering clouds and some promised rain. Loris Baz was the surprise of the day, as the young Frenchman set a blistering pace on his Kawasaki, with a stunning 1’34.357s – a new outright best lap of the circuit. The others trailed behind with Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli taking a second place at the grid, followed by reigning world champion Tom Sykes.
Marco Melandri (Aprilia), Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda) and Davide Giugliano (Ducati) make up the third row. The rain played spoilsport with Rea and his teammate Leon Haslam as the two pitted to change tyres, and headed back out, only to be stopped by a brief rainfall that put paid to any Superpole dreams.
Qualifying for the World Supersport Championship was just as heart stopping with local hero Michael van der Mark and former world champion Kenan Sofuoglu trying their best to outpace Florian Marino. But it wasn’t to be. Marino (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpre) took his career first WSS pole with a lap time of 1.38.106s. van der Mark followed at 2nd place with Sofuoglu (Mahi Team India Kawasaki) completing the first row. Jules Cluzel on the beautiful MV Agusta made up the second row along with Jack Kennedy (CIA Insurance Honda) and Kev Coghlan (DMC Panavto Yamaha).
All was quiet. Time zones remember? But not for long. The sprawling new circuit, designed by Jarno Zaffelli (if you haven’t read our interview, then now is the time!) created quite the buzz. But the real question was: What will Marc Marquez do?
The answer though is simple enough! Clock in the fastest lap if you please and then potter off for a cuppa maybe? Or not. But that’s exactly what happened. The fastest lap bit, not the cuppa.
The young Spaniard came on to the track, set a blistering, mind-blowing, super-fast pace and added Argentina to his 2014 Perfect Pole collection. His time of 1’37.683s was enough to keep him ahead of everyone, including Jorge Lorenzo. Speaking of former world champion, Lorenzo managed to redeem himself post that traumatic jumpstart in Texas (just about…It’s still the fun-nest thing to have happened so far this season) He finished 0.742s behind Marquez and took his first front row position this season at 2nd place. Dani Pedrosa followed close behind at 3rd place, making up the first row.
The others tried really hard to catch up, but it just didn’t work. The second row has Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi on point. Meanwhile Stefan Bradl walked away from a crash and rejoined the Qualifying melee ending up at 9th place.
The last few minutes of the Qualifying were nailbiting – as is always the case, with the riders scrambling for position, pushing their bikes to the limit. But Marc Marquez had always staked his claim to the pole position.
What of the top step of the podium? We will find out soon enough!