Moto GP Championship returns to its oldest venue this weekend, but while the Dutch TT remains one of the biggest races of the season, the legendary Assen circuit is no longer the daunting challenge that it once was with the whole Northern Loop making way for a new car park and grandstands.
The 75th edition of the Dutch TT will represent the dawn of a new era for the Assen circuit following the decision to shorten its length from 5.997m to a more traditional 4,750m, pulling it in line with the majority of other race tracks in MotoGP.
Riders will no longer battle to beat the legendary two-minute barrier, the S-Curve, Witterdiep, Madijk and Ossebroeken corners are no more and the spirit and history of Assen has been lost forever.
“In the past Assen was one of my favourite tracks and it was always a great, great emotion to ride a MotoGP bike at the limit there,” explains five-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi. “Sadly the track has been changed so I am not as excited about it as usual, because it seems from reports that some of the ‘Assen magic’ has gone.”
However, all is not lost as designers have done their best to retain Assen’s flowing characteristics by replacing the Northern Loop with a series of corners that incorporates the existing Haarbocht, Ossebroeken and Strubben corners.
The Haarbocht corner will have a tighter angle as it opens out into a stadium section similar to the long opening corner at Shanghai, incorporating the old Ossebroeken corner, which has been brought in, and linking up with the old Strubben curve.
“It will be interesting to see how the track is without the Northern Loop because that was a very characteristic section of the circuit, with high camber and left-right switches,” says Andrea Zugna, Data Engineer for Colin Edwards.
“I suppose the first section of the circuit will now be similar to China, with a series of tight right-handers from turns one to four causing strain on the right hand side of the tyre, and that will also make it physically demanding on the riders.”
The Texan Tornado is also a fond admirer of the old course, as it will now be called, for he has won numerous races there from his Superbike days. “Like a lot of the riders I have a lot of affection for the old Assen circuit and I hope it hasn’t lost too much of its character,” he said.
Ducati d’Antin rider Alex Hofmann has been offered the opportunity of his career following the news that he has been called up to replace the injured Sete Gibernau on the official Ducati Desmosedici GP06 at this weekend’s Dutch TT at Assen.
The German rider spent two years with the Bridgestone-shod Kawasaki team before losing his place to Frenchman Randy de Puniet. His MotoGP career looked in doubt before Luis d’Antin offered him a ride on the satellite Dunlop-shod Ducati Desmosedici this season.
Despite switching tyre manufacturers, Hofmann has good knowledge of the bike and the Bridgestone and is eager to get to Assen. “I’m excited and so happy! Having the possibility to race on the official DucatiDesomosedici is an unbelievable opportunity and I will give it 100%.
“I know this motorcycle well, I also know the evolution level of the Bridgestone tyres that I developed until the Valencia GP of the 2005 Championship, with which I had a good feeling that I hope to get back from the first laps I will make in Assen,” he added.
Hofmann will be replaced by Spanish rider Ivan Silva, who riders for the Luis d’Antin’s team in the Extreme category of the Spanish Championship.