Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) was Honda’s top-performing rider at Assen today, putting his RC213V on the fourth row of the grid after placing 12th quickest in this afternoon’s qualifying session.
Assen is MotoGP’s longest-established venue. It has hosted motorcycle races since the 1920s and is the only circuit remaining from the inaugural 1949 season of motorcycle World Championship racing.
Nakagami had good reason to expect a better grid position after an excellent FP3 session this morning, which he finished fourth quickest, less than two tenths of a second off the best lap time. That suggested the 31-year-old from Chiba and 2016 Assen Moto2 winner had a great chance of fighting for a position on the first two rows in Q2, but he was out of luck because he had to slow for yellow warning flags and then had his fastest lap cancelled for exceeding track limits, so he ended the session in 12th.
Honda’s usual line-up of four MotoGP riders was reduced to three this morning when Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) withdrew from the event due to injuries sustained during practice for last weekend’s German Grand Prix. The 30-year-old Spaniard fell heavily at Sachsenring, injuring his ribs. He bravely elected to race but retired early, because he was in extreme pain and struggling to breathe.
Despite constant treatment over the last few days Espargaro’s injury was still a huge problem yesterday, so this morning he decided together with his team that it would be better not to race tomorrow and instead focus on recovering during the championship’s mid-season break, which starts on Monday. Espargaro had already shown great courage, setting third-fastest time in the wet Friday morning session.
Espargaro’s exit leaves Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) the lone rider in the Repsol Honda garage for the rest of the weekend. Bradl, who is usually Honda’s MotoGP test rider and is currently deputising for six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), qualified 18th fastest.
Yesterday was dominated by rain, with FP3 the first fully dry session for MotoGP riders. Like everyone else the 32-year-old German only really had this morning to get up to speed for qualifying. He was 22nd at the end of FP3, so he did well to move forward several paces during qualifying.
Latest weather forecasts suggest that the 2022 Dutch TT will take place on a dry track and Bradl’s intention is clear, to make up for a difficult German GP by finishing inside the points.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will start the 11th race of this year’s 20-round MotoGP World Championship from 21st on the grid. Assen is arguably MotoGP’s most complex circuit and this is only Marquez’s second MotoGP weekend at the track, with the first two sessions spoiled by rain, so he hasn’t had an easy time getting up to speed. Also, there was a misunderstanding between him and his crew regarding bike set-up for qualifying.
Marquez was unable to finish the German GP, which ended a fine run of point-scoring finishes at each of the five previous GPs, including a superb seventh place in Portugal. Tomorrow he will aim to start another long run of points scores.
This year’s Dutch TT is the fourth race in five weekends and precedes a five-week mid-season break, created by the cancellation of next month’s Finnish GP. The championship resumes with the British GP at Silverstone on August 7.