Live updates from Friday’s pair of MotoGP free practice sessions at Assen!
The first half of an unpredictable 2021 MotoGP season reaches its halfway stage at Assen this weekend, having seen five different riders and four different manufacturers take victory in the eight rounds so far.
The most winner was Marc Marquez and Honda, the eight time world champion making an emotional return to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2019.
By contrast, Maverick Vinales finished 19th and last, but it was the Factory Yamaha rider who triumphed over present title leader and team-mate Fabio Quartararo during MotoGP last visit to the historic Assen circuit in 2019.
While Quartararo returns with a healthy 22-point lead over Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco, it is KTM’s Miguel Oliveira who is the man of the moment, scoring 65 out of a possible 75 points in the last three rounds.
Separating Zarco and Oliveira (-57 points) in the standings are factory Ducati duo Jack Miller (-31) and Francesco Bagnaia (-32), with Suzuki’s reigning champion Joan Mir (-46) in fifth place and having only two podiums to show for his 2021 efforts.
Vinales, yet to stand on the podium after victory in Qatar, is ten points further back and now on the verge of being demoted to seventh by Oliveira. Team-mate Brad Binder is still seeking his first silverware of the year, but arrives in Assen after a season best fourth in Germany.
Aleix Espargaro made history for Aprilia with the RS-GP’s first pole position at the Sachsenring, only to fade from the podium places, while Marquez’s victory raises the Spaniard to tenth place but still 90-points from Quartararo.
Marquez and Honda insist that, despite their breakthrough victory, the RC213V’s key problem of rear grip remains unsolved and are braced for a tough weekend at Assen.
Nonetheless, if the notoriously quick-changing Dutch weather sprinkles more rain on race day, few would bet against the Spaniard making it two wins in a row…