NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro showed he will be a force to be reckoned with at this weekend’s Dutch TT after the Spaniard set a new circuit lap record time of 1’33.658 at the Assen circuit.
Espargaro was second quickest in the morning’s Free Practice 1 session behind his brother, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro, but Aleix improved again in the afternoon Free Practice 2 session to head the field using the combination of the soft compound slicks front and rear. His stunning lap saw him top the combined times by 0.211 seconds over Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez who was second quickest. Third quickest on the first day of action at Assen was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa with a personal best lap time of 1'34.069.
After a cool start to the day, sunny conditions boosted track temperatures to a peak measurement of 43°C at the end of FP2. The low track temperatures in FP1 resulted in almost every rider utilizing the extra-soft front slick for this session, before all the riders switched to either the soft or medium front slick for FP2. For both of today’s sessions, most riders preferred their softer rear slick option; medium for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders, and soft for the Open-class and Ducati riders. If dry conditions present themselves tomorrow, it is expected that some riders, particularly from the Factory Honda and Yamaha teams will evaluate their harder rear slick options.
In addition to Aleix Espargaro setting a new circuit lap record, the top eleven riders on combined times today were quicker than the race record lap time of 1’34.548 – a strong indicator that a dry race on Saturday could be run at record pace. However, the forecast for the rest of the weekend indicates a chance of rain, with ambient temperatures similar to today.
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle tire Development Department
“Today’s perfect weather created excellent track conditions and the riders made full use of this by already setting an extremely quick pace. This morning’s FP1 session was quite cool, so almost every rider went out on the softest slick options available to them at the start of the session. In the afternoon, most riders switched from the extra-soft slicks they used in FP1 to the soft front slicks, and their feedback indicates this gives the best balance of cornering performance and braking stability at this track. I expect this soft front slick to be widely used this weekend. Rear tire choice has seen riders mostly use their softer rear slick option, but if we have fine weather tomorrow I expect some experimentation with the harder rear slicks. The top eleven riders today were within an eighth-of-a-second of each other which is remarkable, and I hope tomorrow’s qualifying sessions are just as competitive!”
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.