A dominant display at the Catalan GP for Alex Marquez is now well and truly in the past as the paddock descend to Dutch soil, the beloved Assen TT circuit plays host to the eighth round of the championship.
The championship standings heading into the Assen make for interesting reading, with Franco Morbidelli’s lead of seven points being the lowest margin from first to second at this stage of the season since the Moto2 machines were introduced to the championship in 2010.
A disappointing display for the Italian in Spain as he crossed the line in sixth place, finishing a surprising 14 seconds off the lead and 10 seconds from the podium. Franco managed to climb on the podium at Assen in 2016, you have to think that would be the minimum target for him this weekend.
The man in close company to the top spot and the only person to finish in the points at every round this season is intermediate class veteran Thomas Luthi. He came across the line third last time round to close the gap at the top as he keeps the pressure on. A non score round the TT circuit last year but can he keep his super consistent record going? You’d be a brave person to bet against him this weekend.
The younger of the Marquez brothers clawed himself back into title contention with his magnificent display at his home race. Confidence will be sky high on one side of the Marc VDS garage as the inter-team battle seems to be hotting up nicely. A disappointing eighth place this time last year simply wouldn’t be good enough this time around as the number 21 and 73 keep an eye on a certain MotoGP seat that might soon be available.
Other men to keep a close eye on are Miguel Olivera, who lies fourth in the championship and double podium man Mattia Pasini, who is in the form of his life after two stellar displays at Mugello and Catalunya.
The 2015 Moto3 runner up has been super impressive on the brand new Moto2 KTM machine this season and after season of ups and downs in 2016, Olivera is right on track to sealing a very solid world championship standing position come the end of the year. His 15th place finish last season won’t be acceptable this time around.
Pasini is on fire. That Mugello victory gave the Italian a new lease of life and it is great to see. His 19th at Assen in 2016 will be completely forgotten about and there’s no reason why he couldn’t replicate his 125cc win at this circuit in 2007.
Other riders to watch out for? Japanese hopeful Takaaki Nakagami picked up his first Moto2 career win here last year as he, Marquez, Morbidelli and Dominique Aegerter are the only riders currently on the grid to have stood on the Moto2 podium at this track.
Francesco Bagnaia penned a new deal to stay on with the Sky Racing VR46 Moto2 squad for 2018 earlier this week after his good start to the season, the Italian will be wanting to mix it with the top boys for the rest of the season.
Jorge Navarro earned his best finish of the season last time out, crossing the line seventh. He missed the Assen round last year with a leg injury so he’ll be looking to get a solid free practice under his belt as he readjusts himself into the famous Assen layout.
Taz Mackenzie finally gets to have a go on a track he’s raced on before, a positive start to the weekend for the youngster who will have put Barcelona’s crash firmly to the back of his mind. The reigning British Supersport champion keeps on getting stronger as he settles into life as a grand prix racer. Any Brits heading to Assen, make sure you get behind one of our country’s brightest motorcycle racing talents.
Assen always treats us to a phenomenal weekend and I’m sure this year won’t be any different. Don’t forget too, this year the race will be held to on Sunday, going against traditions (rightly or wrongly).
Elliott York @journoyork