The MotoGP calendar moves on to round eight this weekend for one of the most iconic races of the season, the Dutch TT at Assen.
Unique in the calendar, the race in the the Netherlands takes place on Saturday—as opposed to the regular Sunday—and Marc Marquez will be aiming for his eighth win of the season to continue his perfect record.
Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi returns to a track at which he has had enormous success in the past, winning six MotoGP races at the circuit including his triumph in 2013. He will finally be looking to head Marquez in a race this season and start to cut down the Spaniard's championship lead.
Read on for a full race schedule, as well as an examination of the top riders for the weekend's event.
|2014 Dutch TT Race Schedule|
|Free Practice 3||June 27||8:55 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. BST/3:55 a.m. - 4:40 a.m. ET||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Free Practice 4||June 27||12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m. BST/7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m. ET||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Qualifying 1||June 27||1:10 p.m. - 1:25 p.m. BST/8:10 a.m. - 8:25 a.m. ET||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Qualifying 2||June 27||1:35 p.m. - 1:50 p.m. BST/8:35 a.m. - 8:50 a.m. ET||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Race||June 28||1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
Italian veteran Rossi is having a terrific season but still currently sits 58 points behind standings leader Marquez—who has been faultless in the first seven races.
The 35-year-old took second place in Barcelona last time out and gave Marquez a real run for his money on his Yamaha, despite concerns beforehand about a lack of race pace.
In 2013 he took top spot in the Netherlands, and he will be hoping to repeat the trick of beating Marquez into second on Saturday.
Rossi was in confident mood ahead of the weekend, happy to be returning to a track on which he has had much success, per Crash.net:
Assen is a great track and a good track for Yamaha. The weather will be very important here. You never know if it will be hot or cold or dry or wet. Last year's race was unforgettable but honestly this year I feel I am strong almost everywhere so we have to try hard to beat the competition.
There is a feeling that there has to be a new race winner at some point in the season, and at almost the halfway stage, it needs to come soon to avoid the championship becoming a procession. Rossi has prospered at this track before, and he has the speed and the talent to do so again.
Honda's 21-year-old sensation has faced tough competition in the last couple of races, but he has still come through to win in the end—that's the sign of a true champion.
The TT Circuit Assen was not the happiest of hunting grounds for the youngster last season, but he was still able to claim second and will be hoping to go one better in 2014.
He came in second fastest in Thursday's final practice session and commented that the bike was feeling good around the track, per MotoGP.com:
It went pretty well and I'm happy, because last year we suffered a lot at this track. I think is a good track for both Honda and Yamaha; they were better here last year but maybe this year we have taken a step forward and I feel very comfortable and happy with the pace that I have. We'll see tomorrow, because it seems that we’re not so strong in the low temperatures, but I am convinced that we can match the competitors level.
Indeed, he has been matching and bettering the level of his competitors all season, and it would take a brave man to bet against him taking an eighth consecutive victory from Saturday's race.
Barring any major issues with his bike, he is likely to qualify well on Friday and put himself in prime position to extend his standings lead even further in the Netherlands.
Marquez's Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa almost took a famous victory last time out as he overtook his colleague on the last lap in Barcelona.
He showed he has the pace to keep up with Marquez and could certainly compete this weekend; however, he seemed to pinpoint where the 21-year-old has the edge, per MotoGP commentator Gregory Haines:
With this knowledge, he may be able to take advantage and tactically outwit his teammate, but he will no doubt be up there come the end of proceedings on Saturday, even if he cannot take victory.
There is still all to play for in the Netherlands at possibly the season's most anticipated race and there will be thrills and spills galore around the iconic circuit.
Whether Marquez can finally be beaten remains to be seen, but what is in no doubt after Barcelona is that there are drivers in the lineup who can challenge for victory.
It would be a boost for the competitive nature of the championship were Marquez to be beaten on the TT Circuit Assen, but with the pace he has shown all season, it will take a mighty effort from his competitors.