No wonder Assen is the only venue left from that original 1949 World Championship schedule. After all, any circuit that serves chips with mayonnaise and beer at seven in the morning deserves to still be leading the way. Throw in a Saturday race, until a few years ago, and a lively night life in Groningen, plus the chance to go in your own car overnight on the ferry, you understand why no other venue stood a chance.
For me, at first as a fan, it was those chips and beer that were such a crucially important part of the Dutch TT weekend. As a journalist and commentator, I loved those Saturday race days because for the only time in a long season I could get home for a roast Sunday lunch. Travelling down to Schiphol airport, staying overnight and then flying home early on Sunday morning when, because of the time difference, you would arrive in London earlier or at the same time you left, already smelling the beef and roast potatoes cooking, the Yorkshire pudding rising and the horse radish sauce bottle already open ready to be poured over it all – heaven!
The ferry trips were fantastic. No sleep but plenty of beer overnight on Wednesday and then the race up to Assen. The race back on Saturday after leaving the circuit before the end of the sidecar race to try and escape the traffic was an adventure in itself to catch the night ferry back. You could then drive to the office, deliver your copy and films from the photographer and still be home for lunch.
I love the Dutch because we are on the same wavelength. They love MotoGP™, football and beer, which is a pretty good combination. The first race I covered as a journalist in Assen was in 1980 and won by Jack Middelburg and the place went totally crazy. He was the last Dutchman to win a premier class race at home and those scenes of celebration were only matched eight years later. I remember one of those early Sunday morning flights out of Schiphol the day after the Dutch football team had won the 1988 European Championship. They flew in with the trophy as we flew out and the sea of orange and the welcome for the team made me realise what we in England had missed since that incredible afternoon in 1966. Qualifying session times were altered one year because Holland were playing Germany and the organisers realised that everybody from both countries would be watching the game on television either at the circuit or at home.
The weather can be a problem but there are not many places they would close certain parts of the motorway in order to park thousands of cars that usually parked on the grass which by this time was flooded.
When I first went to Assen as a journalist the accreditation centre was in the stadium up the road from the circuit. It was the same stadium where they held a round of the World Ice Racing Championship while we stayed in a small village, where our landlady regaled us with stories over breakfast of how she had hidden allied airmen in the Second World War after they had crashed nearby.
Unfortunately, for commercial reasons, they changed race day to Sunday and I was not so keen on the raw herring that my Dutch friends so enjoyed. Apart from that, Assen is so very special.
And the racing itself has been pretty decent over those 70 years but could you please pass the mayonnaise.