I don’t know if Assen will ever stage a Formula One car Grand Prix but if four wheels do ever grace the hallowed tarmac they will have one hell of a legacy to live up to. Never was that fact better illustrated than the classic Assen 26 lap encounter on Sunday – just ask the 100,00 fans who packed the Cathedral for a typical Sunday service.
While F1 struggled to keep the three leading cars on the same lap at the Austrian A1 ring just 16.4 seconds separated the first 16 riders in the 118.92 kms MotoGP Assen showdown. The closest ever first 15 finish in the 70 year history of the Premier class (more detail here :http://www.nick-harris.co.uk/closest-top-15-of-all-time/ )It was what Assen is all about. Constant overtaking, more than a few contacts at the front as eight riders fought for the lead. Four different Manufacturers filling the first four places. It was breath taking stuff around a track that still retains those corners that make it so special. No wonder it’s the only circuit remaining from that original 1949 World Championship calendar.
So a perfect day for the massive Dutch crowd in the glorious sunshine – well not quite. While the talented Max Verstappen brought out the orange flags at the A1 ring with his first Formula One win of the season there was no such celebrating at Assen. To be honest while Assen retains the rightful position as the biggest sporting event of the year in Holland it’s despite the total lack of success of Dutch riders on the World stage. The bare facts make it even more amazing how the Dutch fans have stuck with MotoGP because their last grand prix win came 28 barren years ago.
Hans Spaan won the 125 cc race at the 1990 Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno and that was that. He almost became the first Dutch World Champion since Henk van Kessel took the 50cc World for Kreidler 16 years earlier. It was close and went all the way to the wire and the final round at Phillip Island in Australia where Loris Capirossi, who clinched the title and his Italian mates, ganged up on the lone Dutchman. Nine years later Jürgen van der Goobergh at the same Brno circuit was the last Dutchman to start from pole position when he put that super quick MUZ – Weber on top in the 500 cc class. We have to look back almost two years for the last Dutch rider to finish on the podium when Bo Bendsneyder riding the KTM finished third in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Lewis Hamilton racing through Veenslang just sounds wrong, Max Verstappen through Stekkenwal perhaps has a better ring about it but Marquez, Rins, Vinales, Dovizioso, Rossi, Crutchlow, Lorenzo and Zarco though Ramshoek an absolute dead cert even for those success starved Dutch fans.