Set-up report Assen Round 7

Setup

ROUND: 7, DUTCH GRAND PRIX
June 29, 2002
Circuit: Assen
Country: Netherlands
Track length: 6027 m
Opened: 1955
Fastest Lap Ever: New circuit layout
MotoGP lap record: New circuit layout
Last year MotoGP winner: Max Biaggi
GP250 lap record: New circuit layout
Last year GP250 winner: Jeremy McWilliams

Circuit tel: +31 592 321321
Circuit web site: http://www.tt-assen.com

2001 race summary
The Assen TT is an event that is history, and Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi claimed his spot in its prestigious ‘hall of fame’ by taking the final 500 GP race win on the old TT circuit. The Italian snatched the race lead from archrival Valentino Rossi (Honda) moments before the Dutch TT was officially red flagged, due to rain, for a thrilling 0.126second victory. The two riders were part of a five-way scrap, which included Loris Capirossi (Honda) – who eventually finished third – Alex Barros (Honda) and Kenny Roberts (Suzuki), before the Italian pair built a buffer over the perusing pack.

Biaggi led the charge from lap seven, after passing Barros, until lap 15 – when the official race results were taken. It was on this final run that Rossi slid into the race lead for the first time, potentially handing the Honda rider the race win on count-back, but Biaggi dug deep and fought his way past only two corners before the final chicane – a move that made all the difference.

Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) came through for another solid performance after a hard fought battle with Alex Crivillé (Honda) – the latter crashing out of contention on lap four while entering the chicane – leaving the Japanese to take Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) in the closing stages, and a solid fifth place.

In the thick of the battle was the lone Red Bull Yamaha YZR500 of Noriyuki Haga – as high as sixth – before the former world Superbike star only just avoided an incident that claimed both Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) and Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) on lap three. In the treacherous conditions Haga eventually finished a creditable tenth.

Set-up report YZR-M1/YZR500
Assen is unique in a number of ways; the Dutch TT originally began life as 28km street circuit before being shortened – once in 1955 and again in 1984 – to comply with the ever-changing demands of modern motorcycle racing. The most recent of these taking place during the 2001 winter break with the modification of the paddock hairpin. Even so the Assen layout is still the longest on the MotoGP calendar, measuring over six kilometres in length, and continues to maintain its street pedigree, giving it a character all its own.

With barely a straight piece of tarmac in sight there is no rest, especially for the premier class contenders, making Assen more a rider’s circuit than any other. Handling will therefore be a major focal point due to high-speed chicanes and dramatic changes in camber – the latter, in some places, resembling the profile of a public road more than that of a motorcycle racetrack. This single feature in itself makes Assen a challenging circuit to master. Hold the inside line and the rider will benefit from the extra drive available off the steeper section of the camber – much the same way as a motocross rider would off a berm. But drift wide on the exit of the turns, to the point where the camber can drop away quite dramatically over the crown, and as the rear tyre rides over the crests the grip levels decrease in much the same way – dramatically, leaving little room for error.

A good result at Assen relies heavily on a chassis that offers both agility and stability. It is quite a difficult balance to find at the best of times, especially when the chassis and suspension technicians also have to cater for the effects of the high cornering G-forces. This is where the latest YZR-M1 chassis will prove to be a major benefit. Its improved front-end feel and better geometry balance will suit the character of the banked Assen bends, while the electronically-controlled engine braking system will offer both Biaggi and Checa the ability to enter the turns with a much higher corner entry speed. This is where the TT is won or lost!

The combination of such fast cornering, good grip levels and extreme camber angles produce high cornering G-forces, a load which the suspension package will need to deal with. For this reason a heavier rear spring rate will be chosen to prevent the back of the bike squatting under power, yet it will still need to offer a compliant ride to ensure feel isn’t compromised. In comparison the higher powered four-strokes will need to run a firmer rear-end set-up than the two-strokes. This could be the only kink in the all-new MotoGP contenders armour – increased tyre wear.

In many ways the base set-up for the Dutch TT resembles what Yamaha used in Mugello (Italy) - where the rear spring rate is firmer, to deal with the drive, yet the front is softer. The latter is possible because of the lack of hard braking that will be done on the flowing layout – trail braking into the apex is the only way to a good TT laptime.

With an outright top speed of around 290kmh during the TT last year Assen isn’t the fastest circuit on the calendar, especially when you compare it to the 310kmh plus of Barcelona (Spain) and Mugello. But the Dutch TT isn’t about outright top speeds, rather the key is a top speed average. In this regard Assen is one of the fastest tracks of the year. Because of this it’s an extreme and hard working circuit, not only for the riders and the chassis, but the tyres too. Fortunately grip levels are high yet the track surface isn’t too abrasive, even though almost all the driving will be done off the side of the tyres. For this reason the 16.5inch rear is the most likely solution.