Husqvarna Motorcycles continues to move up the Moto3 world championship as Ayumu Sasaki scored 2nd position in the Netherlands for round eight of 2023 MotoGP™ and Collin Veijer aced a top ten result at his first home GP.
The rush of Grands Prix before the summer break for 2023 MotoGP meant that the world championship paddock completed a third consecutive meeting. The series moved from the compact and twisty Sachsenring in Germany to the free flow of the epic TT Circuit Assen south of Groningen in the Netherlands.
The LIQUI MOLY IntactGP Husqvarna team travelled to the 4.5km, 18-corner blast of speed and rhythm with Ayumu Sasaki on the ascendency and hopeful of a fourth podium trophy in a row as well as carrying pleasant memories of the first of his two GP wins to-date on the FR 250 GP at the venue in 2022. For Collin Veijer the arrival in Assen was the chance to shine on home turf and with copious support from the circuit fences. The Moto2 wing of the team were also eager for another race start.
The TT Circuit Assen was blessed with fantastic weather conditions through the three-day practice, qualification and race agenda. Assen is one of the most historic and time-honoured Grands Prix on the calendar and 2023 represented the 74th time it has welcomed MotoGP world championship fare. The site first staged motorcycle races on the roads in the 1920s and when the track was a throttle-busting 28km long! Assen formed part of the very first Grand Prix calendar in 1949 and has since been shortened and modified for modern race machinery and to meet the latest safety standards. Facets of the old layout still remain and the weave of turns and quick, short straights mean it is a spectacular challenge for the riders and a captivating draw for the public.
Sasaki maintained his usual stance of pushing for Moto3 Pole Position on Saturday. On this occasion the Japanese was just 0.3 of a second away from his goal and earned 4th place in Q2, enough for the first slot on the second row of the grid. Veijer was also eager and qualified a strong 9th for the 20-lap dispute on Sunday morning.
After the usual initial bustle in the Moto3 contest, a leading group of ten riders broke away to fight for the rostrum honours with both Sasaki and Veijer part of the fray. The decisive last two laps shook up the order and as the pack threaded through the Geert Timmer chicane for the final time Sasaki had the lead but was pipped by Jaume Masia in the final metres of the race. Veijer was able to take 7th for his second-best result in his rookie campaign.
Sasaki has displayed consistent competitiveness and maturity to rise up through the Moto3 championship table. After Assen – his fourth podium in a row - the 22-year-old holds 3rd position and with a narrow 10 point gap to 2nd and 26 from 1st place. Veijer is 15th with 27 points while the team hold 5th against thirteen other squads.
Ayumu Sasaki: “This weekend I struggled a bit more than Germany, so the team worked really hard to give me back the feeling. Today was difficult: I knew there would be a big group of us and it would be impossible to break away. I knew it would be a big Moto3 fight! I managed the last lap well but [Jaume] Masia did very well to pass me into the final chicane. 2nd again but fourth podium in a row and now we will go into the summer break with a bit ‘extra’ and enter the second half of the season looking to go for the championship.”
Collin Veijer: “The race was incredible. My start was pretty good and I think we can be happy with both our qualification and taking another top ten: I’m happy, especially to do it here in front of all this crowd. It was an incredible experience.”
The second race of the 2023 Motul TT Assen saw Darryn Binder and Lukas Tulovic determined to harvest better luck from the Moto2 class. Binder qualified 15th and his German teammate was not far away in 19th. From that point both riders swarmed into contention for the top fifteen through the 22 laps. Binder rode solidly to acquire 2 points for a 14th place finish and Tulovic was not far behind in 16th.
The hectic bevy of MotoGP racing ends with a sustained period of calm. The Grand Prix paddock will next reconvene with the Monster Energy British Grand Prix on August 5th and 6th.
Darryn Binder: “I’m happy to finally get a full race distance under my belt again. It was really important today just to do laps and get a feel for the bike and the tyres. I’m happy that I could pick up my pace at the end and get close to my best lap from the beginning of the race. I feel that we had a bit more potential but we had to see the chequered flag today, and I learned a lot. Now we have to work on what we can improve during this break and come back to Silverstone prepared to do better.”
Lukas Tulovic: “I finally had a good start and good first few corners. I was able to make up one or two places but then I struggled. I didn't have the same confidence in the front as I had all weekend. It's a shame because my pace was bad at the beginning and a bit better at the end but by then I was way too far away. I hope that we will find out what the problem was and then come back stronger after the summer break.”
Results Moto3 Motul TT Assen
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 34:14.619, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.081, 3. Deniz Öncü (TUR) KTM +0.276, 7. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +0.819.
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 125 points, 2. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda, 109, 3. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 99, 15. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 27.
Results Moto2 Motul TT Assen
1. Jake Dixon (GBR) 35:43.411, 2. Ai Ogura (JPN) +1.334, 3. Pedro Acosta (ESP) +4.448, 14. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +20.639, 16. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +29.416
World championship standings Moto2
1. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 148 points, 2. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 140, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 104, 19. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 12. 21. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 6