until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Long-awaited double-header returns to a new MotoGP reality

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

This weekend, MotoGP heads to the Sachsenring for the first time in two years, marking the start of back-to-back races in Germany and the Netherlands that both stand out in being the series’ first visit there in two years. A lot has changed in the interim, but how will it affect the race results?

Sachsenring has been the undisputed kingdom of Marc Marquez for the best part of a decade, with the Repsol Honda rider winning there in three classes for 11 years in a row now. It’s an incredible record and one that he’s keen to defend this weekend, but it’s a tougher question than ever before.

The Honda has become, it is increasingly apparent, harder rather than easier to ride in his absence, hence why we’ve now seen him fail to finish in three races in a row (a new record for him). The RC213V is normally a machine well-suited to the Sachsenring thanks to its lightning turning and sharp acceleration, but if the Honda riders haven’t got confidence in the front they’re in real trouble.

Things aren’t likely to get much easier a week later at Assen either. A beautiful, flowing, fast track that produces spectacular racing, it was a crying shame when it got dropped from the 2020 schedule for the first time since 1950. But, back with a vengeance with 12,000 fans in attendance, it won’t likely be considerably better for the Honda.

MotoGP Assen 2019

Instead, the Dutch track will be prime territory for Suzuki and Yamaha. A key target of Joan Mir last year until the calendar was rescheduled, it suits the fast turning of both bikes – but the short sprint from the grid to turn one might help limit the damage Suzuki has off the line, and the close nature of the racing (where no one breaks away) will play to Mir’s attacking strengths.

It’s hard to imagine that the Yamahas will be too far away, though – and a Fabio Quartararo pole position feels almost inevitable. It would give Yamaha a valuable chance to extend its points lead – because it’s far from certain it’ll have the same chance at Sachsenring.

The tight nature of the track suits the fast-turning bikes, but with acceleration not improving dramatically since we last visited there, the M1s and GSX-RRs still going to be at a disadvantage.

MotoGP Assen 2019 Fabio Quartararo Petronas Yamaha

In fact, it could be a chance for KTM to make up for lost time at the start of the season. Its bike is perhaps the most-changed since last time, and with a new frame dramatically improving front confidence and turning, KTM couldn’t have picked a better time to get on a strong run of form.

Jun 07 : Catalunya GP: KTM's turnaround and the Quartararo controversy

And its RC16 bike, originally very much a Honda clone, has managed to retain much of those characteristics in a more rider-friendly package than the RC213V’s. That means that there’s a real chance at the Sachsenring, and an opportunity to be in what’s almost certain to be a big pack fight in Assen.

Another dark horse for the German race could be Aleix Espargaro, as the Aprilia rider lines up on a bike almost unrecognizable from the one that he last rode there. Rapidly improved in all areas and very stable on brakes, the new RS-GP has strong points that should suit the track’s characteristics.

Aleix Espargaro Aprilia MotoGP German GP

Assen won’t be any different, either. The rail-like stability that has become the strength of the bike applies equally through the long, fast, flowing corners of the iconic venue, and it’ll be an important test of Aprilia’s improvements.

However, there’s one manufacturer for whom the next two rounds will be something of an exercise in damage limitation: Ducati. Sure, the current bike is night and day from the one that Ducati last raced here, and its all-new rider line-up has fixed many of the old issues by riding in a different way, but it’s still going to be harder than it was at tracks like Mugello.

The Desmosedici now turns better than it did in the past, but it’s still long and low to handle the insane amounts of horsepower the Ducati engine produces, and that makes it something of a challenge around the go-kart track that is Sachsenring.

At Assen, the old issue was mid-corner turning, and we’ll get a chance to see how well the riders manage since we last went there. It’s a circuit that produces dogfights, though, and we saw at the season-opening races in Qatar that Ducati doesn’t fare as well in those, so it could be a race where Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller need to just bring it home safely.

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