Josie Smith went to last month’s Dutch MotoGP race at TT Circuit Assen, an iconic event and circuit that’s been top of her MotoGP bucket list for some time. Here, she shares her experience.
The ‘easiest’ way to get to Assen or the surrounding area is to fly to Amsterdam and then hop on the train. With one of the busiest airports in the world, Schiphol has daily flights from all around the world and a train station only metres from the arrival hall making travel relatively simple.
I am pretty lucky that there are multiple flights from Newcastle to Amsterdam, but I opted for the earliest flight available (6am) so I could allow extra time to find my way around. Fortunately, I bumped into several people I knew at the airport and was able to jump on the two-hour train to Groningen with a bit of company.
Where to Stay
Assen itself is not cheap and availability can be very limited unless you book very early on. If you’re willing to splash a little cash and want to bump into the majority of the paddock, the Hof van Saksen, a hotel and holiday camp a little over 15 minutes from the circuit, is the place for you. There are various Airbnb’s in the area but Assen does tend to be pricey compared to neighbouring Groningen.
Groningen has everything you could need for an enjoyable weekend; reasonably priced accommodation, tasty restaurants and great nightlife. If you do stay in Assen however, the centre comes alive on a night with a funfair, stage area and race fans as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, get in there early before all the tables are snapped up. It’s also not a problem if you miss out though, with plenty of street food options to choose from.
I stayed in an Airbnb in the centre of Groningen, a 10-minute walk from the train station and surrounded by restaurants and cafes. My accommodation was very basic, like a student pad, but had everything I needed; a comfy bed, shower, kettle and microwave, and at £265 for five nights, it wasn’t bad value.
Getting to the Track
The actual TT Assen circuit is a little out of the way. On the Thursday, we took a taxi from Assen train station which cost about €20. We had a hire car for the rest of the weekend, so were able to drive the 35-minute route ourselves and park at the circuit.
Where to Sit
If you’re lucky enough to have paddock passes for races, you can watch from the viewing zones within the paddock – in Assen, it’s situated over the garages, along the start/finish straight, within range of some of the large TV screens. Luckily, there are very few ‘poor’ viewing areas at Assen. The grandstands between Turns 1-4, the De Bult grandstand at Turns 9-10 and the general admission ‘Talud’ areas offer a great view of some of the more complex and often action-packed areas of the circuit. There are plenty of places around the circuit offering authentic Dutch food and plenty of merchandise. It’s always a good idea to have a wander around the circuit between sessions to feel the excitement building among the fans.
Working in the Paddock
As I was working with one of the Moto2/Moto3 teams, I predominately saw the inside of a sweltering pitbox tent in the paddock. (Not all the teams have actual garages. Some Moto2 & Moto3 teams had tents set up as pitboxes behind the garages.) It was an eye-opening experience to see how hard all the different teams work, whether things had gone well or not to plan. Working hard in the stifling heat, you would see teams up and down the garage complex working tirelessly to improve their bikes and debrief their riders.
A home race at Silverstone is next on my list, followed by Valencia again the November. However, next year will be a year of branching out to see more and go to different places. Hopefully, COTA and maybe an Italian or Spanish round but I will complete the entire calendar at some point soon, fingers crossed.