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TT Assen - the racing heart of The Netherlands

17 November 2020

Once every year, the roads in the Netherlands are crowded with motorcyclists riding in the direction of Assen, a provincial town of 68.000 inhabitants. During this one weekend in June, more than 100.000 motorcyclists meet each other at TT Assen.

“Some visitors have been coming here for over 50 years,” says Peter Oosterbaan, CEO of TT Assen. He is proud to be the president of the TT Assen racing circuit which he has been for almost 20 years now. It all started when a friend asked him if he was interested in the job after the previous CEO retired. “For years, I came to the circuit as a motorcyclist fan and had, until then, never thought about taking up a management position in such an organization. I have to say, I never regretted my decision. There has not been one dull moment in my career!” 

One of the first races - Photo: TT Assen

A legend in moto racing

TT Assen has been organizing moto races since 1925, making it one of the oldest race circuits in the world. It actually is the only circuit in the world that has held a World Championship race every year since the start of the official competition in 1949. “We have the longest history in the field of motor races. All legends have ridden here and celebrated their triumphs. That commands respect from the entire world. Also, young riders have a deep respect for our long history.” 

Peter Oostbaan himself became addicted to motorsport and TT Assen at a very young age: “In 1971 when I turned 12, Jan de Vries became world champion 50cc. He rode a Van Veen Kreidler. Jan de Vries lived nearby and he got a lot of attention of course. That was the moment I became a fan. In 1972, I went for the first time to TT Assen with a friend and his father.” He has to admit that he is not a moto racer himself. “I am a cruiser, who likes to go out on long rides in the area.”

When I asked him what his most memorable moment has been during his 20-year career as CEO of TT Assen, he answered without hesitation: “The most memorable moment for me would be the MotoGP race from 2018, with over 120 overtakes in 1 race!” 

Why it is TT Assen and not Grand Prix Assen 

Assen is the only World Championship round that still uses the acronym TT instead of Grand Prix. TT stands for ‘Tourist Trophy' a name inherited from the famous Isle of Man race. Over the years Grand Prix became the more favored term, but not for Assen. They stick to TT.

Feeling free with family

One of the things TT Assen is known for is its festive and extravagant atmosphere. “The TT Assen creates a very special feeling of connection. Sometimes it feels like we are one big family of 100,000 enthusiasts who hold this track to their heart. Recently, after some research, we learned that the free feeling that motorcycling offers is the connecting factor between all of our visitors. So, we launched the slogan ‘Feel Free at the TT'.“

Future of racing

Peter Oosterbaan believes there will be a future for motor racing. “Moto racing is a beautiful sport to watch, and we do have an advantage over car racing when it comes to overtaking. We have to make sure though, that the sport remains affordable and that it does not become an elite sport such as Formula 1.”

Even for a known race circuit as TT Assen, there are no guarantees that she will maintain her current status-quo. “All motor races used to be in traditional Western Europe. The world view has changed and emerging economies/countries also want to participate. That in itself is a good thing for the sport. The competition among the circuits has increased. It is important now to distinguish yourself in appearance, quality, and level of the accommodation. Today it is even more important that visitors and riders go home with a big smile on their faces. To make that happen is not an easy task.”

Next generation

In order to offer the next generation an opportunity to race, TT has built a junior track. As of 2012, youngsters can come here to race on their own bikes or borrow one from the circuit. They pay a fee of 150 euros per year, for which they have access to the junior circuit all year round.

When I visited TT Assen, I got the opportunity to meet some very young race drivers on their bikes. I tried to ride on one of the mini bikes myself but was clearly not a match for these youngsters. Some of them were only 6 years old.

I also met with older kids who were very serious about becoming a professional racer. They hope to become the next Valentino Rossi, who has won the MotoGP at TT Assen 8 times.

Do some racing yourself

One way TT Assen keeps the sport affordable and linked to the experience of everyday motorcyclists is the opportunity to go on the race track yourself, with your own motorcycle. Throughout the year TT Assen organizes so-called Track-days. An amazing way to experience the race track yourself! 

Barry Veneman, former professional motorcycle racer, showed me how to ride on the TT Assen race track and taught me how to take those difficult corners! Riding in the rain on a race track was definitely challenging, but incredible at the same time. I learned so much and in the end, I was riding much faster than during the first round! For a brief moment, I felt like Valentino Rossi!

 

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Looking at the weather today I see a Hurricane maybe in your area. Best wishes and be safe

Lawrence T.  | 

Riding fast in the rain, preparation for Iceland and Norway.

Mike - P.  | 
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Still itchy?

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