Assen to move to Sunday race day from 2016
In a move that has been mooted for years the Dutch TT will change from its traditional Saturday race day to Sunday from 2016. The organisers originally hosted their event on a Saturday because of local pastor who made a request for races to be held on Saturday so as to avoid interrupting the Sunday services at his church. The Saturday race has been a tradition ever since.
The decision was made by the circuit after lengthy research into the trends of Dutch sports fans and when they have time to attend major events. At the conclusion of this research it was decided that the best way to ensure a healthy future for the race was to move it to Sunday.
"All of the major football games, all of the big sporting events are on Sunday," said circuit chairman Arjan Bos. "People expect to go to a big event on a Sunday." Bos went on to confirm that the circuit will retain its traditional place in the calendar on the last weekend of June.
Assen has held a unique place in the MotoGP world championship having hosted races since 1925 and been the site a World Championship Grand Prix every year since the inception of the championship in 1949. As a result it was given dispensations to host the race on Saturday's despite a desire of Dorna, MotoGP's commercial rights holder, to ensure that all races in Europe had a start time of 14.00 CET.
When making the announcement Bos was keen to stress that Dorna had been happy to retain the Saturday race day and that the decision was made by the circuit organisers as the safest way to safeguard their future. "When we told Carmelo Ezpeleta, he was delighted," said Bos. "But he has never put any pressure on us to change. This was a decision we took for the good of the circuit, and for the future of MotoGP in the Netherlands."
The move means that while Assen loses one of its unique selling points and traditional values the circuit should see an increase in revenue with more fans over the course of the weekend. Race day has generally been busy at Assen but practice and qualifying has been much quieter. Tapping into the potential revenues of these days will be key for the circuit in the future.
Bos has been to a number of races throughout Europe over the course of the last few years and what he has seen was enough to make the circuit decide to make a change and try and generate bigger crowd numbers over the course of the weekend. To that end the track will also update their facilities with a €12 million facelift that will see new grandstands built and also an entertainment area. The circuit are also in negotiations to extend their current contract to 2026.
"We have been to a lot of races in recent years, at Le Mans, in Italy and in Spain. We have been surprised at the number of people who turn up for qualifying, and at the range of events on offer. By switching the race to Sunday, we hope to replicate that experience at Assen."