We ran our first full package tours in World Superbike to the Assen. We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting kickoff to our SBK programme!

Thursday night the customers met with our SBK programme manager and ace guide, Tim Orr for welcome drinks. Our hotel was minutes to the circuit, and just a 20 minute walk into Assen central; so when we could drag ourselves away from the several bars and restaurants in the hotel itself, it was an easy stroll to some great Dutch pubs!

Friday at the track our customers were treating to the welcoming hospitality of Team Alstare Suzuki and their charismatic rider Michel Fabrizio. The hospitality facility itself is the best in the paddock, with indoor and outdoor tables, unlimited beer & wine, soft drinks and waistline-challenging Italian cooking. The Estonian beer Viru is a main sponsor, and we had to agree this was a yummy brew; and the wine comes from the southern France estates of the team owner herself, Patricia!

With virtually unlimited access to the pits AND the pit lane itself, nothing escape our scrutiny.

Friday night after dinner in town we ended up in the hotel’s own music hall to soak up beer with some of the paddock denizens. The bad featured 2 pianos; we were treated to expert commentary on the music scene by a pro - James Toseland sidelined for the weekend with a broken hand at least meant we had the extreme pleasure of his company!

Saturday we caught all the qualifying action, with ample opportunity to explore the entire track. I was privileged to catch one SBK qualifying session literally from Max’s pit; others hung out in Alstare. The atmosphere in the pits during the sessions is electric - something you just can’t get from watching them on the screen or in the stands.

Superpole really is a thrilling way to handle the qualifications -- wish they would do something like this in MotoGP! We watched from the Alstare hospitality with our inimitable hostess Patricia commenting throughout - we all have our favourites, she would share our joys and agonies as our guy got through to the next round or dropped...  Fabrizio getting dropped after the first session was a bit disappointing (but his race performance despite starting 13th was sensational!)

Saturday night we did the walk into town. Pizza, one or two too many Belgian beers, and a great live band with a huge crowd made for a brilliant atmosphere!

I won’t bother to comment on the races themselves Sunday. The day itself was perfect - ideal temperature, sun but not too hot; and a day crammed with action as SIX races were on hand to entertain us!

I watched the first Superbike race from the top hospitality, Club VIP. The facilities and the views from this were stunning (see the two videos shot from one of the VIP terraces). This was better than the MotoGP VIP!

Some customers caught the start of the race from the Suzuki garage - getting that sound in your face is indescribable! Even  more incredible however is the pit lane access which allowed a couple of customers to actually stand at park ferme at the end of the race; one woman was right there as Carlos Checa rode in, dismounted and turned around to face his friends. She was one of the first to shake his hand in congratulations!

Assen is one of the great viewing circuits, with access all over the track and always exciting action. It is easy to see why this has been a fixture on both SBK and MotoGP for years; and personally can’t wait to get back!

Gordon Howell, 18.April.2011

See our SBK programme here.


Assen, Netherlands 15-17 April 2011