"The Cathedral" - that's what motorcycling fans around the globe have nicknamed the TT Circuit Assen. The circuit has hosted international top-class Road Racing events for 85 years and sports a history unrivalled by most as far as motorsport on two wheels is concerned. This weekend, however, it's time for Felix Rosenqvist and the other ATS Formula 3 Cup drivers to prove that car racing too belongs within the gates of the Dutch arena.
After six out of 18 races on the championship calendar, Felix has felt the rage of motorsport when things go wrong. The Performance Racing driver has taken the chequered flag just twice this year, and has been haunted by bad luck throughout the early parts of his 2010 campaign. A good start from second on the grid in the first race at Hockenheim last time out saw Felix head towards his first-ever F3 win, but destiny played its cards and a clash with Van Amersfoort Racing's Daniel Abt cruelly resulted in retirement and zero points. In Race 2, Felix was involved in a tough battle over second place, only for a drive-through penalty to effectively ruin his chances of visiting the podium.
Assen, however, represents a fresh wind of opportunities and a new chance for Felix to translate his potentially race-winning speed into decent, hard results. One and a half month has passed since Hockenheim, and Performance Racing have been working flat out to provide Felix and team-mate Alon Day with ever-improved tools to fight at the top. During winter testing at Assen, the two reigning Formula Renault champions ended up first and second with Felix just ahead of Day, but the circuit's characteristic high-speed corners and lack of braking areas have traditionally been a recipe for close racing - there will be plenty of competition, and difficult to break free from following cars.
Tom Dillmann leads the championship after a strong comeback in Hockenheim, where his HS Technik team initially struggled. F3 veteran Dillmann profited from the significant number of incidents during the weekend to win the second race, but heading to Assen the clear favourite has got to be home hero Stef Dusseldorp. Dusseldorp finished as runner-up in the ATS Formula 3 Cup last season, but is only fourth overall at the moment and is in real need to win on home soil. The Dutchman knows Assen like the back of his hand, and will be of great assistance to team-mates Abt and Willi Steindl in the pursuit of the best possible chassis set-up. The fact that Dusseldorp's team, Van Amersfoort Racing, happens to be based in the Netherlands doesn't do much to ease pre-race expectations...
Former Formula Renault dominants Motopark Academy, who decided to leave their old parade class to focus all their resources on Formula 3 ahead of this year, have also had a torrid time lately. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) did finish second in Race 1 at Hockenheim, but only after Felix had to retire and Abt was given a drive-through penalty for his part in the accident. The season got off to a promising start at the team's home circuit in Oschersleben, but it has since become obvious that the step to F3 is anything but a walk in the park - regardless of previous achievements. Magnussen, Luis Derani (Brazil), Rene Binder (Austria) and Sweden's Jimmy Eriksson are all new to the championship this year and will hope to turn their fortunes around.
As per usual, two races will be run over the weekend, but the organisers have announced a small change to the timetable in comparison to previous events. Proceedings at Assen will get underway with unofficial testing and free practice on Friday afternoon, followed by Qualifying 1 - which sets up the grid for the first race of the weekend - on Saturday morning. Unlike earlier in the year, however, Qualifying 2 will take place after Race 1, which means there will now be two clearly separated race days; one on Saturday, and one on Sunday (see full timetable below).
Weather forecasts currently speak of endless sunshine and temperatures higher than normal in the area - something that, coupled with the circuit layout and the enormous cornering speeds of the F3 cars, will put driver strength and stamina at a premium. The same could be said of the Yokohama tyres used in the championship, which will have to endure significant lateral forces.
Felix Racing will report from Assen all through the weekend, with picture galleries, practice reports and - of course - our dedicated LIVE commentary service from qualifying and the races. Stay tuned to www.felixracing.se for everything you need to know about the twists and turns in the Netherlands.
ATS Formula 3 Cup - Assen