Dutch TT Circuit Assen
The history of the old TT circuit of Assen, from the first Dutch TT in 1925 to the drivers strike from 1955, by Herman Liesemeijer.
In 1924 the Dutch government decided to change a law to make it possible to organize races on public roads.
The first time this happens was on July the 11th 1925 when a motorcycle race was organized on the triangle Rolde, Borger, Schoonloo near the city of Assen in the East of the Netherlands. Carefully they called it a "non stop endurance tour".
The track was 28,4 km (17,75 Miles) long and contained long straights and fast kinks. However, we have to notice that the track was very narrow and some parts where unpaved. There where also two small bridges in the track who where so narrow that they had to cross them one by one.
The first corner after the start in 1925, below the same corner in 2012.
The first ever motor race in the Netherlands in the 250 cc was won by Arie Wuring, a Motorcycle Dealer from Haarlem, with an average speed of 67,3 km/h (42.06 Mph). About 10.000 spectators, not yet used to speed at that time, where lyric enthusiast afterwards.
After this successful event it was clear to the organizers that this should become an annual event. But to give green light for the 1926 race some improvements to the track where required. The local government of Borger didn't want to spent money for road paving. So the organizers where looking out for a new course.
More close to Assen a new course was found in the rectangle Assen, Hooghalen, Laaghalerveen, Assen which was full paved. However, a part was paved with bricks as many roads where at that time.
The track was 16,536 km (10.335 Miles) long and was at least three metres wide. Just like the 1925 track this one also contained long straights and fast kinks.
On June the 26th 1926 the second TT (Tourist Trophy) of Assen at the new circuit took place. Unfortunately there where less spectators than the organizers expected and the event closed with a negative saldo of 5000 Guilders.
But lucky for all Dutch motorsport enthusiasts, the "Man of Assen" (which was the nickname for the organizers) didn't gave up. The Dutch Motorcycle Association KNMV supported them and gave the event an international status to make it possible for foreign drivers to race at Assen.
In 1927 15.000 spectators came to the event which was a huge crowd at that time. During the next years spectators came in bigger numbers every year. In 1930 the TT from Assen gets the status of "Classic Event" from the FIdCM (now the FIM). In 1936 the name "Dutch TT" was officially registered, from that moment Assen was the only place outside Great Brittain who was allowed to use the name TT.
In 1939 the last pre-war Dutch TT took place. During World War Two there where no races at Assen. In 1946 the motorcycles are back at the race track of Assen. In 1949 the FIM launched the official World Championship for motorcycles. Since then the Dutch TT is a round for the World Championship.
From 1926 to 2005 this was the first corner at Assen, the fast S-bocht (S-corner).
Since 2006 the S-bocht has dissapeared, at this site is now the new Haarbocht (the first corner of the new TT circuit).
During the years improvements had to be made to the track like a new surface, better facilities, more grandstands, a speakers installation and the track was widened two times. But they never changed the lay out of the track.
During the fifties the organisation decided that a brand new circuit was necessary. There are different opinions about the motivation for this.
The official reason was that the 16,5 km long track was not longer suitable for motorcycle races due to the construction of a new road from Assen to Hooghalen. But unofficial sources told that the local government of Assen would no longer share the profits with neighbour town Beilen, a part of the track was laying on the territory of Beilen.
When in 1955 the new circuit, which was complete on the territory of Assen, was opened some angry people of Beilen predicted that it should be all over for the Dutch TT very soon. Probably this was what they wished...
After 29 years it was time to say goodbye to the old circuit with the famous corners "Bartelds Bocht" and "Oude Tol". The new circuit was "just" 7,705 km (4.8 Miles) long and was the basis of the current circuit.
The circuit was constructed in a record time of less than four months. That's why they called it "The miracle of Assen". During the first Dutch TT on the new track in 1955 the organisation was confronted with a drivers strike!
After the drivers of the 500 cc class did a warm up lap at slow speed and saw how much spectators there where they decided to claim more start money. Fortunately for the spectators, drivers and organisation came to an agreement and the race could go ahead.
For the new circuit they used the same start/finish area which was public road. Today the start/finish is still at the same place but the whole circuit is now permanent.
Two new loops where constructed, the North Loop and the South Loop. To connect these two loops they constructed a fast new section, the "Veenslang", parallel to the main straight. This about 1 km (0.625 Miles) long section was a sort of copy of the local public roads with fast kinks, most of them where full throttle, which was a special sensation for the drivers.
Partically the last kink of this section, the "Ruskenhoek", was a big challenge. Here they also enter a part of the old track which was originally driven in the opposite direction (see the map above). Today this part has been changed dramatically and lost much of its old glorie.
Because a part of the circuit was still public road the whole circuit was open when there where no races. So many people took this opportunity to drive at the TT circuit. To be frankly, I was one of them. After some grave accidents happen, some where fatal, during these illegal "Track Day's" the local government decided in the early nineties to close the road and make the semi street circuit a permanent circuit.
The "Bedeldijk" section at the old North Loop (1955 - 1983).
The most modified part of the new circuit is the North Loop. In 1984 this part was halved which made the complete circuit almost a Mile shorter. Great corners like "Bedeldijk", "Stroomdrift" and "De Vennen" where dissapeared.
At the end of 2005 they started a huge project to build an amusement park on the North side of the circuit. To create space for this project the remaining part of the North Loop was demolished and replaced by a small stadium section.
The 7,705 km (4.8 Miles) long "Miracle of Assen" is now reduced to 4,555 km (2.847 Miles). Today the amusementpark isn't finished yet.
The Start/Finish site of the first race in 1925 as it looks today.
© Text & new pictures: Herman Liesemeijer Old pictures: TT Circuit Assen