Few races are written immediately into the history books as the flag flies at the finish line, but the 2018 Dutch GP will be one of them.
It was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who emerged from the melee to take the win on the Championship’s 70th visit to the track, but the headlines were stolen somewhat as the TT Circuit Assen hosted a showcase of the best of MotoGP starring Marquez, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), teammate Maverick Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), teammate Jorge Lorenzo, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol). And those on the podium at the end – Marquez, Rins and Viñales – fought to the top in the closest top fifteen of all time.
Marquez took the holeshot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo sliced through from tenth to P2 after another awe-inspiring launch.
The Italian and Catalan GP winner didn’t wait long to strike for the lead either, attacking Marquez and the two side-by-side in a war of wills until Lorenzo edged ahead.
Marquez hit back a lap later at Turn 15, before Lorenzo repaid the favour once more. The duel was the first of many; an early taste of what was to come.
Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard then suffering a moment soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. But both stayed on and both stayed ahead, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.
Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso…but Lorenzo held firm at the front.
With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.
The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two were only a hair’s breadth apart – minimal contact, but the reigning Champion suffered a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.
The Italian dueled his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with eight to go.
Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they dueled and both headed wide. Then Rossi took over – another stunner from the ‘Doctor’ at the final chicane – but ‘DesmoDovi’ took him back.
Four wide at times, Marquez then made his way back into P1…and that was all she wrote, for the lead at least. After one of the closest, most spectacular races in the history of the world’s oldest motorsport Championship, the reigning Champion was able to pull clear to take a stunning fourth win of the year – and increase his points lead.
The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third but back on the podium for the first time since Texas…and the fight for fourth showed why Rossi had been rehearsing.
The ‘Doctor’ left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but ‘DesmoDovi’ took him back on the exit, getting such a good exit that the number 04 was almost on a par with Viñales over the line.
Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) completing the top ten in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.
Sadly, that’s now it from the TT Circuit Assen for another year. Can anything top the Dutch GP? After one of the best races of all time, the first to try will be the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring on the 15th July…and then, there are 10 more chances to showcase more of the stunning class of 2018.
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took a dominant fourth victory of the season at the Motul TT Assen after leading from start to finish, eventually taking the checkered flag 1.748 seconds ahead the chasing pack. But Catalan GP race winner Fabio Quartararo (Lightech – Speed Up Racing) produced a stunning fight back through the pack to secure his second consecutive podium in P2 and light up the fight for the podium, beating third placed Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to the line after Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) retired out of second place with a rare puncture on Lap 21 – a cruel blow for the Italian after a brilliant ride.
‘Pecco’ got the perfect launch from pole to grab the holeshot into Turn 1 as the top three on the grid held station, with Marcel Schroetter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Marquez tucked in behind the Italian. Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the early hard charger, climbing up to fourth on Lap 1 before getting the better of his teammate a lap later.
Bagnaia’s gap was hovering around the 0.5 second mark for the first half-dozen laps, before the Championship leader pulled the pin to stretch his lead to over a second on lap eight, with Marquez moving his way up to second. After starting 13th, Baldassarri was man on the move, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap eight to reel in Mir, before carving his way past Schroetter and Marquez to slot into second position.
By this point, Bagnaia was looking imperious as the gap crept up to the two second mark, with Baldassarri stretching away from the battle for third. Further down the order, Miguel Oliveira’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) early race progress to seventh halted, with Quartararo now the rider with scintillating pace. The Frenchman put himself firmly in the podium picture with four laps to go, passing Mir and then quickly made Schroetter his next victim with a sensational pass at Turn 8. Then, heartbreak hit for Baldassarri as the Italian pulled into the pits with a rear tyre puncture with three to go, before Quartararo used his superior edge grip to slice past Marquez at Turn 4 – a sublime move.
In the end though, no one had an answer for the number 42 at the front, with Quatararo and Marquez rounding out the podium. Schroetter was P4 for a second race in a row, beating Mir to the line as the rookie finished fifth. Oliveira salvaged sixth after starting P17, but loses ground in the Championship to Bagnaia heading into Round 9, with teammate Brad Binder recovering to P7 after starting 22nd.
After earning his first Grand Prix front row start, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) leaves Assen with a solid eight points under his belt with P8, as Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) crossed the line P9 for a second consecutive race. Just behind the Brit was Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), who got the better of teammate Mattia Pasini – the two Italians were P10 and P11 respectively. Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) was an impressive 12th at Assen as he looks forward to the rest of the year in the Pons team, with Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) – recovering from the back of the grid – rounding out the point scoring positions.
Remy Gardner did some fantastic first laps and carved out a way close to the points scoring positions, following a start from P18. Unfortunately Gardner then lost some positions, struggling slightly to keep the fast pace of the very competitive riders in front to eventually end up in 18th. Yet, Gardner is eagerly awaiting the upcoming ninth round of the championship in just 12 days’ time at the Sachsenring in Germany.
Remy Gardner – P18
“We had some really good first two days this weekend, but a truly difficult race. The first three laps I was doing not too bad until something happened. It felt like the tyre went off and I’ve had unbelievable chatter, which we never had the whole weekend. I was losing the front everywhere and just had no confidence. It was hard to just bring the bike home, which is pretty disappointing at the end of such a strong weekend. There is not much more to say, all we need to do now is looking forward to Sachsenring.”
A commanding weekend for Bagnaia at the ‘Cathedral’ means he takes a 16-point advantage to the German GP over Oliveira, as the intermediate class head towards the mid-point of the season. Will the Championship pendulum swing once again at the Sachsenring? We’ll see on the 15th July.
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) has become the first to win a Moto3 race at the TT Circuit Assen from pole position, breaking the jinx in style to fight it out at the front before pulling the pin to perfection. The Spaniard crossed the line nearly seven tenths clear of a duel to the line between second-placed Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and P3 finisher Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing), and the 25 points see Martin take back the top of the Championship after late drama for former points leader Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) as the Italian crashed out of contention on the final lap.
Martin got the perfect start from pole, safe from attack into Turn 1 as Bastianini tucked in behind and third was taken by his teammate Lorenzo Dalla Porta. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) dropped from the front row, and the biggest gain was made by Championship leader Bezzecchi from tenth on the grid, with Italian taking third by the end of Lap 1.
Bezzecchi then attacked Bastianini for second and set his sights on race leader Martin, with the two joined by Canet in the hunt to cut the gap the leader had pulled out. But it was Canet who had the pace to do it, taking Martin as soon as he reached him and Bezzecchi then doing the same.
John McPhee (CIP – Green Power), meanwhile, had pulled away from the second group to join the fight for the win as it became a five-way scrap for glory with 16 to go. With some incredible moves exchanged between the five men, the laps ticked down with nothing in it and positions chopping and changing – classic Moto3 at the ‘Cathedral’.
With two laps to go, Bezzecchi was in the lead but the Italian headed wide and Martin pounced, with the Spaniard then immediately pulling the pin, half a second clear in the blink of an eye. Canet was the man pushing to catch him, before drama then hit as McPhee suddenly slid out at Turn 9 and the fight became four.
Martin was free and clear of it with almost eight tenths in his pocket as they began the final lap, but the drama behind wasn’t over there as another bike then slid out into the gravel – that of Bezzecchi as disaster struck for the Italian. That made the stakes that much bigger for Martin as he crossed the line clear to take not only the win but also the Championship lead – with Canet just able to hold off Bastianini for second.
The second group fighting over sixth was eight riders all packed together to squabble it out, but with the crashes up ahead it became the fight for fourth and a stunning performance from top rookie Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) took that fourth by a mere tenth. He finished just ahead of Czech veteran Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP), who came from 23rd on the grid after a penalty and put in an impressive push through the pack to complete the top five.
Dalla Porta beat Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to P6 by just 0.022 but it was nevertheless the South African’s best result of the season so far, with another close fight just behind the two to decide eighth as Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) pipped Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Bulega. Bulega, completing the top ten from the front row, therefore put his first points on the board in 2018 after a difficult start to the year for the former FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Champion.
Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) split the two Sky Racing Team VR46 machines in P11 as Bulega’s teammate and fellow former Moto3 Junior World Champion Dennis Foggia came home twelfth for his first points of the year as well, with Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) completing the scorers – Toba from P29 on the grid.
Jorge Martin – P1
“This was our goal: I wanted a small group at the front and I make sure it happened. I waited calm for most of the race, as I also had a problem with my front brake which didn’t allow me to overtake under heavy-braking, but with four laps to go nobody wanted to take control and from a screen; when from a TV screen I saw that I had McPhee behind, who had struggled in the last few laps – I decided to push. I’m really sorry for Bezzecchi, as when I crash I hope no one joys for that. Obviously I’m happy to be leader than having a 23-point gap: we want to enter the break as leaders, so we’ll have to try and do it again at Sachsenring.”
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