The Italian finds redemption after two consecutive retirements.
Like most Dutch TTs of the past, today’s race was one of the best of the season so far, filled with lots of excitement and standout performances in the historic circuit. It has also historically been a strong track for Yamaha, but it was Ducati who claimed the throne this year for the first time since Casey Stoner’s domination of the 2008 Dutch TT.
After crashing out on his own last week at Sachsenring, Francesco Bagnaia has found redemption as he flawlessly rode to victory from pole position. Towards the end of the race, light drizzles of rain started falling, but it did not hold Pecco back as he kept his composure to the end. He took the chequered flag ahead of fellow VR46 Academy rider Marco Bezzecchi, who sensationally claimed his maiden podium in the premier category. The young rookie did not set a foot wrong as he maintained his one-second gap to Bagnaia all the way to the end of the race. It was also a redemption day for ‘Top Gun’ Maverick Vinales, who took his first podium for Aprilia Racing. The Spaniard finished as last year’s runner-up for Yamaha on the same track (which was also his last podium), shortly before enduring a difficult mid-season switch to the Noale factory. The Spaniard successfully climbed the big obstacle of adapting to the RS-GP machine, riding a comfortable, calm and mature race to return to the rostrum, holding off a charging Jack Miller towards the end.
Fabio Quartararo was unable to repeat last season’s triumph, and made a rare mistake which ultimately led to his first DNF of the season. The Frenchman had a slow launch off 2nd on the grid, losing two places before making a place back within a few corners. He sat 3rd behind Aleix Espargaro for several laps, until an overtake attempt in Turn 5 went wrong where he ran wide and lowsided to the gravel. The collision sent Espargaro wide to the gravel, but he was luckily able to save the crash and rejoin the track safely. Quartararo later rejoined the race wit his damaged M1, and eventually suffered a nasty highside out of the same corner. It was later apparent that his traction control was cut off after the first fall.
Espargaro rejoined the track on 15th, and went on to produce what was one of the most heroic comebacks the sport has ever seen. The Spaniard ended up lapping the fastest on his charge towards the front, overtaking each rider effortlessly. With many predicting that he would finish 7th at best, he went on to defy the odds and clamped down his 3.2 second gap on the pack consisting of Jorge Martin, Brad Binder, Jack Miller and Maverick Vinales, who were all battling for the final podium place. Passing Martin on the penultimate lap, it seemed like Espargaro was settled for a 6th place finish on the final lap, before he miraculously pulled off a double overtake on Binder and Miller on the final chicane, claiming 4th place behind teammate Vinales, and only 2.5 seconds behind the race winner. Espargaro’s comeback was highly praised by viewers and paddock figures, calling it one of the greatest performances they have ever seen in the sport.
Brad Binder got away cleanly from the double overtake, bringing his KTM home to 5th in an impressive weekend, taking his highest finish of the season since his podium in the opening race. Jack Miller was unfortunately on the outside when the pack went 3-wide on the chicane, and was forced to bail out on the green and settle for a 6th place finish. It was still a solid result for the Aussie as he had served a long lap penalty early in the race.
Jorge Martin was an early threat to the podium, but began struggling with the rain drops as he slowly fell out of podium contention, finishing 7th. Joan Mir finished as the top Japanese manufacturer today, bringing his Suzuki to 8th. The Spaniard had a rather uneventful race, aside from colliding with Miguel Oliveira on his way to the grid, and with Luca Marini right off the launch in the race start. Oliveira finished a solid 9th, after a strong qualifying session which saw both Red Bull KTMs qualify to Q2 on a rare occasion. Alex Rins covers the top 10.
It was a nightmare for Yamaha, as they walk away from Assen without any points, Aside from Quartararo’s crashes, Franco Morbidelli also crashed out, coincidentally on Turn 5 like his teammate on both occasions. On the same lap, Darryn Binder crashed out of Turn 8, where his bike violently rolled on the gravel and ended up completely wrecked. Andrea Dovizioso was the only finisher for Yamaha, ending 16th just outside of the points. Aside from the three Yamahas, Raul Fernandez was the only other retiree as he suffered from arm pump issues on his right arm. Pol Espargaro withdrew after Friday following persistent pain on his ribs, from injuries sustained in Sachsenring.
Quartararo maintains his lead on top of the standings with 172 points, while Aleix Espargaro’s heroic comeback allowed him to claw 13 points off his deficit to the Frenchman, now sitting 2nd with 151 points. Johann Zarco was mysteriously off the pace today, scoring only 3 points. He remains 3rd however, with 114 points. Pecco Bagnaia edges closer to the front with his victory, bringing his tally to 106 points. Enea Bastianini covers the top five, just a point adrift from Bagnaia. Bastianini scored five points today in another 11th place finish, still struggling to find consistency despite winning three races this season so far.
It is now the start of a long summer break which will be over a month without any MotoGP racing, so enjoy an incredible summer before the racing commences again on the 7th of August at Silverstone. Stay tuned for the next race, and for any MotoGP news that unfolds over the summer break!
Featured Image – motogp.com, Dorna Sports