Motul TT Assen, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
A torrential downpour followed the Moto2™ and ensured that at least the start of the MotoGP™ World Championship race would be wet. With the track soaked, the rain eased and riders headed out onto the grid with wets fitted. Conditions were far from ideal, Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) falling on his sighting lap. The lights went out with riders knowing a flag-to-flag race was likely, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) grabbing the lead out of the first corner as they tiptoed around the first corners.
Once he had the lead Rossi didn’t look back, opening up almost a second advantage on everyone but Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) on the first lap. But soon the wild Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) was past him; with a championship to consider ‘The Doctor’ and Dovizioso chose not to risk anything.
Riders looked set to consider a change to intermediate or dry tyres but then the rain returned with a vengeance. Dovizioso was able to catch up to Rossi once again. The rain only got heavier and allowed Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) to join the battle for victory, Yonny Hernandez’s fall turning their battle into one for victory. But then with 12 laps to go the rain was ruled to be too severe and the red flag was brought out due to the weather conditions.
Not long after the race was restarted, run over 12 laps. The grid was based on the finishing positions on lap 14 and the quick restart rule made its first appearance in the premier class. As such Dovizioso lined up on pole with Petrucci and Rossi completing the front row. Redding led the Repsol Honda Team pairing of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa on the second row, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lined up in 19th after a disastrous start in the first 14-lap race.
Andrea Dovizioso, who had led the restart, lost the front end as he attempted to stay with Rossi. He took a heavy roll through the gravel but sustained no serious injuries. This granted Rossi a comfortable lead until he crashed out at Turn 10 a lap later. It was disaster for ‘The Doctor’ in a race that could have seen him right with Marquez in the championship. This is Rossi’s third DNF of the 2016 season.
Known for his ability in the wet, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) made steady progress off the line and soon found himself in second behind Marquez. After an injury hit start to the season Miller seized his chance and took the lead of the race at the final chicane on lap four. Marquez tried to close down the Australian but Miller kept his cool. Miller’s victory is the first MotoGP™ win by an Australian since Casey Stoner’s final victory in Phillip Island in 2012. He also becomes the first rider on a non-factory bike to win a race since Toni Elias won the infamous Portuguese GP in 2006.
Marquez was aggressive off the line, leading into the entry of Turn 1 but dropping back as he ran wide and sliding to third. The Spaniard soon found himself in first as Dovizioso and Rossi fell. He had an important decision to make when Miller went past him, risk it for victory or settle for 20 points with his main rivals having disastrous weekends? Championship ambition won out and Marquez settled for second place, extending his championship lead over both Lorenzo and Rossi by a significant margin.
The battle for third was one of the closest on track, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Redding finding themselves in podium contention due to the falls ahead. Espargaro could smell his first podium but Redding had a point to prove. Redding muscled his way past his former Moto2™ rival to return to the podium for the first time since Misano in 2015.
Iannone managed to take fifth place ahead of Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) and Eugene Laverty (Aspar MotoGP). Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jorge Lorenzo completed the top ten. Lorenzo had a terrible time in both races, the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship unable to find any speed in the wet. He picked up six more points than his teammate, but there’s a lot of work to do still in the championship.
Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Bradley Smith all finished the race, everyone who remained upright scoring points.
The wet had given Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) the perfect chance to show his skill; with nothing to lose the Colombian took the lead of the first race on the third lap. He’d extend his lead out the front until he fell on lap 12; his dreams of a miraculous first win gone as he retired before the red flag.
Dani Pedrosa’s weekend went from bad to worse as he crashed at Turn 9 on lap one of the restart. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) followed soon after at Turn 12.
What had been a dream Sunday for Petrucci ended in disaster as the Italian’s Ducati died on the second lap, his hopes of a Silverstone repeat over.
Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) also fell from the race, conditions proving trickier than before.
Michele Pirro (Avintia Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) all suffered falls. Several were able to remount, solid points on offer due to all the crashes.
Fears of rain were briefly put to bed as the Moto2™ World Championship race at the Motul TT Assen lined up on the grid. The 24-lap race began with a lightning start from pole setter Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), who seized the lead immediately. Sideways action into Turn 1 saw Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) slide into second. Rain clouds threatened throughout the race, some riders risking more than others as it got darker and darker.
Having led Warm Up, Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) carried his pace through to the race and was inside the top five from the moment the lights went out. The top five were close and on lap six the Japanese star passed Luthi for second and attempted to close in on Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who had taken an early lead. On lap nine he went up the inside of the Italian and took control of the race. His times were often half a second faster than those behind, quickly opening up a 1.5 second lead which he expertly managed. Two laps from the end the red flag was brought out due to rain, cementing Japan’s return to the top step. This is Nakagami’s first win in the World Championship, having had to settle for second on so many other occasions.
After the first five laps it looked as though Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) would be out of contention for victory, the French rider struggling to find his pace early in the race. But once he found his pace he flew, jumping into the podium battle on the tenth lap. He led Morbidelli and Luthi as the final ten laps began, the trio battling for second as Nakagami had vanished. Zarco was making progress on the Japanese rider, spots of rain in the closing six laps hardly slowed him but his chances of victory were ended by the red flag. Second sees Zarco right back in championship contention as joint leader.
From fifth on the grid, Franco Morbidelli held his position in the early laps, getting past Johann Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami with relative ease. The Italian was flying as he passed Luthi for the lead into the chicane on lap four. He held first place for some time but was eventually passed by Nakagami, the Italian focusing on his own race to secure third, only his second podium finish.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was fast right away and immediately found himself in contention, the Brit pushing hard to catch Luthi out the front but was unable to stay with the leaders. His pace improved towards the end and he challenged Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) for fourth, a massive moment saw him briefly drop to fifth, recovering for fourth. This result sees him only five points off the championship lead.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) would eventually cross the line fifth, just ahead of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40). A poor start saw him outside the top five, the Spaniard having to work incredible hard, sixth his reward as the leading three in the championship close up yet again as the leading three are split by only five points.
Luthi was sat comfortably behind Zarco in second for much of the race but suddenly had his pace drop off. The Swiss rider lost a number of positions before crashing at Turn 8 on lap 19.
There were further falls for Axel Pons (AGR Team) and Luca Marini (Forward Team). Like Luthi, they were unharmed.
For the 800th time the lightweight class championship lined up on the grid, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) on pole and looking to break the pole position curse. It was a historic day as the Moto3™ World Championship race was also the first one to be held on a Sunday at Assen. The Motul TT Assen was declared dry, but dark clouds began to blot out the sun as the lights went out. Away they went, Bastianini and Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) flying off the line.
Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) had a steady first lap and hit the lead on lap two, his Mahindra able to hold its own around the 18 fast and flowing corners of Assen. It was a cut and thrust battle for most of the 22 lap race, no one able to gain any sort of advantage. He timed his move to perfection, expertly navigating the final chicane to carry enough speed to take a photo finish victory. Not only was it his first win on the world stage, but also Mahindra’s who have now broken Honda and KTM’s domination of the lightweight class.
Having only scored his first points in Mugello, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) continued to show the importance of confidence as the Italian was once more involved in the podium battle. There was little room for tactics, Di Giannantonio doing all he could to hang on until the last lap. In true Assen style it was all about the run through the chicane, his Honda pushing him to third, 0.021s off victory. After the race Migno was demoted to third, promoting Di Giannantonio to second.
On lap nine of the race Migno put in an aggressive move to lead the race, having spent the opening portion of the Motul TT Assen just outside the top three. Binder attacked him but the Italian responded, able to hold his own against the championship leader. On the last lap he made an incredible move through Hoge Heide and the Ramshoek, coming from fifth to lead into the chicane. 0.018s separated him from his first win, making his podium debut with second. But after the race it was ruled that Migno had made an illegal overtake and was thus demoted to third.
Despite a strong start to the race, Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) was unable to make it happen on the last lap. The Italian was squeezed out coming into the final chicane and forced to settle for fourth, despite having led at multiple stages in the race. He’s now 58-points back on Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) left his charge till late in the race, leading as the final lap began but like Fenati found himself unable to progress at the chicane. Fifth is his best result since Mugello.
Championship leader Binder was immediately in the front group. As is typical in the Moto3™ class his lead wouldn’t last and the South African was quickly pushed back to fourth. He seemed to be waiting for his chance to strike but with seven laps to go he saved a near highside at Turn 15, forced to run across the gravel and grass. This dropped the South African to 13th, five seconds back on the front group. He went on to finish a distant 12th, but maintains the championship lead.
Last minute replacement Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) was the first faller of the race, highsiding as he entered the chicane.
The second lap saw a nasty fall for Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team), his KTM colliding with Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) and taking them both down. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, riders taking evasive action to avoid the fallen riders in the middle of the track.
Lap eight produced yet more drama as Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) carried too much speed into the final chicane, forcing Bastianini wide but taking Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) out of the race. Both riders were able to walk away unharmed.
Alexis Masbou (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) and Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicom Starker) fell together at Turn 1 on lap 13, the Japanese rider clutching his wrist as he walked away.
Bastianini’s race came to an abrupt end with four laps to go as he tried to force his way through a gap that didn’t exist at Turn 10 on the inside of Bulega. He was frustrated but unharmed.