#DutchGP Assen – Sunday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
A lot was riding on the Motul TT Assen as Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) went from struggling for form in Practice 1 to adding another win to his 2023 title tilt, outpacing Tissot Sprint winner Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) on Sunday. Bezzecchi went into the Grand Prix race as the rider to beat with incredible pace around Assen, but was forced to settle for second place on Sunday. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) once again crossed the line in third but was demoted out of the top three for exceeding track limits, this time on the last lap, which promoted Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) into third to take an important Grand Prix podium.
Action underway in Assen
The grid settled on one of the most iconic circuits on the 2023 MotoGP™ calendar, as with points to be won ahead of the summer break. The pressure was on for the title-fighting trio as third-placed rider in the standings, Bezzecchi, was looking strong in the Netherlands after taking pole and the Sprint win. With just 31 points covering the top three, there was plenty to play for with Championship leader Bagnaia sat alongside Bezzecchi on the front row and third overall, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), faced a mountain to climb from the fourth row.
When the lights went out it was Binder who flew his way into the lead of the race from fifth on the grid, diving up the inside of Bagnaia at Turn 1 to snatch the holeshot at the apex, elbows out as ever. Binder led the way on lap one ahead of Bagnaia and Bezzecchi, with Aleix Espargaro and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) keeping themselves in contention in fourth and fifth.
Meanwhile, Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) had made a good start to his Grand Prix, flying up to fifth from seventh on the grid. The opposite was true for Jack Miller(Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as he then crashed out from behind the Aprilia, leaving Viñales to shoot off. He was the fastest rider on the circuit, too, past Marini on a charge until he crashed out.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) also suffered early dramas, he enjoyed a return to the top three in Saturday’s Tissot Sprint but got a terrible start in Sunday’s Grand Prix dropping down to 12th place from 4th on the grid, and then crashed out alongside Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) in a premature end to their races.
At first there were three
Meanwhile at the front, Bagnaia took the lead from Binder with 24 laps to go, making light work of the South African to put down a blistering pace at the front. The Italian began to put the hammer down, with Binder latched onto his rear wheel and Bezzecchi next up, the top three beginning to break away from the rest of the field.
The laps ticked away and it seemed Bagnaia was controlling the pace, stretching out the leading battle. But Binder and Bezzecchi were still very much on the chase, and with 10 to go Bezzecchi had had enough of following the KTM. The Italian decided it was his turn to follow the race leader Bagnaia as he pushed the South African to one side to take over in second, the mission now: catch Pecco.
It went down to eight tenths, back up to a second and then down to nine tenths. Then it was 1.3, 1.1… but Bezzecchi couldn’t breach the gap. Binder wasn’t going down without a fight either, as he tried all he could to bite back.
By the last lap, it was clear: Bagnaia had controlled the race perfectly, just staying clear of Bezzecchi as the two came home separated by just over a second. But the fight for third rolled on…
Fine margins make the difference in MotoGP™
By the last few laps, Binder had company from Aleix Espargaro and Martin, with the three glued together. First it looked like the Aprilia was closest to try and strike on the KTM, and the number 41 homed in on the first part of the final lap. But Binder put in a masterclass defensive performance and fended off the two behind to take third… or did he?
Fine margins decided the South African’s fate once again, however, as a track limits breach on the final lap warranted a +1 position penalty, demoting him to fourth.
Espargaro had his hands full on the last lap with Martin trying to find his way through, too. It was an epic drag to the line that saw the Prima Pramac Ducati pull alongside the factory Aprilia as they crossed the line side by side, with almost nothing in it – but that almost nothing was enough to see Aleix Espargaro awarded that final place on the rostrum. Binder is classified fourth, and Martin fifth.
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) finished sixth ahead of Marini as the Italian got mugged through the final chicane mid-race, losing four positions at once. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMISTU) bagged P8, some distance up the road from Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and rookie Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3), who rounded out the top ten in a solid Sunday effort.
It was a big weekend for Bagnaia’s 2023 Championship campaign as the Italian not only displayed the ability he and Ducati have to overcome a lack of feeling in Practice, but also showed his Championship rivals he means business in 2023. MotoGP™ now takes a short break for the summer before returning to action at the Monster Energy British Grand Prix from the 4th to the 6th of August.
Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar M2) is now a Grand Prix winner! The British rider converted some serious form into a maiden win at the Motul TT Assen, getting the better of Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) late in the race. Ogura was back on the box after taking a step back into the frontrunning postcodes we’ve seen him challenge before, and Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the podium after an eventful journey into third.
Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools SpeedUp) took the holeshot from pole and Ogura jumped Dixon off the line, with the Brit slotting into third and that trio then immediately getting the hammer down. But Acosta was on the move, picking his way past his teammate, Albert Arenas, and Championship leader Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) to get into clear air and then chase them down.
It became a quartet as Dixon stalked Ogura and got past, then Lopez, and the Brit then made a move stick at Turn 1 to take over. Ogura then shoved his way past Lopez and the even Spaniard dropped behind Acosta not long after, before then Dixon then headed wide and gave up the lead dropping to third.
Ogura led Acosta led Dixon, but the next to suffer a moment was Acosta as the Spaniard was forced into a save at the Geert Timmer chicane, heading wide and letting Dixon back through. At that moment, it seemed Ogura had checked out in the lead too – over a second clear and on fine form. It was a reset, reload, and gear up for seven laps to go for those on the chase.
That’s what Dixon did, and when the Brit struck at Turn 1 it was a slightly brutal move – one he apologized for as his bike got sucked in – but he made it stick. And then he kept it clean to the flag for that fabulous first Grand Prix win, and in convincing style.
Ogura may well not have taken that win but after a stunning weekend running back at the front, the second place is a great sign for last year’s title challenger after an injury-hit start to 2023. And Acosta, on a tougher weekend, kept himself on the podium – despite some late drama.
After an adventurous start, the number 37 was then also hit with a Long Lap after that moment and subsequent shortcut at Turn 17. And when he complied, it was on the limit. Just on the white line as he caned it round, it was deemed completed and he took that all the way to another podium – but it still wasn’t plain sailing. A late race charge from Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools SpeedUp) saw him glued to Acosta into the final chicane on the final lap, and the two had a drag race to the line, just won by the number 37 by hundredths.
Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) was only a few tenths behind in fifth, with Lopez fading to sixth – just ahead of Arbolino. Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Master Camp), Arenas and Celestino Vietti (Fantic Racing), the latter despite a Long Lap, completed the top ten in a close trio.
That’s all she wrote at Assen, and Dixon leaves the track on top of the world just in time for the Monster Energy British Grand Prix next time out. The top two? The lead for Arbolino is just eight points over Acosta heading into the summer break…
Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) put in a stunner at the Motul TT Assen, taking his first victory of the season and making serious gains on Championship leader Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3), who failed to score. Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) was just denied at the last corner once again but takes yet another podium as his roll continues, and likewise German GP winner Deniz Öncü(Red Bull KTM Ajo) as the Turkish rider completed the rostrum at Assen.
Polesitter David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) took the holeshot from Joel Kelso(CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP), but the Aussie was through soon after as the two went side by side. It didn’t take long for those on the chase to get back into the groove though, and the drama was amping up elsewhere.
After a disastrous qualifying that left him last on the grid, Championship leader Holgado was already facing a mountain to climb – and on the first lap it only got worse. Crashing and off into the gravel early on, losing a whole chunk of time, the race was on for him to try and recover the impossible.
Meanwhile fellow Championship challenger Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team), who qualified well down the order too, was on a mission. He was straight into the top ten, then into the top three, and despite serving his Long Lap given on Saturday for not respecting a black and orange flag, right in the fight at the front in a seriously impressive performance under pressure.
And so, with Ortola back in the mix and a top group of ten escaping the rest, the freight train to decide the podium rolled on. As ever, it all went down to the final chicane, and Sasaki was at the head of the group – one week on from the Japanese rider just losing out at the final corner at the Sachsenring. This time around, an attack came again as Masia shot up the inside into the Geert Timmer chicane, and the number 5 made the move stick, and made it cleanly. The drag to the line saw Masia just hold onto it by 0.081, with Sasaki forced to settle for second but both making big strides in the standings.
Likewise does Öncü, who held onto third for another podium finish – just edging out Ortola after the Angeluss MTA Team rider’s stunning charge from 20th. Muñoz, after a late tangle with Romano Fenati (Rivacold Snipers Team), takes fifth, ahead of Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and fellow rookie Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) on his home turf. Fenati was forced to settle for eighth after the late shuffle, with Kelso ninth and Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team), after straightlining the chicane, completing the front group and the top ten.