With Assen’s capricious weather, it was a journey into the unknown for the MotoGP class, with no one doing anything near race distance on any of the tyres. Sprinkle in the prospect of rain scheduled for the final few laps and Valentino Rossi’s tenth victory in Assen becomes even more impressive. Or should I say predictable, to a degree, knowing the Italian's prowess for such conditions? The highly celebrated win means he can now add a new record to his portfolio, for the longest winning career across all classes.
His main challenger throughout the race proved to be compatriot Danilo Petrucci, who got as close as six hundredths of a second to having to officially change his name as promised in the press conference. The Pramac rider took second place, while the battle for the final podium position provided the entertainment on the last lap, Marc Marquez snatching it for four hundredths of a second.
Poleman Johann Zarco kept his position at the start, dragging Marquez right behind him, as Rossi blasted past Petrucci into third position. Zarco was already making the most of his favoured soft tyre combination and pushing hard to build a gap in the lead. He had six tenths in hand by the end of lap one but the gap did not get any bigger, the world champion riding hard to keep the Frenchman within reach. With Marquez, Rossi and Petrucci in tow, a gap was slowly starting to appear to the chasing pack, led by Scott Redding, one second between the groups by lap three.
The chasing group was not making great progress in bringing down that gap, Redding leading Andrea Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso, Alvaro Bautista, Maverick Viñales, Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller, Aleix Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa. Viñales and Pedrosa could not make great progress at the start either, the Yamaha man a steady tenth place as the Honda rider was losing places in the first few laps. The championship leader started picking his rivals up to get past Crutchlow and Bautista and into eighth position by lap eight. Former teammates Dovizioso and Iannone were engaged in a fight of their own in front of him, before the Suzuki started once again to go backwards.
Meanwhile, the four-man runaway group at the front were keeping their powder dry, over two seconds in front of the pursuers but not making any moves. That lasted until lap eleven, when Rossi made it past Marquez into the first corner, putting the same move on Zarco one lap later. Zarco was not one to let it go that easily, the Frenchman bumping into Rossi as the Italian ran wide and left him a small gap. Marquez benefited from the incident to get past Zarco, Petrucci following him through soon after.
Behind them, Viñales got into the rhythm we expected from him and found himself leading the chasing pack, with three seconds to make up. The mission looked doable until, on lap thirteen, the world championship leader crashed out in the final chicane, Dovizioso only just avoiding him and inheriting not only his fifth place but also the championship lead.
With eleven laps to go, Marquez appeared to be slowing down slightly, overtaken by Petrucci in turn five as Rossi was trying to build a gap at the front, seven tenths splitting the Italians. The gap turned to one full second one lap later, the Yamaha man the only one in the front group on the hard rear tyre, Petrucci and Marquez on the medium and Zarco on the soft.
With eight laps to go, drops of rain started to fall and the pitlane was open to allow for the riders to switch bikes. In the changing conditions, Dovizioso made up a big gap to catch up with Zarco and Marquez, the Frenchman the first to enter the pits and gamble on incoming rain. It was a losing bet, the rain never hard enough, so the poleman had to settle for fourteenth place.
Meanwhile, Rossi lost his advantage and was under pressure from Petrucci and Dovizioso, the Italian podium battle seeing Petrucci finally past Rossi with five laps to go, while Marquez was biding his time close behind them. The world champion had a go at Dovizioso soon after, the Italian having none of it, the two rapidly losing touch with the leaders and getting caught by Crutchlow.
Rossi went back on top with three laps to go but not really shaking off his compatriot, as some more drizzle made its presence known on the final three laps. Behind them, Crutchlow was making his case in the battle for third, the Brit trading blows with Marquez, the battle down to the line and a matter of centimetres separating them in the end.
Crutchlow didn’t quite make the podium, only eight hundredths of a second separating him from Dovizioso in fifth place. Miller had a steady ride into sixth, eighteen seconds down on the new championship leader, followed by an impressive Karel Abraham in seventh place and an equally deserving Loris Baz in eighth position.
Iannone salvaged a ninth place for Suzuki, ahead of the Espragaro brothers, with Aleix getting bragging rights in tenth place. The Hondas of Tito Rabat and Pedrosa followed them, the factory rider going backwards as soon as drops showed on his visor. Jorge Lorenzo got the final point after a decent start was negated by his trip into the pits when the rain appeared to come.
After a terrible start, Jonas Folger’s day got worse, the German crashing out on lap ten to leave the field with no riders to have finished all races in the points.
No such problems for Dovizioso, who now leads the world championship by four points, taking over from Viñales. The Spaniard stays second, with his teammate’s victory placing Rossi third, seven points down on Dovizioso. Marquez is a further four points down, Pedrosa losing a bit of ground, twenty-eight points behind the leader.
|15||99||Jorge LORENZO||Ducati||1 Lap|
|16||8||Hector BARBERA||Ducati||1 Lap|
|17||42||Alex RINS||Suzuki||1 Lap|
|45||Scott REDDING||Ducati||2 Laps|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Ducati||9 Laps|
|38||Bradley SMITH||KTM||13 Laps|
|25||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||15 Laps|
|94||Jonas FOLGER||Yamaha||17 Laps|
|22||Sam LOWES||Aprilia||18 Laps|