With only one point splitting the main title contenders of the intermediate class coming into Assen, the battle was sure to settle the championship lead one way or another by Sunday afternoon. And all the signs during practice indicated that Pecco Bagnaia would be in prime position to have a say on the matter – and so he did, the Italian dominating proceedings as soon as the lights went off.
Bagnaia confidently stretched his advantage in the championship with another win but Fabio Quartararo stole his thunder by storming in from tenth on the grid to second on the podium. One can only wonder if the Frenchman could have made it two in a row had it not been for his three-place grid penalty for being naughty during a red flag but the fairly impressive charge through the field was definitely a confidence boost. Alex Marquez’s practice sacrifice of two bikes to the gravel trap Gods looked like it paid off in the race and the Spaniard made another trip to the final podium step.
The last time the poleman saw his colleagues was at the start of the race, when he charged at the front, with his fellow front row starters in tow. Right behind them, Joan Mir climbed from ninth to fourth on lap one to sneak ahead of his teammate but with Bagnaia and Schrotter confidently at the front, Marini was soon losing some ground to both Marc VDS teammates. Xavi Vierge, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Mattia Pasini tagged along for the ride, with a fairly impressive Miguel Oliveira having to make another brave start from 17th on the grid to join the top ten by lap three. Sam Lowes made the opposite journey, from the second row of the grid to 13th, making little progress afterwards.
By lap four, Bagnaia, Schrotter, Mir and Marquez had stretch one second’s gap on the chasers led by Baldassarri. In that same pack, Oliveira’s challenge was slowed down by a feisty Pasini but the KTM rider was soon catching up with Baldassarri and Vierge. Back at the front, Bagnaia was still setting a hot pace and the gap went over the one second mark by lap seven, when Marquez picked up the task of reeling him in. The only significant move for the next few laps was Baldassarri joining the podium battle and demoting Mir in the process. One second behind them, Vierge crashed out of sixth position at the start of lap ten and allowed Oliveira some clear air to chase the leaders.
Rather than hunting down Bagnaia, Marquez let another second slip through his fingers and had to contend with Baldassarri, Schrotter and Mir for the remaining podium places. The Pons rider got the job done for second at the halfway point of the race and was stuck with two seconds to recover on his flatmate. Marquez found himself once again defending third from Schrotter, while Mir was only half a second behind but with the threat of Oliveira and Quartararo charging through a one second gap behind the Spaniard.
Baldassarri tried his best but Bagnaia looked unbeatable from start to end and the gap wouldn’t budge. With seven laps to go, Marquez and Schrotter got within touch of the Italian but the real threat was Quartararo, who was all over the back of Mir, eighth tenths down on the final podium place. The Frenchman made it past the Spaniard with five laps to go and almost immediately caught up with Schrotter to start a feisty late battle.
Disaster struck for Baldassarri in the final three laps, when the Italian was forced into the pits by a rear tyre puncture and gave Bagnaia a bit of a breather at the front. That left Quartararo to rule to roost behind him and swiftly make it past Marquez for second place. The Marc VDS rider settled for another third position, while Schrotter fended off a late charge from Mir to score his third fourth place of the season. Mir finished fifth, while Oliveira’s early heroics could only get him as high as sixth, ahead of teammate Brad Binder. Marini, Lowes and Locatelli rounded out the top ten positions.
After looking in trouble in Barcelona, Bagnaia reasserted his dominance in fine style and extended his lead in the championship to 16 points over Oliveira. Marquez is third, 34 points down, with Baldassarri’s misfortune dropping him 51 points behind his leading compatriot.
|2||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||Speed Up||+1.748|
|17||64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||Tech 3||+28.674|
|18||87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||+28.888|
|19||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+29.441|
|26||7||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI||Kalex||1 Lap|
|13||Romano FENATI||Kalex||4 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Kalex||15 Laps|
|62||Stefano MANZI||Suter||18 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|52||Danny KENT||Speed Up||0 Lap|