My intuition said that MotoGP Assen would deal out an unjust round of cards proved true indeed, with the characteristic rain visiting the track in force on race day. The grid started the race on wet tires, and it could be taken for granted that strong wet weather riders such as Rossi, Dovi and Petrucci would put up a strong show. The lights went out to reveal Redding getting the holeshot and running wide into turn 1 with exuberance. Rossi lead Dovi, Aleix Espargaro and Marquez into the first few turns. One of the many surprises at Assen was Yonny Hernandez on a set of soft wet tires. He charged through the field and overtook Marquez before the final chicane on lap 1 and passed Espargaro at turn 1 on lap 2. The rather ancient Ducati he was on proved surprisingly competent in his hands, as he gained on the leaders by leaps and bounds.
Hernandez passed Dovi at turn 1 on lap 3 and overtook Rossi after Rossi ran wide a few corners later. Lorenzo languished in 11th place after showing some pace in the earlier laps. He soon dropped to 15th place even as Petrucci overtook Pedrosa for 5th place. Pedrosa’s skill in getting so far ahead after starting quite far back is commendable, but even more commendable was Petrucci as he spanked factory bikes on his way forward as proven by him dispatching Marquez on lap 5.
The hell-raiser Iannone meanwhile crashed and bashed his way past Marquez too with characteristic aggression and relentlessness, despite starting from last place on the grid. By the tenth lap, Hernandez was ahead of Rossi by a massive 3.6 seconds. Soon after, Dovi passed Rossi at turn 1 and Hernandez’s majestic ride came to an end when he crashed at the turn 1 on lap 12. He took away respect and admiration for his ride if not a trophy. Iannone highsided on the next lap, even as Rossi and Petrucci traded overtakes. The leading pack was now bunched up, with the top four trading overtakes before the race was red flagged on the fifteenth lap due to the rain. Both the Repsol Honda riders and Redding were furious at this turn of events, waving their hands shaking their heads in anger.
The restarted race was a 12 lap affair, with the positions on the 14th lap comprising the starting grid. Dovi, Rossi, Marquez and Miller who got a good launch lead the field into turn 1. Pedrosa bit it at turn 9 and Crutchlow crashed out of the race soon after, the Englishman down in the gravel for the fourth time in the weekend and lord knows how many times in the season. Petrucci retired while Dovi and Smith crashed on lap 2. Rossi had opened up a lead of 3 seconds when he too crashed at turn 10 on lap 3, followed by Aleix Espargaro soon after at turn 11. Jack Miller, yes, Jack Miller passed Marquez for the lead on the next lap and stayed there. Vinales and Lorenzo benefitted from the slew of crashes to recover to 10th and 11th respectively. Redding got past Pol Espargaro for the last place on the podium on the penultimate lap. Bautista crashed out of a valuable sixth place on the last lap while Miller wheelied over the line to become the first satellite rider to win a MotoGP race in ten years, since Toni Elias won at Estoril in 2006.
Assen took everyone by surprise, with Miller taking the win ahead of Marquez who celebrated just as he would have if he had won the race. Marquez’s new found maturity and determination to finish races and stay ahead is his most threatening asset that his title rivals have to contend with at this point in the championship. Marc Marquez always had the speed and god-like control at the limit, but threw away far too many races in pursuit of wins when he lost the title to Lorenzo last year. Now that he is focussing on the larger picture, he may lose a few battles but win the war.
Lorenzo was as low as 19th during the race. He later said he felt like retiring from the race to avoid risking another broken bone at Assen for no points. In any case, his inability to ride in less than ideal conditions will be seen by some as a weakness that recent champions like Marquez, Rossi or Stoner could count as their strengths. Lorenzo’s legacy will forever be tarnished by this race.
Rossi is now decidedly in trouble, with a third DNF eating massively into his title hopes. He is now 42 points behind Marquez and 18 behind Lorenzo. Are his title hopes over? Or will he pick himself up and show the world why he has won nine world titles? Whatever his response is, it will surely not be something that will be bellowed at his rivals in Germany, for I feel Germany may turn out to be humdrum affair. Marc Marquez is finally thinking, but can his rivals out-think him? We shall find out at the Sachsenring.
MotoGP Assen race results are as follows –
1. Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 22m 17.447s
2. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 22m 19.438s
3. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 22m 23.353s
4. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 22m 27.259s
5. Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 22m 35.282s
6. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 22m 36.139s
7. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 22m 40.052s
8. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 22m 41.050s
9. Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 22m 43.595s
10. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 22m 45.051s
11. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 23m 39.277s
12. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 24m 11.816s
13. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) +3 laps
Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) DNF
Michele Pirro ITA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) DNF
Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) DNF
Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) DNF
Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNS