The 70th Dutch TT at Assen will probably long be recalled by bike fans around the world as one of the best MotoGP races in the series’ history; the eight protagonists for a podium finish in today’s 26-lap battle will definitely remember it that way. The fight began at the Assen MotoGP right when the lights went off and only ended when the chequered flag established the top-3 riders who fought in the closest top-fifteen of all time.
By that point, Marc Marquez had finally pulled a two-second gap on the chasing group, but until around three laps from the end he had been fighting tooth-and-nail with Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso, Rossi, and Lorenzo, without a moment’s pause. The World Champion ultimately prevailed over all his opponents to take his 65th career win and his 39th in MotoGP, extending his advantage in the world Standings to 41 over Valentino Rossi.
Alex Rins, from the second row, was able to get a good start and Andrea Iannone soon joined him, also making good progress from his 9th slot start. The pair began to mix it in the leading group, and as the frantic and combative race got closer with each lap, Alex Rins used his good feeling and form at Turn 5 to great effect; passing several riders there and constantly placing himself in podium contention. The young Spaniard executed a brave move on Marquez for 2nd place with 15 laps to go, proving his desire to bring his GSX-RR back to the podium. In the final laps he pushed hard once again and completed a great pass on Viñales before the final chicane, fighting all the way to the flag for his second podium of 2018.
Starting from sixth on the grid, Viñales was lying in ninth place as he approached the first corner, before settling into eighth as he completed the first lap. After six laps he moved up to sixth place and tapped onto the back of the five-rider group fighting for the lead, bringing Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco with him.
Following a scrapping session with Zarco, Viñales passed Rossi on lap 12. Next on the list was Alex Rins, and with 11 laps to go the younger Yamaha rider secured fourth, closely followed by the other Movistar Yamaha bike. He was at that time the fastest rider on track, and whilst battling with his teammate he managed to overtake Jorge Lorenzo. Soon after he passed Marc Marquez for second place, at the start of lap 18, and went on to take the lead from Andrea Dovizioso with eight laps to go.
However, a big wobble cost him time and saw him fall back behind Marquez to second place. The number 25 rider kept close, but they both ran wide, dropping him back to fourth. Yet, he still was not out for the count. Viñales fought his way back to second on the penultimate lap but came just came short trying to hold Rins behind him to the finish line. Despite a sensational last run through the Geert Timmer chicane, he ended the race in third place, just 0.039s from second and a 2.308s gap to first.
“It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport! Yesterday, I was expecting something like this, but nothing like it actually was! We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing. It was crazy! It was impossible to define the best strategy, impossible to make plans, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the Championship. I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap. It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”
“This morning I was feeling really sick, some problems with my stomach. But the doctors at Clinica Mobile gave me some medicine and it took away the pain, so I must really thank them, because when I felt better I thought ‘wow, this will be my race!’. It was a fantastic battle and I learned a lot of things during the race. Our race pace was good and I was able to enjoy it! There were a lot of over-takes and tight moves, so I was always trying to push to stay with the others and hold my space. I feel very positive with my bike and with my team, we all really want to improve and win. We’ve had a really competitive bike since Qatar, but we’ve been able to change a few things to get extra power and better performance, so I hope I can stay at the top for the next races too. I feel confident for Sachsenring.”
“For sure I’m very happy. We’ve been studying how to improve the first laps, we worked hard, and it was good to feel strong, especially in the middle of the race. After that the tyre dropped a lot, but I think we can solve this pretty easily for the next races. The TT Assen track helps a little, because I’m fast here, but for the other tracks we need to continue to work hard. My plan today was to get to first place and push, that’s why I didn’t want to let Marc pass me in turn 9. Then I went very close to the gravel, because I braked so late. Anyway, it’s nice to be back and nice to be strong. We weren’t in the best position to win, because we started a little bit towards the back, but in the next races we need to think back to this weekend, because this strategy works. On lap 6 I rode a 1’34.1s. I thought I could ride faster towards the end, but I got a little bit of arm pump and couldn’t control the speed and it was crazy. Last year in Germany was a good race, I was quite strong, and we need to keep working like this. We know the way to go fast in Sachsenring, so it’s time to work and get the job done.”
MotoGP will be back in action in two weeks’ time at the Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, held at the Sachsenring from July 13th – 15th.