Two weeks on from a third consecutive masterclass by Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), the Moto2 World Championship heads to Assen for round eight of the 2019 season.
His Catalan Grand Prix win gave Marquez the World Championship lead, one that he holds by seven points from Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), although Marquez has two more victories than the Swiss. Marquez has only two podiums, though, in Assen, when he won dominantly in 2014 in the Moto3 class, and last year when Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) suffered a puncture in the closing stages of the race which cost him second place. However, his recent form means Marquez goes into this weekend as the favourite.
In fact, Marquez is the only rider racing in the Moto2 class this weekend who was on the podium last year in the intermediate category. Tom Luthi, though, was second in 2017, although his previous Dutch TT podium before that was back in 2010. In all, Luthi has only three podiums across all classes in Assen, the first coming in the 250cc class back in 2008. His form this year has been good, with four podiums from the first seven races, the lowest finish being the sixth place in Le Mans and only one DNF, back in Argentina when he clipped the back wheel of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). However, if Luthi wants to challenge Marquez for the title this year he needs to start beating him on track.
The same could be said for Lorenzo Baldassarri. The Italian was dominant in the first part of the season, unbeatable when he kept his backside off the asphalt. Since Le Mans, however, things have not gone so well for #7, with two crashes in the three races since then (in addition to the one in Texas when he collided with Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) on the opening lap in turn ten) and a fourth in the other. As previously mentioned, it was a puncture which cost Baldassarri a podium last year, and it could have cost him the win, since he was closing down eventual winner Francesco Bagnaia in the final stages of the race. The Pons rider needs to return to the podium this weekend and, as Luthi, get the better of Marquez if he wants to continue to challenge for the title. Qualifying will be the key to this. When Baldassarri qualifies poorly he tends to crash, perhaps pushing too hard to try to make up for the time lost at the stat when mired in the pack. Start up front, however, and he has a chance.
Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) returned to the podium last time out in Barcelona with third place – his fourth rostrum visit of the season. Perhaps more was expected of the Spaniard and his Italian chassis, as Fabio Quartararo has won on it a year before. Similarly, Quartararo was second in Assen last year, so Navarro should be hopeful of a good weekend in the Netherlands, as should his teammate, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up), who was second in Assen on his first visit back in 2016, although he crashed in 2017 and was only ninth last year. Di Gianntantonio had something of a breakthrough weekend in the Moto2 class last time out in Montmelo, despite his crash in the race, so could be running up at the front again this weekend.
Similarly, Di Giannantonio’s fellow Italian Moto2 rookies, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) have had good rookie seasons so far, Bastianini exceptionally so with two top fives in the last two races and seven out of seven finishes in the top ten. Bulega, on the other hand, has shows some flashes of speed but has been unable to transform that into a race result as yet.
Featured image courtesy of Gareth Harford /Marc VDS