The Moto3 World Championship heads to Assen this weekend, for the eighth round of the 2019 season following on from Marcos Ramirez’ (Leopard Racing) debut win two weeks ago in Montmelo.
Ramirez’ win was the fruit of his move back to Leopard Racing, with whom he fought for the 2016 CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship, and his first rostrum appearance since round one at Qatar. The result moved him up to eighth in the championship, fifty-four points off the top of the standings.
Somewhat closer to the summit of the World Championship is Ramirez’ Leopard Racing teammate, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, who has returned to form in the last three races and was unfortunate to drop out of the Catalan GP his teammate won due to bike problems early on in the race. This weekend, the Tuscan will be after his first rostrum on Dutch soil and to close his twenty-three-point deficit to Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) who is atop the standings.
Canet’s first appearance in Holland was astonishing. He was the fastest rider throughout the weekend, then riding the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, and should have had pole position but for a crash in the first part of qualifying which meant he started at the back. In the race, he charged through the pack and looked, despite the poor starting position, like he could challenge for the win, but a crash in the final chicane ended his chances. Canet seems reformed this season, having finished every race inside the points, and all but one (Argentina, where he was twelfth) inside the top ten. Additionally, Canet has been on the podium in three of the seven races so far, including one win in Texas. Another extension of his championship advantage this weekend would start to set off the alarms for his rivals.
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) made a last corner, last lap move for the final rostrum spot in Barcelona. It was his third podium in Grands Prix and his second of the season. Like Canet, Vietti has finished outside the top ten only once in 2019, back in Argentina. Vietti’s consistency in his rookie season in the World Championship means he currently sits fourth in the standings, only twelve points behind Dalla Porta in second and thirty-five away from Canet. It will be interesting to see how the Italian fares on his first visit to Assen, known not only for being one of the fastest, most exciting circuits of the year, but also one of the most difficult to learn.
Third in the championship at the moment is Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse), despite his absence from the podium this year barring his win in Jerez. It is Antonelli’s seventh season in Moto3, so he certainly won’t have the problem facing Vietti for this weekend. Instead, Antonelli’s issue this weekend could be the one which has seemed to face him throughout the year, and that is his mid-race pace. The Italian has tended to slip back in the pack in the middle part of the races this year, falling to the fringes of the top ten and outside of it. In Barcelona a mistake forced him down the order, and after recovering to eighth place the #23 ran wide in turn seven, and he finished eleventh. Antonelli has had the pace this year, but seemingly not the race-craft.
Keep an eye out for Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) this weekend. The Spaniard has been quite inconsistent this season, at least since the arrival of the championship in Europe. Whereas race-craft has been one of the weak points for Antonelli this year, for Masia it has been a strong point, with Mugello being a prime example when he came from an almost invisible race to land himself a podium spot with an excellent out-braking manoeuvre and some fantastic bike-placement on the final lap.
Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), too, should be competitive this weekend after Celestino Vietti’s Catalan GP podium came at the expense of the Spaniard’s prospective third place, after he had led for much of the race.
Featured image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM