In the last race before the 5-week summer break, the iconic Assen TT circuit has given us another brilliant race with difficult conditions and a close field to overcome.
Pecco Bagnaia has mastered the tricky, hot track conditions at the DutchGP to take a truly dominant victory. He led almost every lap of the race on his way to extending his championship lead.
After his brilliant pole positions and sprint race win, Marco Bezzecchi was thrilled with another podium today as he came home in 2nd place. He dropped back to 3rd at the race start, giving himself the challenge of fighting with Brad Binder for 2nd.
It was Binder who crossed the line in 3rd but, after a dramatic post-flag penalty for exceeding track limits, he was demoted to 4th. Replays showed that the South African touched the green part of the kerb with a fraction of his front tire – however, this was enough to set off the sensors and land him a penalty. He will feel very hard done by after facing the same fate in yesterday’s sprint race – It was the same kerb at the same part of the race that saw him miss out on a podium.
This meant that Aleix Espargraro was promoted to the 3rd place after a really positive race for the Aprilia rider. This is his first podium of the year – a surprise to many after his very strong showing at pre-season testing. He will be hoping to carry this momentum through the summer break and on to Silverstone in 5 weeks time. It was an impressive run for Espgararo who was nursing an injured bike after contact with Luca Marini’s rear tire at the start of the race.
It was a much more difficult day for Jack Miller, celebrating his 200th race, and Johann Zarco, celebrating his 250th race. Miller was the first rider to go down on lap 2, followed by Zarco, who was taken out by Fabio Quartararo on lap 3.
In the end, we only had 14 riders complete the full 26 lap race thanks to a number of riders falling victim to the 50-degree track temperatures and the numerous issues this caused.
As It Happened
As the riders made their way on to the grid, we were able to see their tire choices and how the riders were aiming to tackle the undoubtedly hot and greasy track conditions – tires were always going to prove crucial today. All riders, except two, were on the hard front tires. Half the grid then opted for a soft rear tire, the other half opting for a medium rear. Most notably were Brad Binder and Jack Miller who had opted for that soft rear – it looked as though they were aimed for a strong start to the race with that choice.
The lights went out and, as anticipated, there was quickly a lot of action up and down the grid. Polesitter, Marco Bezzecchi was swallowed by the chasing pack and quickly dropped down to 3rd. Binder, in typical Binder fashion, had a flying start. He saw a small gap on the inside of turn 1 and made a very late move, throwing his bike up and into the lead.
Further back, Jack Miller was sitting in 8th and hunting down Maverick Vinales in 7th. He then made a move on the start-finish straight at the start of lap 2. However, as Vinales tried to retake the position, Miller lost the bike under him slid out into the gravel at turn 1. Thanks to this clear air, Vinales was able to then take fastest lap.
It wasn’t long before the next incident and on lap 3, Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco went down at turn 7- the fastest part of the track. The replays showed that the front of Quartararo’s bike folded underneath him and he collected Zarco as he went down. It was clearly a huge impact for both riders, who looked battered and bruised. Quartararo was then helped out of the gravel as he limped away.
The French duo are OUT! 😱
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) June 25, 2023
It was on the same lap that Pecco Bagnaia stole the lead away from Binder.
One more lap later, it was Vinales’ turn to go down. He was making moves up the field but sadly went down at turn 8. That’s four riders going down across 3 laps!
All these incidents helped to promote Jorge Martin, Miguel Oliveira and Alex Marquez who were running in 6th, 7th and 8th respectively. There was now a huge battle for 5th place, with 6 riders all in the fight. On lap 6, Luca Marini, who had been leading this pack, fell back from 5th to 10th in the space on one corner. This meant that Aleix Espargaro, running in a comfortable 4th, was gifted a 2.5s gap over this fighting group.
Sunday traffic! ⚠️
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) June 25, 2023
On lap 7, Enea Bastianini crashed out at turn 5 whilst running in 8th – he tried to get the bike back up and running again but it was a lost cause as the flames started to appear at the back of the Ducati machine.
At the midpoint of the race, we still had Bagnaia leading the field, with Binder hot on his tail in 2nd. Binder was able to gain a huge amount on the leader in every breaking zone, but wasn’t able to convert this into a move for the lead.
Everything across the field seemed to calm down as we drew ever closer to the chequered flag. The biggest drama came when Oliveira, running in 10th, made a mistake at turn 15. He then retired a lap later, suggesting it was a mechanical issue. A few laps later, we then had Iker Lecuona drop to the back of the field before also retiring with a mechanical issue. Lecuona is here this weekend to stand in for the injured Joan Mir.
With the laps ticking down now, Bezzecchi decided now was the time to make a move and lay down his intentions to win. On lap 17 of 26, he made a move on Binder, who tried hard to counter this. This battle then gave a 1.2s lead for Bagnaia.
Bezzecchi, now in 2nd and with some clean air in front of him, was gaining between 0.3s and 0.4s per lap on Bagnaia and looked like he might be making a late move for the victory.
After losing 2nd place, Binder was now in 3rd and falling back in to the clutches of Espargaro who was desperately seeking his first podium of the year.
There were gaps forming between most riders on the grid now and it appeared that the hot track conditions were hampering everyone from making late moves.
This meant that nothing changed on the track and Bagnaia took the chequered flag, ahead of Bezzcchi and Binder. Espargaro came home in 4th, but would soon be promoted to 3rd after Binder’s last lap penalty for track limits.
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) June 25, 2023
Jorge Martin, despite a difficult weekend where he seemed to be quite off the pace, came home in 5th. He was just ahead of Alex Marquez in 6th, Luca Marini in 7th and Takaaki Nakagami in 8th. Rounding out the top 10 were Franco Morbidelli in 9th and Augusto Fernandez in 10th.
|1||Pecco Bagnaia||Ducati Lenovo|
|2||Marco Bezzecchi||Mooney VR46|
|4||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM|
|5||Jorge Martin||Prima Pramac|
|6||Alex Marquez||Gresini Racing|
|7||Luca Marini||Mooney VR46|
|8||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda|
|9||Franco Morbidelli||Monster Energy Yamaha|
|10||Augusto Fernandez||GASGAS Tech3|
|12||Raul Fernandez||CryptoDATA RNF|
|13||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda|
|14||Jonas Folger||GASGAS Tech3|
|1||Pecco Bagnaia||194 points|
|2||Jorge Martin||159 points|
|3||Marco Bezzecchi||158 points|
|4||Brad Binder||114 points|
|5||Johann Zarco||109 points|
Feature Image Credit: MotoGP