The Dutch TT is always a crowd pleaser, and this was certainly the case Sunday before 105,000 fans during round 8 of 2018 MotoGP.The Assen TT circuit celebrated its 70th year of Grand Prix motorcycle racing this past weekend; it’s the only circuit to be featured on the World Championship calendar ever year since the series began in 1949.
Throughout those 70 years, Sunday’s Assen MotoGP was one of the best. Throughout the 26-lap race, eight riders made over 100 overtakes and five leaders in what become one of the closest races in history.This was expected after Saturday’s qualifying, which saw the top 11 within a half of a second of each other. Leading the way in qualifying was Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who claimed his 75th career pole across all classes (47th in MotoGP).Marquez would have to fight extremely hard throughout Sunday’s MotoGP, but in the end he was able to claim his fourth win this season, and 39th of his premier-class premier (65 across all classes).Joining him on the 2018 Assen MotoGP podium were Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales, respectively. Rins would finish 2.269 seconds back, and Vinales 2.308 seconds back.“It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport,” Marc Marquez says. “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 tires, 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.”With his win, Marquez now has 140 points – 41 ahead of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, who finished fifth at the Dutch TT.When the race began, Marquez got the holeshot from pole, and was followed by LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, who won the previous two rounds in Mugello and Catalunya. The future Repsol Honda rider Lorenzo impressed – he started from 10th on the grid and quickly got into third.By half of a lap Lorenzo took the lead from Marquez, and was the official leader of lap one. It didn’t take long for Marquez to get back in front; he passed Lorenzo at turn 15, where his Respol Honda RC213V was untouchable.This was only the first of the battles, though.Following is from the official MotoGP report:Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard then suffering a moment soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. But both stayed on and both stayed ahead, with Marquez, Ducati Team’s Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso. But Lorenzo held firm at the front. With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two were only a hair’s breadth apart – no contact, but the reigning Champion suffered a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.The Italian dueled his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with eight to go. Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they dueled and both headed wide. Rossi took over – another stunner from the “Doctor” at the final chicane – but “DesmoDovi” took him back.Four wide at times, Marquez made his way back into P1…and that was all she wrote, for the lead at least. After one of the closest, most spectacular races in the history of the world’s oldest motorsport Championship, the reigning Champion was able to pull clear to take a stunning fourth win of the year – and increase his points lead.The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third but back on the podium for the first time since Texas…and the fight for fourth showed why Rossi had been rehearsing.The “Doctor” left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but ‘DesmoDovi’ took him back on the exit, getting such a good exit that the number 04 was almost on a par with Viñales over the line.Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) completing the top 10 in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.The riders now break for two weeks ahead of the German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, which is set for July 15. Last year’s winner was Marquez, and the Spaniard will surely be looking for a repeat win to extend his championship lead as he chases a fifth MotoGP title.
2018 Assen MotoGP Results:
2018 MotoGP Point Standings (after eight of 18 rounds):
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!