MotoGP Assen: Ducati and Aprilia dominate action as Bagnaia wins

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia dominated from start to finish during a dramatic MotoGP race at the TT Circuit Assen on Sunday.

The VR46 celebrations were doubled as Marco Bezzecchi secured his maiden podium in the premier class with a determined second place on the Mooney GP21 with Maverick Viñales celebrating for the first time in Aprilia colours from third. His Noale teammate, Aleix Espargaro, recovering from an early incident with a 15th to fourth fightback at the flag.

Five Ducatis - both factory riders, both Gresini riders and Luca Marini - lined up on soft front Michelin tyres as the rest of the grid prepared on mediums with a third of the pack opting for soft versus hard on the rear. Jack Miller and both Gresini’s of Fabio Di Giannantonio and Enea Bastianini on a soft/soft combination ahead of the 26-lap race.

Bagnaia headed the grid for the fourth time this season and second in succession, from reigning champion Fabio Quartararo with Jorge Martin completing the front row on the Pramac GP22. Mooney VR46’s impressive rookie Bezzecchi looked strong from fourth ahead of Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro with Miller sitting sixth and facing his second long lap penalty in as many races.

A sell-out crowd witnessed Bagnaia hold the holeshot as Martin and Espargaro advanced on Quartararo before the Yamaha hit back. The Aprilia thorough again halfway round as Bezzecchi battled with Miller for fifth. Johann Zarco down in 12th on the second Pramac Ducati with Brad Binder, Takaaki Nakagami, Viñales and Miguel Oliveira completing the top 10. The two Suzuki Ecstar men down on the edge of the points.

Bagnaia held a half-second advantage as lap three began. His teammate dispatching his long lap penalty as he dropped to tenth next time around.

Quartararo’s race was over on lap five as the Yamaha slid out at turn five taking Espargaro with him, the RS-GP down to 15th as the M1 regrouped at the back of the pack. Bezzecchi capitalised as the VR46 sat second, almost a second adrift of the GP22 out front, Martin on his wheels with Binder and Viñales battling behind in the top five.

The Factory Yamaha nightmare continued as Franky Morbidelli was issued a double long lap penalty - having taken his original excursion too late, with the pair now down in 23rd and 24th.

Miler was back to sixth as his race picked up, Morbidelli suffering further with his own turn five crash on lap nine as Espargaro began his advance.

WithU RNF Yamaha’s Darryn Binder was the next to succumb to the Dutch track at turn eight. Quartararo briefly retiring into the pits and leaving Andrea Dovizioso as the highest placed M1 rider, in 18th.

Viñales claimed fourth with a move up the inside of the South African on lap eleven. Espargaro doing likewise for 12th on Di Giannantonio as Alex Rins followed suit on the Gresini rookie.

Bezzecchi began to reel in Bagnaia before his VR46 Academy cohort answered strongly with the fastest lap of the race so far before Espargaro took the acclaim seconds later. Vinales firing his own rapid pace up as Quartararo high sided out as turn five claimed the Frenchman for the second time at the halfway stage and visibly in pain.

Nakagami collected a long lap for track limits with 12 to go as his teammate Alex Marquez picked up a warning of his own. Bagnaia running a solo race out front as he upped the pace, building a 1’7s margin over the pursuing Bezzecchi with Martin a further eight-tenths back.

Espargaro was back in the top ten and looking to pick up Zarco and Joan Mir in quick succession as lap ten fired up. Oliveira now a second ahead as the Aprilia advanced but with rain flags flying the dramatic turns kept coming.

Vinales was in podium contention next time around as ‘Top Gun’ captured Martin but Bagnaia struggled with the changing conditions out front. The Pramac rider fading backwards as he found himself in sixth half a lap later with Zarco doing similar six places back.

Eight to go and Espargaro was in seventh but with over three seconds to bridge to Martin in the top six as Raul Fernandez retired the Tech3 KTM with arm pump. The Suzukis running ninth and tenth, with a near-miss from Rins on the back of his teammate as he struggled to get the GSX-RR stopped before Mir dispatched Oliveira for eighth.

Miller and Binder continued to fight for fourth before the Australian got through at the start of lap 21. A second now the gap to the podium with six laps left in play.

The penultimate lap found Bagnaia with a near-two second lead over the rookie approaching his maiden MotoGP podium. Viñales hunting for his own first celebrations since joining the Noale factory with Miller hard on his wheels to deny him in the closing stages.

Espargaro took fifth as the final lap began. Miller running wide at the opening corner to give Vinales some breathing space with Binder ready to pounce on the Ducati if the opportunity arose.

The leading trio met the flag to secure the spoils for Ducati’s first victory on Dutch soil in 14 years with Viñales returning to the rostrum after an absence of 12 months. Espargaro shooting for his own glory as the Spaniard claiming fourth with a dominant move through the final chicane as a mugged Miller was demoted to sixth across the line.

Martin settled for seventh as the action concluded from Mir, Oliveira and Rins. Bastianini heading Nakagami, Zarco, Di Giannantonio and Marquez in the final points positions with Dovizioso the sole Yamaha just adrift in 16th.

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Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images