MotoGP: Dutch TT – Assen

The eighth round of the Motorcycle Grand Prix took us to the venerated Dutch TT in Assen, where The Cathedral has remained a fixture since the world championship began in 1949. A track drenched in history, also saw itself drenched in another sort of thing for this weekend, with rain falling in the practice and qualifying sessions, only stopping an hour before a fully wet MotoGP warm up.

Lined up on the grid, MotoGP rookie Johan Zarco was on the pole spot, followed by Marquez and Petrucci. A great start off the line for Marquez saw him spring forward, only to be muscled by away by the Frenchman at turn 1, and in a flashback to Qatar, he edged out a small advantage, allowing him to lead strongly into the opening laps of the race.

However, his teammate Jonas Folger was less fortunate. After a great qualifying session saw him starting in sixth position, a small mistake forced him to run wide and join the field right at the back, only to fall a short time later on lap 17, along with Aprilia’s Sam Lowes.

Jack Miller #43 - E.G. 0,0 MarcVDS - - Dani Pedrosa #26 - Repsol Honda - MotoGP - Dutch TT - Assen - 2017 - 

The front four of Zarco, Marquez, Petrucci and Rossi, stuck intently to each other’s rear wheels as the laps drew on, but as it looked as if the riders had settled into a rhythm, Valentino made a strong move to slide past not only Petrucci, but also Marquez on the brakes into turn 1; repeating the move against Zarco only one lap later.

An immediate counterattack from the Tech3 rider, and a slightly wide line from Rossi provided an extremely close moment where the two Yamahas came together, spitting Zarco out of the melee and giving control of the race back over to The Doctor. It was bittersweet for the factory Yamaha team however, as not even a lap had passed before Maverick Viñales spun up the rear of his M1 and high sided out of the final chicane, after valiantly fighting his way up to fifth from eleventh on the grid.

Obviously setting a trend, more riders would crash out shortly after; Red Bull KTM’s Bradley Smith ended his race on lap 12, compounded by a painful hand injury, with Alvaro Bautista following suit after running wide on lap 9.

- Dutch TT - Assen - 2017

But it was spots of rain and the waving of white flags with 8 laps to go that would throw confusion into the mix and strategies out of the window. With the choice of a bike change available and as dark skies loomed; would the benefit of full wet tires outweigh time lost by pitting?

Lorenzo, Barbera and even Zarco, despite sitting comfortably in fifth position decided to change to the second bike, but a lack of surface water on track limited the advantage in performance the wet tyres had to offer. Unfortunately for Zarco, any time lost in the pits was inflamed further by picking up a pitlane speeding penalty. The race leaders all stayed out on slicks, with the rain not becoming heavy enough to warrant a change of tyres.

Dovizioso who had charged all the way from ninth on the grid, joined the leading trio, and even rose as high as second after passing Marquez and Petrucci. The intensity was amplified towards the closing stages of the race, seeing Petrucci overtake the factory Ducati rider and go on to briefly snatch the lead from Rossi with only five laps remaining.

The lead proved to be short lived for the Pramac Ducati rider as Rossi clawed back the position at the final chicane with three laps to go. Despite fighting back heavily, Petrucci lost time passing lapped riders and fell less than a tenth of a second behind his fellow countryman.

- Valentino Ross #46 - Movistar Yamaha - MotoGP - Dutch TT - Assen - 2017 -

Behind, a brutal clash over third position by Marquez and Dovizioso was complicated by the surprise addition of Cal Crutchlow looking to make mischief in the final two laps. Although at the line, it was Marquez who managed to snatch the final podium place, with Crutchlow and Dovi only a fraction to the rear.

The checkered flag also bought a fantastic result for last year’s winner, MarcVDS rider, Jack Miller, who scored his best result of the MotoGP season so far with a beautifully judged ride into sixth position after charging from 13th on the grid aboard his Pro-Bolt fitted Honda RC213V.

With more risks I might have been able to challenge for the podium but I wanted the points, this was a good result for me. I never thought about changing bikes, there wasn’t enough rain for wet weather tyres.” – Jack Miller, E.G 0,0 MarcVDS

Initial race leader Zarco finished best of those who changed to the second bike, coming across the line despite his speeding penalty in 14th, ahead of the final point taker Jorge Lorenzo. 

- Franco Morbidelli #21 - E.G 0,0 MarcVDS - Moto2 - Dutch TT - Assen - 2017 -

Meanwhile in Moto2 Franco Morbidelli took another spectacular victory in Assen, bouncing back from some of the more problematic races of recent rounds. With things looking in the right direction for the Italian rider and current Moto2 Championship leader, Franco will move up to MotoGP next season, to stay with the Marc VDS team who will have our continued support and pride to be on board.

It was important to get back on the podium after the difficult last two races and it is the perfect way to end a dream day for me after confirming my MotoGP future with Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS.” – Franco Morbidelli, E.G 0,0 MarcVDS

The 2017 Dutch TT in Assen marked Rossi's first win of 2017, his first since last year's race in Catalunya, and his eighth in the premier class at Assen. Bringing him only seven points off the new championship leader, Andrea Dovizioso.

Rossi has now had a winning career of well over twenty years, now extended at Assen to 20 years and 313 days since Rossi’s first GP win at Brno on August 18th 1996. The longest ever. He now has 115 grand prix wins across all classes, second only to compatriot Giacomo Agostini's 122 victories between 1964 and 1977.

There’s a lot to point to the man remaining a man, frills and salaries aside. A famous name, a genius brand and now almost a mythical figure in motorcycle racing, the greatest thing about one of the greatest of all time is that he still makes mistakes; he has regrets, successes, failures, victory and struggles. It is a man who won the Dutch GP, not a myth.

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