Francesco Bagnaia Wins Wild Dutch Grand Prix
The Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia has shot back into the MotoGP™ title picture after taking victory in a chaotic Motul TT Assen. World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) clashed with his nearest rival on the points table, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) on Lap 5 at the TT Circuit Assen, then crashed again later in the race. It left Pecco to take a much-needed victory, with fellow Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) claiming a career-best second place and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) clinching third.
From as low as 15th, Espargaro got back to fourth by the chequered flag, a charge he completed with an incredible double-move on Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Heading into the summer break, Quartararo’s Championship lead over the Aprilia pilot has been cut to 21 points, with Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) third at 58 points off the pace, and Bagnaia back up to fourth at just eight points further back.
Bagnaia gets the jump as Espargaro shakes off a first challenge from Quartararo
Bagnaia launched well and led the field into the first corner, while Quartararo briefly dropped back to fourth when he ran wide as he tried to go with the pole-sitter into the first corner. He quickly re-passed Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and also went down the inside of Espargaro at De Strubben, but could not keep the RS-GP behind him when they ran up the back straight.
It was Bagnaia with a margin of 0.7 seconds at the end of the standing lap, by which time Bezzecchi had passed Miller for fifth. The rookie was into fourth position when he overtook Martin at the start of Lap 3, while Miller dropped from sixth to 10th on Lap 4 when he served a Long Lap Penalty for irresponsible riding in Q2.
A flashpoint in the title fight
On Lap 5, it was high drama at Turn 5 when the top two in the World Championship came together. Quartararo looked to make a move on Espargaro but dropped his Yamaha and slid into the Aprilia. The Frenchman was last by the time he had remounted and while Espargaro did well to stay upright, he still plummeted to 15th given he had been forced into the gravel in an incident which will be investigated post-race.
Meanwhile, with Bezzecchi inheriting second position, Bagnaia’s advantage over the field had blown out to 1.3 seconds. Martin inherited third and Binder fourth, although the South African was back to fifth when he was overtaken by Viñales as they ran through the Ossebroeken complex on Lap 10.
A few laps later, De Strubben bit Quartararo again – hard. The Frenchman had already fallen off the lead lap after a visit to the pits when he fell off his Yamaha after highsiding on exit of the slow left-hander. Thankfully, Quartararo got onto his feet, but in apparent pain as he trundled away from the scene of his first and second crash of the race.
Rain adds to the drama
Bagnaia continued to lead by about 1.5 seconds as Espargaro mounted his fightback. The Spaniard was already closing in on the battle for ninth position between Zarco and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) when, a couple of positions ahead, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) had to take a Long Lap Penalty for exceeding track limits, promoting #41 to 10th spot on Lap 16.
Virtually the only thing that had not happened by that stage was rain, but it soon started falling as well. Rain flags and then the white flag, signalling that riders were allowed to change bikes, started to wave, but the falls never got heavy enough to force them to do so. Still, it made for a tricky period in the race, as Viñales passed Martin for third at the Geert Timmer Chicane on Lap 17, then both Binder and Miller overtook the Pramac rider on the next lap.
For the second weekend in a row, Miller was doing an admirable job of recovering from a Long Lap Penalty, passing Binder for fourth at the start of Lap 21 and wasting little time in closing up to Viñales as he sought consecutive podiums. He looked to have made the move at the Timmer Chicane at the end of Lap 25, but was in a bit too hot and had to bail out of it, which put him back under pressure from Binder.
Bagnaia wins, Espargaro pulls off the move of the season
Free of all the mayhem, Bagnaia cruised to victory. He eased off at the end, with the winning margin officially only 0.444 seconds after 26 remarkable laps, but it never seriously looked in doubt. Bezzecchi sent the VR46 team into raptures with his first premier class podium, and Viñales was less than a second further back in third. Behind them, Espargaro had risen to sixth and that looked like an admirable salvage job, but then he divebombed Miller and Binder as they ran into the Timmer Chicane for the final time.
Binder would take fifth, ahead of Miller, Martin, and Mir, who had contact with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as they lined up on the grid before a hit with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) once the race had actually started. Oliveira shed bodywork in that incident but still finished ninth, ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Nakagami, Zarco, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) in the final points position.
Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) retired with arm pump, while Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) made it three YZR-M1 riders who crashed out of the contest.
The MotoGP™ paddock now has the summer break to catch its breath before Round 12, the Monster Energy British Grand Prix, takes place at the Silverstone Circuit on August 5-7
Francesco Bagnaia said…
“I really had fun this weekend, especially today in the race. It was a special race, and this result gives us the right motivation before we start the summer break. The last time Ducati won at Assen was in 2008 with Stoner, so it’s nice to know that we have taken the Desmosedici GP to victory again at this circuit after such a long time. I’m also happy for Marco Bezzecchi, a friend of mine and an Academy rider, and it’s nice to have been able to share the podium with him. Now we will try to relax and come back even stronger on track in August.”
2022 Dutch MotoGP Race Top 10:
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team)
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.444
3. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 1.209
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 2.585
5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 2.721
6. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 3.045
7. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 4.340
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 8.185
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 8.325
10. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 8.596