Moto3: Canet wins in Assen
Moto3: Canet wins in Assen

It was tough preparing for the Dutch GP at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ for the Moto3 class as mixed weather conditions called plenty of upset ahead of the Motul TT Assen at the TT Circuit in Assen.

Two Moto3 wildcard appearances in Assen

The Moto3 class welcomed two wildcard riders to the eighth round in Assen. Raul Fernandez was aboard a Mahindra for the Mahindra Gaviota Aspar Team and Ryan Van de Lagemaat made an appearance for the Lamotec Lagemaat Racing Team.

Bendsneyder finishes opening session on home turf on top

On day one of the eighth meeting of the season for the 250cc class, it was overcast yet dry, cool and windy which meant that they were in for a tough time straight away. On his home track, Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was the first to make a good impression becoming the first rider to lap within 1:46 minutes, however times tumbled by another three seconds, with Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team), Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) leading the way through the time barriers.

Migno crashes at the end of FP1

Towards the end of the opening session Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) had the first crash of what would turn out to be a very crash-filled weekend. He came off at turn 16 with 11 minutes remaining; fortunately he was unhurt and able to continue.

Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing) was quickest at the end of the Free Practice 1 with a time of 1:43.231. He led ahead of Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) who acquired the top spot with three minutes to go. Fenati was third quickest, an a fantastic result from the only female in the class, Maria Herrera (AFR Team) saw her finish fourth.

Martin quickest at the end of a slightly damp day one

Free Practice 2 was eventually hindered by a light rain shower that prevented any further progress towards the end of the day. Martin, Juanfran Guevara (RBA ROE Racing Team), championship leader, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) all took charge of the top of the timesheets with Martin emerging victorious at the end of the session and the opening day with a time of 1:42.414 which was not far off the Circuit Record Lap set by Jorge Navarro in 2015 (1:42.135).

Heavy rain ahead of FP3 and Qualifying

When the rider returned to the track on the second day of the meeting, they were met with heavy rain. It was very wet, meaning they all had to use the wet setup on their machinery. The wet led to many, many crashes also as they got caught out at various points of the track.

13 riders experienced 15 crashes, and some near misses

There were 13 different riders who experienced 15 crashes between them, and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) managed to make a vital save that left him off that list.

Turn five turned out to be the most notorious, as it caught out the most riders mainly towards the start of the session. Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay real Estate), experienced his first crash of the day there along with, John McPhee (British Talent Team), Marcos Bezzecchi (CIP) and Suzuki.

Turns three and 10 both caught out three riders; Canet, Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Sasaki went down there. At turn 10, Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and wildcard rider, Van de Lagemaat were caught out.

Two crashes for Binder

Binder experienced his second crash of the session at turn eight, which also claimed Oettl as victim. Lorenzo Dall Porta ((Mahindra Gaviota Aspar) went down at turn 13 and both rookie Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) came off at turn 18. Fortunately, all riders this time round walked away with serious injuries and were able to continue on with the day.

Local rider Bendsneyder quickest ahead of Qualifying

They began almost 10 seconds off the pace when things got underway but they were able to reduce the lap times by three seconds, this time and Mir broke through the time barriers. Bendsneyder finished the final Free Practice session on top with a time of 1:57.078; way off the pace set the day previous, he was the favourite heading into qualifying.

Antonelli ruled out of the Assen GP after Qualifying crash

By the time Qualifying came around for the 250cc class, it was still raining lightly meaning the track was still wet. The conditions continued to catch riders out. Toba, Sasaki, Di Giannantonio and Antonelli crashed out again at turns 12, eight, and 11 caught out the Italians. Antonelli’s crash meant that he was forced to withdraw from the rest of the meeting because of the back injury he sustained.

RBA BOE Racing Team teammates Rodrigo and Juanfran Guevara both experienced two crashes during the session, Both went down at the notorious turn five, and Rodrigo was also caught out at turn eight whereas turn 16 got Guevara. Mir went down at turn three, and rookie Patrik Pulkinnen (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) went down at turn 15.

McPhee had a near-miss at turn 10 of the track, and luckily was able to continue after using the run-off area to save his bacon. But Ramirez and Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) weren’t as lucky as they got caught out there.

Martin claims sixth pole of the season

Martin claimed yet another pole position this season when he lapped quickest during Qualifying at the Cathedral of Speed with a time of 1:57.595. He led the first row ahead of Bendsneyder and Bulega in third. Rookies, Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) and Bezzecchi got a great result qualifying fourth and fifth on the grid ahead of Canet in sixth. See for yourself…..the conditions mixed things right up!

Cold, damp start to race day at the Cathedral of Speed

Come race day it was cold and damp again and the riders were reluctant to go out in the cold for the first half of the warm-p session. Pulkkinen again crashed at turn 17, and McPhee wasn’t so lucky this time when he came off at the end of the session at turn 16. Once again it was Martin who proved quickest once again ahead of the race.

Rookie leads the race

Shockingly, when the lights went out to start the race, it was Atiratphuvapat that got an amazing start and the Thai rider led into the first corner of the 22 lap race. Martin soon barged his way past him though and Mir went up the inside of him corners later. He continued to go backwards and Bendsneyder and Suzuki both passed the rookie, and then Bendsneyder went on to take second from Mir who soon found himself under pressure from Suzuki.

Martin led the race by the time they began the second lap. As Atiratphuvapat lost another position to Fenati and Danilo, Bendsneyder was able to bypass Mir at the front to take second, Fenati continued to progress soon taking fourth from Suzuki.

Wildcard crashes out

The first crash of the race came just four laps in. Wildcard rider, Van de Lagemaat went down just four laps in ending his weekend early. Unfortunately then for Di Giannantonio he went down at turn 16. But even more unfortunately for Bastianini, he took the Italian out too. Di Giannantonio was forced to retire on the next lap, but Bastianini managed to remain on track until eight laps remained; all riders appeared unhurt.

Martin leads in Assen until along came Fenati

As Martin continued to lead the race, Fenati continued to make progress when he passed Mir to take third. Bendsneyder made an attempt on Martin to take the lead ad in doing so almost lost second to Fenati who was now focusing his attention on him.

Things went wrong for race leader Martin as he ran wide on turn one of the fifth lap. Fenati took advantage and took the lead passing Bendsneyder in the meantime to do so. Martin did not fall off, instead he resorted to the painted run-off area and was able to re-join the race in sixth.

Diminished adhesion flag waved during race

Bendsneyder made an attempt to take the lead from Fenati, but the feisty Italian retaliated immediately, as behind them Suzuki passed Norrodin to take fourth. Before the final chicane however, Bendsneyder was back in front. As they crossed the line to begin the sixth lap, the ‘diminished adhesion’ flag was waved to signal that rain had begun to fall.

Fenati managed to remain at the front of the pack for several laps as behind him, Bendsneyder and Mir continued to battle for second. Martin recovered positions and was in fourth by lap seven, and then soon passed Bendsneyder who was passed by Mir, to take third.

Highside for Pagliani at turn 16

Pagliani’s weekend came to an abrupt and early end on the seventh lap also as he crashed out at turn 16. He suffered a highside as the rear went when he accelerated at the turn at the final chicane of the track. Atiratphuvapat and Bezzecchi both had to act fast to avoid the fallen rider.

Three-a-breast into the corners

On lap eight, Martin dived up the inside of Mir but Mir out-braked him to retain second. It was three a breast into the corner as Martin ran up the inside and made his way back to the front where he led once again. Bendsneyder was on the other side of Mir at turn 16 but that many were attacking; he lost positions rather than gained them.

Bendsneyder then began to recover positions passing Norrodin to reclaim fifth, as Canet passed Ramirez to claim seventh. Suzuki now found himself in fourth as a result of his mistake. Lap 10 saw Arbolino retire from the race early.

Canet led group of five catching the front runners

Out front there were a group of six riders, and behind them, Canet was leading a group of four riders that were catching the leaders quickly as they were lapping 0.6 seconds faster than those in front. By the 12th lap, Canet had caught them, and passed Norrodin to take sixth from the Malaysian.

The whole group began attacking, as the lead bunch grew from six to 11. Fenati made his way back to the front as Bendsneyder again passed Mir to take third. Canet was soon up to fifth passed Suzuki who later lost another position to Ramirez. McPhee began to make his move passing Rodrigo to take 10th, and as Martin regained his place at the front, Mir again passed Bendsneyder.

McPhee continues to progress through the pack

McPhee continued to progress, plucking off Rodrigo and Norrodin to place himself in ninth Suzuki passed Canet, but the Spaniard retaliated and the two battled it out for sixth. Ramirez passed Bendsneyder; he was soon to become a danger to those ahead of him.

As Fenati returned to the front on the 15th lap, McPhee again made successful passes progressing up to seventh. Mir passed Martin to take seventh from the fellow Spaniard, and Canet moved back up to fifth. Bendsneyder was forced wide on the 18th lap, which meant he dropped from sixth in the runnings down to 11th at the back of the group where he began to drop off the pace slightly.

Ramirez takes the lead for the first time

Ramirez continued to make his moves, making an attack on championship leader, Mir on the same lap. Mir retaliated immediately when Ramirez made his first attempt, but the KTM rider’s second attempt did the trick and he placed in second. Taking an inside line on Fenati on the following lap, he took the lead for the first time. McPhee had also made some advances and passed Mir and Martin, before he passed Fenati to place him second. Fenati was swallowed up, and ended up down in fifth.

Unfortunately for pole position man, Martin, he was forced wide and again found himself at the back of the lead group re-joining in 11th. He had been trying to run an outside line that led to him making a mistake.

McPhee in front from 19th on the grid

After starting from 19th on the grid, 19 laps into the race, McPhee had managed to work his way to the front of the pack taking the lead for the first time. It was not to stick however, as Mir and Fenati ganged up on him and forced him backwards. Danilo started challenging his teammate, and passed him as McPhee worked his way back up to second. Norrodin also passed Rodrigo to place him in fourth.

After finding that one manoeuvre didn’t work, Danilo tried another on his teammate, Fenati that proved more successful. Martin recovered two positions on the 20th lap to place himself ninth as McPhee took an inside line to get back to the front passed Mir, but Mir passed him once again heading into the final chicane.

Hard to tell who would win

There was no telling who would win as they began the final laps of the race. They all continued pushing, things appeared to settle slightly, but it was just to be the calm before the storm. On the final lap, Canet passed McPhee on lap 22, to take second as Martin passed Danilo to claim fifth. Norrodin overtook Suzuki to try and claim seventh.

McPhee and Canet began trying any line to try and find their way back to the front of the pack. Fenati forced his way back however ahead of Canet, and again Martin got forced out wide. They gathered in clusters, bunching up together and attacking the corners side by side in groups of two or three.

Norrodin crashes out

Norrodin went down, crashing out as they passed through the final corners of the race. He was unable to recover after he possibly came into contact after another rider; all of his hard work was undone.

Canet wins the Assen Moto3 at the Cathedral of Speed

The drama continued however, as Canet forced his way back to the front. He crossed the line to win the race at the age of 17, just 0.035 seconds ahead of Fenati who was second and McPhee who finished third after a tough weekend at the office. Martin was fourth ahead of Danilo, Ramirez, Rodrigo, Suzuki and Mir.

What a way to express his gratitude to his team, Estrella Galicia 0,0, who extended hbis contract with them to see him through until the end of 2018, than by winning the race in Assen.

Bendsneyder crashes just before the line

Unfortunately for Bendsneyder, he came into contact with another rider, and fell just before the line and to add to his disappointment, he did not cross the line in contact with the bike and so was not awarded any position y race control at his home race. Bulega, who led the following group was 10th ahead of Oettl, Guevara, Binder, Migno and Sasaki who collected the remainder of the championship points available by finishing in the top 15.

Mir continues to lead the Moto3 championship

Mir still remains the championship leader eight rounds in on 140 points, but his lead is now down to just 30 points as Canet’s win means he is second on 110 points. He is two ahead of Fenati in third who has a 19 point lead over Martin in fourth. McPhee is fifth ahead of Di Giannantonio who failed to collect points in Assen. Migno is seventh ahead of Ramirez, Guevara and Bastianini who complete the top 10.

Mahindra to withdraw from the Moto3 class

An announcement came through at the end of the race that Indian manufacturer, Mahindra, will be withdrawing from the Moto3 championship at the end of 2018. Although they have won in the class, as Francesco Bagnaia brought them to the top step of the podium twice in 2016, they have decided to focus on electronic motorcycle racing series that they compete and have proved successful in.