Moto2: Intense battle for Assen podium
Moto2: Intense battle for Assen podium

Franco Morbidelli returned to winning ways at the Motul TT Assen when he won the eighth Moto2 round of the season at the TT Circuit Assen and thus extending his championship lead.

Fifth win of the season was intense

His fifth win of the 2017 season was once again not made easy as he faced stiff competition from the likes of Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), second place man Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten), and third on the podium, Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) in what was one of the closest races of the season so far.

They all crossed the line within less than 0.7 seconds of race winner Morbidelli who has a new contract with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team. They battled throughout with Nakagami actually leading for most of the race. All of them took their own turn in leading for a various amount of time.

Morbidelli started from pole in Assen

Morbidelli clinched pole in a session that was stopped midway through while medics tended to Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) who suffered a horrific crash before being carted off to hospital via helicopter; the Italian had been knocked out but it was found that he suffered a broken ankle and was keen to return to the TT Circuit Assen to compete in the race.

Morbidelli fended off challenges from several riders, if he lost the lead he soon got it back or at least put up a fight. At one point he and Oliveira came into contact on track but managed to not lose positions although their momentum was briefly spoiled.

Pasini suffers misfortune in final stages

Pasini soon brought himself into the mix challenging to make it three successive podiums. He engaged in battle with Nakagami for a while. In fact at the end of the race, Pasini and Morbidelli almost came together, forcing Pasini to run over the painted run-off area to avoid further incident; he quickly re-joined and compensated the place.

That was on the penultimate lap, and on the final lap unfortunately for him, similar occurred with Nakagami and once again Pasini was forced to run on in the final chicane of the race. This time there was no time to return an position or anything, instead Pasini crossed the line ahead of Nakagami but race control assessed the incident and awarded the final podium position to Nakagami. Meanwhile ahead, Morbidelli had stormed on and passed Luthi who led at the ninth corner of the last lap and went on to win.

Morbidelli remains championship leader

The 25 points collected by Morbidelli in Assen means that he remains the Moto2 championship leader on 148 points, 12 points ahead of Luthi in second who also made it to the podium at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ as he managed to finish second, just 0.158 seconds behind Morbidelli.

Morbidelli’s win was the perfect way it seems to thank his team and Honda who have confirmed before the eighth round that the Italian will remain with the team for another two, maybe three years. They have decided to promote Morbidelli up to the MotoGP and he will join the top class in 2018; which sadly means they will have to make room for the Italian by letting someone go. The option to remain for the third year is purely down to whether the Italian wishes himself to remain with the team.

Morbidelli gave everything to win the Assen Moto2 race

Morbidelli spoke of how he “gave absolutely everything in that race” and because of that he said that that was what “made the victory feel even more special”. He explained how the “battle was so intense” and so he was “just doing all [he] could to stay in contention for the win in the last five laps”. He said, “Once I could stay close for an attack at the end I was always confident I could take the win.

He admitted that he had to “ride the final sector like the best in [his] life without making a mistake”. He felt it was “perfect” and that “nobody could try and overtake” him at the final chicane. He explained that his Assen win was the “toughest of [his] five wins by a long way” and that he was “pleased to show that [he] can still battle well and manage the fight when it is so strong”.

He knew that it was “important to get back on the podium after the difficult last two races” and explained that it was “the perfect way to end a dream day” for him after he and his team confirmed his MotoGP future.

Luthi second in Assen and the championship

Claiming second at the Motul TT Assen Moto2 race and remaining second in the championship was another positive result for Luthi who remains in contention for the 2017 Moto2 title last claimed by Johann Zarco.

Discussing a tough race Luthi mentioned how “Morbidelli was there from the beginning of the weekend” but also that he “was not the only one” which is what he felt “turned this race into such a spectacular battle”. He described that he knew “heading into the final lap with a two tenths advantage” in that race was “hardly going to be enough”.

He explained how “Frankie passed [him] into corner number nine where he was the best of all of [them]” and where he knew was a location that Morbidelli “already surprised [him] earlier on in the race”. Luthi explained that he “obviously imagined [Morbidelli] would try his attack there in the last corner”.

Luthi speaks of the dangers

Delving further, Luthi described how they “both arrived there on the outside and absolutely on the limit”. Luthi felt that it “would have been dangerous to try something”.

Analysing the weekend overall, Luthi recognised that they were “once again in the front” and not only that, they “were strong and the team did a perfect job to secure this seventh podium in eight races”. He feels that it shows “what level” that they are at at the moment. He still yearns for the victory and knows “the championship is still long”.

Nakagami awarded third in Assen

Third place man by default, Nakagami described the race as “such an intense battle” and felt that any of them “could have won the race”. He explained how in the final stages he “bounced back from fifth position to third” which he was left feeling “so happy” about.

Explaining the last lap incident he described how he “overtook Migeual at turn eight” and then went on and “pushed harder” knowing that he “was stronger in the final sector”. He spoke of how at the final chicane, he and Pasini “didn’t touch” however he found that Pasini “picked up his bike, then went straight and cut the course”. Whereas he explained he, “stayed on the track to reach the finish line”.

He then went on to discuss his plans for the next weekend at Sachsenring where he plans to “keep this momentum up” and also hopes to “try to win the race”.