The Motul TT Assen will have made its way into the history books for several reasons this weekend. The torrential rain led to an independent rider winning the MotoGP as Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) won the Assen GP: the first independent since Toni Elias in Portugal back in 2006. It was the first time since 2010 that an Australian had took to the podium, the list can go on but importantly; it was the first ever win for a Mahindra after Francesco Bagnaia bagged his first ever Moto3 win.
Cool but dry conditions for the Moto3 race at Assen
The rain managed to hold off while the Moto3 riders were on track but it was very cool which meant the lap times were slightly affected. In true Moto3 fashion, the front runners battled right up until the finish line, constantly swapping positions, using the tow from each other’s slipfrom the other 250cc machines around them.
There was up to twelve riders fighting for the lead until the front six managed to break away ever so slightly. Made up of mainly VR46 Academy riders, Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) was battling among Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3), Sky Racing VR46 teammates Andrea Migno and Romano Fenati, and Ongetta-Rivacold rider Niccolo Antonelli.
First win for Bagnaia and Mahindra
It was a mixture of a decent slipstream, enough corner speed and skill that allowed Bagnaia to slide through to the lead to steal the win just 0.039 seconds ahead of Migno. He claimed his first ever MotoGP win and the first ever win Mahindra.
Mahindra joined the Moto3 class towards the end of 2011 when it was still the 125cc championship; although they have had a podium before with Miguel Oliveira in Sepang, the Assen GP. Before Mahindra’s win at Assen it was only ever Honda or KTM who have won in the series.
Bagnaia’s win will go down in history
Bagnaia was in a state of shock with his win, he was “happy” and could not believe his success as he found it “very hard to stay at the front”. His win was very much deserved as he managed to “set a fast pace all weekend” although he did mention his struggle to show this during qualifying due to the amount of traffic on track; a problem that prohibits many of the faster riders as over 30 are on track usually following championship leader Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Bagnaia said, “I am happy with my first win! I am excited also; this is the first win for Mahindra!” His win came after he managed to “be quicker in the final sector” than he managed during practice and he entered thinking, “If I was third in the penultimate sector I had a chance to overtake and win.”
The Italian’s well deserved win for Mahindra has “come on the back of a lot of hard work” as Bagnaia said he has spent “two years of working to be stronger and more consistent”. After such a historical achievement he said, “I knew I had to give 110% and on the last lap I knew I could win; I am so happy!”
Penalty for Migno meant Di Giannantonio claimed second
Now although it was Migno who crossed the line in second place, it was Di Giannantonio who was awarded second position. Migno was penalised for his actions exiting the last corner in the race and Race Direction decided to retract one position for him; luckily he still was able to make the podium.
Instead it was Di Giannantonio who claimed second place, twenty points towards the championship and his second time on the podium since his first in Mugello this year. The former VR46 Academy rider was further down the lead group earlier on in the race and worked hard to be in the front six and in contention for the podium. He said, “At the beginning of the race I was determined to catch the leading group and after a few laps I did it!”
It was not all plain sailing though as he said, “There have been some contacts with other riders, including Binder, who passed me under breaking on the first corner, touching me and forcing me to go wide.”
This meant his work was cut out for him and he “had to push hard to recover” which he said led to him making “a few mistakes”, to overcome this he “tried to stay more focused”, set his pace and the moment he saw that it was possible to “close the gap with the front group” was when he “started to think that the podium was possible.”
He made his move on the last lap, he said, “I attacked right away, making two passes, then I took the final fast corner on the outside in order to stay on the inside under braking for the last chicane.” He knew this was a good strategy as he “managed to pass Fenati, claiming the third place.” Di Giannantonio said, “It was a difficult race, but in the end we did it!”
Migno penalised but remained on podium for first ever time
After starting on the front row in second position on the grid, and fighting long and hard to stay near the front, it was the chicane on the final lap where it all came down to. The ‘Geert Timmer’ chicane had been modified ahead of the ninth round of the GP to ensure riders safety. The artificial graph was removed, the run off extended and kerbs introduced to reduce the risk of accident as incidents have occurred here before.
Migno was seen using the marked area on the run-off side to set him up for the line he used which helped him to cross the line in second. The move was considered ‘illegal’ and he was forced to sacrifice second on the podium, however the Italian Sky Racing VR46 rider, another prodigy of the VR46 Academy was still happy to make it to the podium for the first ever time.
Describing his move the Italian said, “At 200meters to go to the flag I was at 120% because I passed on the curbs and in the last corner I took a risk by braking very hard.” He knew he was “very close in the last corner” to taking the lead but still said, “I’m so happy!”
He knew he was also “fast all weekend and strong” and he said that his podium was a “thank you” to his team. The Italian said, “I’ve worked so hard and never gave up so it’s great.” Hungry for more he said, “I’ve wanted this podium and I will keep trying in all the race.”
How the championship looks
As a result of the ninth round of the Moto3 Championship at the TT Circuit Assen, Brad Binder remains the championship leader with 151 points ahead of injured Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) on 103. Fenati is in third with 93 points and Bagnaia's win means he is fourth with 79 points. Di Giannantonio is now ninth with 47 points and Migno is twelfth with 37 points.
Credit to the VR46 Riders Academy
The VR46 Academy deserves a lot of credit for the sportsmen they are producing. Two out of the three podium finishers are part of the Academy and Assen race winner Bagnaia previously rode for the SKY Racing Team VR46 before switching to Mahindra.
At one point during the race the the current Sky Racing VR46 team members Fenati, Migno and rookie Nicolo Bulega led the race. Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) is also a member of the academy and claimed second on the Moto2 podium; other members have also progressed through to the next class. This is all more evidence that the work the academy is putting in is producing amazing that leaves us excited for what is to come in the MotoGP.