When the lights went out at the Moto 2 race in Assen on Sunday afternoon, it seemed Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was only going backwards.
After qualifying second on the grid, Zarco appeared to have the pace to stay at the front and fight for the win during the race. However, he was soon overtaken by the likes of Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galacia 0,0 Marc VDS), Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) who all pushed forward hoping for a place on the podium.
After regaining his rhythm, the Frenchman was eventually able to fight and break away at the front with Nakagami, but on the last laps a red flag abruptly ended his chances of closing the gap to take the win.
Zarco had a slow start to the race
It seemed that tyre issues gave Zarco a difficult start as we saw him drop right back to eighth place by lap three. As the front group started to pull away it seemed that Zarco did not have the pace to keep up, and would have to settle for a top 10 position.
As the race continued fans suddenly saw him slowly begin to catch up meeting up with Lowes as they found themselves in sixth and seventh place. Zarco continued to push as we saw him take part in different battles along the way, before eventually catching up with Morbidelli and Luthi. At this point we knew it only a fight for second and third position, with Nakagami storming away in the lead.
The rain altered the race pace
With only two laps to go rain began to fall onto the track, and the speed of all the riders dropped significantly. With Nakagami slowing down out the front, Zarco seized the opportunity to try and close the gap. But a red flag hindered his chances as this ended the race immediately, seeing Nakagami take the win.
The previous Moto 2 world champion says he felt he could push, but is happy to be leading the championship
Zarco admitted that after seeing the rain, he thought he could catch up saying: "on the last two laps some rain came and I say if I push more I can maybe close the gap and be with him but it was also a lot of risk for me to lose everything."
He also said he enjoyed the start as "it was quite fantastic when you fight like this with all the other riders, but you are able to fight, lose a position, but then come back, it was a funny race." Zarco said he "wanted to win" but thought that "Nakagami deserves it" and "a first victory in Moto 2 is always a nice feeling."
The previous Moto 2 world champion seems to have a tough season on his hands, with the likes of Lowes and Alex Rins appearing incredibly strong this year. However, he will continue to try and regain the title as he now leads the championship with 126 points, joint with Rins. When talking about this new lead he says: "For me, I think when I am not totally in the perfect condition, to finish second place and to take the lead of the championship, is the best wish I can get."
Morbidelli didn't want to take too much risk in the rain
Third place man, Morbidelli, also found a good set up and was able to be fast almost pulling away, just like Nakagami did later on. He had a good start to the weekend after qualifying in fifth positon, putting him on the second row of the grid. After gaining a good momentum for the race, he lived up to our expectations and fought for the podium.
Morbidelli had to work his way up before becoming involved with the top three, and then suddenly ended up at the front of the pack. He began to form a gap between himself and the riders, before losing pace again and quickly ended up surrounded. The battle continued right up until the last few laps, when Zarco finally managed to break away leaving Morbidelli riding in a lonely third. As the rain came, his pace dropped and the gap continued to grow between him, and Zarco. However, he managed to keep a hold of the bike and rode his way to his first podium of the year, and his second podium in the Moto 2 category.
When discussing why he fell back after race he said: "in the end think I dropped a little, and also I was seeing some drops so maybe I was a bit more scared than the other guys."
His eyes were firmly on finishing the race in his position as he said he "wanted to get this first podium of the year" so it was "great for me (him)." He also enjoyed the beginning of the race saying he "had a lot of fun’ but admits ‘maybe I (he) was a bit aggressive in some points because I (he) lost some advantage."
Alex Marquez had his best race of the season
Alex Marquez also took his best result of the year so far, finishing in eighth place. He has already had four DNF’s this year, as well as crashing out in Italy and Catalunya but re-joining the race.