Moto2: Win number 5 for Morbidelli

On what has been announced will be his last season in the Moto2 for at least the next two or three years, after signing a new MotoGP contract, Franco Morbidelli claimed victory number five of the season at the Cathedral of Speed, the TT Circuit Assen. Full round up of the weekend's action in the Moto2.

Moto2: Win number 5 for Morbidelli
Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp via Getty Images

A change of order due to a clash with the Formula 1 saw the Moto2 race at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ in Assen run after the MotoGP round, however, it did not stop it from being any more eventful as Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) clinched another win to help with his championship.

Morbidelli to move up to the MotoGP class

This weekend it was announced that the Italian, who collected his first ever win at the season opener in Qatar, and many more since then this season, will become a MotoGP rider next year. He has a two-year contract in the top class, with the possibility of a third with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team; as well deserved as it is it is a question of who will go to make way for him.

Dry opening day at the Cathedral of Speed

The 600cc class were set to face mixed weather conditions once again at TT Circuit in Assen during the Motul TT Assen; named after the famous Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy). They managed to avoid rain on the opening day, but downpours saw the final Free Practice and Qualifying take place. After the MotoGP race ran, the rain managed to hold off for the race to take place in the dry.

On day one, the Moto2 class completed two sessions of Free Practice. Both ran fairly smoothly although they were not without incident. Free Practice 1 saw six crashes as riders got caught out at several locations on track throughout the weekend.

Corsi crashed out of FP1

Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) was the first of the 600cc class to go down at turn five of the track when the front tucked and the bike flipped. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), winner of the last round in Catalunya where he claimed his second ever Moto2 win, went down at turn 16 of the track. The front folded on him and luckily the gravel slowed both him and the bike enough so they landed before the track at the chicane.

Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and rookie, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) both came off at turn one of the track. Rookie, Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) came off at turn three and former MotoGP rider, Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) also came off at turn five. No riders were fortunately seriously hurt.

Luthi quickest at the end of the opening Free Practice session

The top spot on the timesheets during the opening session was occupied by Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten), Marquez and Cortese. However, it was Luthi who finished the session on top setting the fastest time of 1:38.492 which was almost a second off the Circuit Lap Record set by Tito Rabat in 2015.

Morbidelli quickest at the end of day on in Assen

Free Practice 2 saw three more riders occupy the top spot. Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing) was on top initially, before Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo), and Morbidelli took over. Morbidelli finished the session and the day as the quickest rider overall with his fastest time of 1:38.061.

Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) had a near miss when he had to recover from almost crashing by travelling through the gravel trap. Cortese also ran wide when he noticed a part of the cover of his bike came flying off; he also used the gravel as his get out card. Rookie, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) however crashed coming off at turn 16 towards the end of the day fortunately not damaging his old arm injury further.

 

Heavy rainfall on day two in Assen

Day two of the meeting in Assen was incredibly wet which meant that the Moto2 class found themselves cautiously teetering around the track where there was a lot of standing water, spray and murky conditions.

Crashes galore in the tricky conditions

More crashes occurred at several locations around the track. Vierge came off at turn two of the TT Circuit Assen. At turn five, Hafitzh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and rookie, Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team) both came off. Rookie, Khairul Idham Pawi, (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) who has previously identified his talents in the wet came off at turn nine.

Rookie, Navarro and Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) suffered separate incidents at turn 10 and rookie, Iker Lecuona (Garage Plus Interwetten) fell at turn 11. Isaac Vinales (Be-A-VIP SAG Team) and wildcard rider, Augusto Fernandez (Speed Up Racing) were involved at an incident at turn 12. Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) suffered a highside at turn 15 landing on his knees. Fortunately all riders again appeared unhurt.

Morbidelli quickest at the end of Free Practice

The remainder of the pack pushed throughout the session and worked to reduce the lap times to from just below 2:00 minutes down to just under 1:53 seconds as the sun came out and the track appeared to dry. Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), Syahrin, Luthi, Pasini, Hernandez, Morbidelli and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) all took their place at the top of the timesheets.

The final Free Practice session prior to Qualifying, however, saw Morbidelli once again claim the top spot and remain quickest and favourite for pole position. He finished FP3 with a time of 1:52.973 as the only rider to lap under 1:53 minutes during the session. His teammate Marquez was just 0.115 seconds behind him in second and half a second ahead of the remainder of the pack.

Vierge ruled out of the event before Qualifying

By the time Qualifying came around, Vierge, who had crashed earlier on in the day had been withdrawn from the rest of the meeting due to an injury with his thumb. The rest of the pack set off on a mission and began to lap at the pace previously set in FP3 earlier, Pasini was first to the top of the time sheets with a time of 1:48.504.

He was soon knocked out of the potential pole position by Morbidelli who lapped almost a second quicker. The Italian then continued to chip away at his own time extending the bar even further.

Crashes at the worst time for the riders with one bike

The incidents began once again, first to go down during Qualifying, the worst session you can crash during, was rookie, Nagashima. He had his second crash of the day when he was caught out at turn 6. Rookie, Bagnaia also had another crash, he high-sided and landed on his face; how he got up and walked away from that without assistance was amazing.

Red flag after Baldassarri’s crash

Cortese was caught again, this time at turn 15; his bike was wrecked after a highside on track. Then later on at the same turn, Baldassarri had a huge incident that would see the session stopped.

He came off big! He was thrown from his bike and tumbled through the gravel with his bike like a rag doll. As Morbidelli set his quickest time so far, the red flag came out as the Italian required medical assistance. He initially was treated with a straw bail at his side, as the seriousness of his accident came about, officials used sheets to conceal his privacy. He was eventually placed into an ambulance and then flown by helicopter to the local hospital.

Fortunately, the Italian only suffered a fractured ankle after the accident. He was quick to communicate with his fans via social media to ensure he was OK and ready to come back. He sent various images, messages and a video where he explained that he was waiting for his doctor to come and let him race which was due to start two hours later. He was in high spirits thankfully but did not make it back to the race.

Incident after Qualifying is restarted

Not long after the Qualifying session got underway, Pasini and Navarro went down at turn five; an incident that was to be investigated by race control. It was hard to tell whether they were separate incidents or connected in some way.

Marquez was able to challenge his teammate, Morbidelli for pole position. Aegerter, Simeon, and Oliveira all managed to push the Italian further down the ranks. Nakagami then lapped within 1:38 minutes, and he remained on top until the end of the session.

Further crashes during the wet session where Morbidelli claimed pole

Further incidents occurred during Qualifying as more riders were caught out. Pasini went down at turn one, Lecuona at turn 15, and Marquez fell off again at turn nine. BY the end of the session, Morbidelli was able to respond and once again claimed pole ahead of the Motul TT Assen Moto2 race.

He finished with a time of 1:38.468 which was just 0.101 seconds ahead of second place man Nakagami. They were to be joined on the front row by Luthi; Oliveira, rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP40) and Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) made up the second row.

Quiet warm-up in comparison to previous sessions

After all the mishaps and incidents on the second day, the warm-up session, although wet after heavy rainfall earlier on, went ahead practically without incident. Hernandez crashed once more at turn nine of the track but was able to continue on. Pole position man, Morbidelli was once again quickest ahead of the eight round of the season.

Luthi leads the Moto2 pack into turn one of the race

It was Luthi who led into the first turn of the race however when the lights went out to get the 24 lap race underway. He made a mistake however which sent him backwards down the ranks as like what occurred for Simeon. Marquez was attacking, quickly compensating from starting from eighth on the grid.

Morbidelli led the race ahead of Oliveira, Nakagami and Luthi in fourth ahead of Marquez and Pasini. Luthi briefly passed Nakagami on lap two but the Japanese rider retaliated immediately. Oliveira closed down the gap that Morbidelli opened up.

Marini and Corsi become tangled on opening lap

The first incident of the race occurred unfortunately on the second lap. Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) crashed out at turn 10. Marini appeared to be fuming with Corsi as he gestured to him in the gravel in a very stereotypically Italian way.

On the third lap, Oliveira made an attempt to take the lead from Morbidelli. Morbidelli did not see the Portuguese rider as he was behind him on the inside and he hit Oliveira on turn four. Neither lost positions as a result of the incident however it momentarily spoiled their momentum.

Further back, Marquez made an attempt on Luthi to gain fourth from the German rider, but Luthi out-braked him. Marquez tried again corners later which proved more successful.

Oliveira takes the lead in Assen

Oliveira waited until lap five to challenge Morbidelli once again this time at the final chicane of the circuit. He got the drive out of the turn, and as they headed down the straight he passed the Italian to take the lead at the start of the fifth lap.

Morbidelli was then mugged by Nakagami, who caught and passed him on the straight also using the row from the two bikes ahead. Morbidelli regained second however on the first left-hander, and Nakagami lost two more positions ending up fifth behind Marquez and Pasini.

Pasini attacking on track

Marquez found himself under great pressure from Pasini. On the sixth lap at a right hand turn, Pasini overtook him on the inside to take third. Nakagami then passed Marquez pushing him down to fourth on the approach to the final chicane of the lap. Pasini continued pushing on and took second from Morbidelli on the following lap and began to chase Oliveira.

It was not long until Pasini was at the front of the pack leading the race. The battle continued behind him between Nakagami and Marquez. Morbidelli went under Oliveira at the final chicane of lap seven, but then on the next lap, Nakagami went from fourth to second at turn one, bringing Oliveira with him and facing Morbidelli down to third in one corner. Luthi was also able to pass Marquez to take fifth at the same moment.

Cortese crashes out ending difficult weekend

A difficult weekend for Cortese came to an early end as he crashed once again. On lap eight he came off at turn nine and was forced to call it a day as he had no choice but to walk away from his bike.

Rubbing is racing

The battle continued on at the front as Morbidelli made his way back up to third past Oliveira. He continued on, forcing his way past Nakagami; they almost touched as he made his attempt but Nakagami remained second. This had a positive effect on him, and he responded to Mornidelli’s attack by taking the lead at the chicane where he passed Pasini. Luthi took advantage of Morbidelli being distracted and passed him to take third on the ninth lap.

The amount of passing meant that their momentum was spoiled and the pace slowed which in turn allowed Syahrin to tag onto the back of the group behind Simeon. At the front Nakagami was able to begin pulling away with a clear track ahead of him. Syahrin passed Simeon at turn on of the 12th lap to take seventh, and began catching the lead six more.

 

Vinales and Pawi retire from Assen Moto2 race

Two riders were forced to retire from the race. Vinales and Pawi both returned to the pits on the 12th lapped as they had some sort of issue with their bikes. Rookie, Bagnaia had overtaken Binder to take 12th and become the second highest placed rookie behind Quartararo.

Pasini attacks for the front as rain flag comes out

Back at the front Pasini was considering ways to regain the lead. He made an attempt on the 14th lap but was forced to brake hard that not only spoiled his momentum, but spoiled that of those behind them causing a gap to evolve between he and Nakagami. Then the ‘diminished adhesion’ flag began to be waved as at certain corners raindrops were starting to fall in Assen.

Seeing that Nakagami was getting away at the front, Morbidelli passed Pasini at turn one of the 16th lap and began chasing the leader and closing the gap that had formed. Pasini continued to be mugged by the other riders, as Luthi, Marquez and Oliveira passed him within corners, as he accidentally pulled a wheelie that lost him time; he soon recovered a position from Oliveira.

Morbidelli back at the front of the pack

By lap 18, Morbidelli had caught Nakagami and passed him regaining the lead at turn one. At turn five, Nakagami took a tight line that placed him back in front and then Luthi passed Morbidelli to allow him to get another break. Luthi was flying however and took the lead from Nakagami on the next lap, but Nakagami responded immediately to take it back.

Luthi kept applying the pressure however and returned to the front on the 21st lap. Nakagami ran wide at turn one which allowed Morbidelli to pass through to second. Pasini then passed Nakagami to take third as the made their way through the chicane. Things got worse for Nakagami as he was passed at turn one on the following lap by Oliveira leaving him in fifth.

The battle continues for the podium

Pasini had continued pushing and again passed Morbidelli to take second. He was coming under intense pressure from the championship leader and the two were taking totally different lines as they passed around the track. Oliveira was still in the mix intimidating Morbidelli.

Morbidelli made an attempt on Pasini at the chicane which sent the Italtrans Racing Team rider wide. He gained an advantage running over the painted run-off area but when he returned to the track Pasini gave a position back to Morbidelli to avoid being penalised by race control.

Dramatic final lap of the race

They began the final lap, Luthi still led ahead of Morbidelli, Pasini, Oliveira and Nakagami. Nakagami passed Oliveira to take fourth as the lap got underway and he began focusing once again on Pasini. Morbidelli got back to the front midway round the lap stealing the lead from Luthi.

They pushed on and as they came to the final chicane, Nakagami passed Pasini to take third but his manoeuvre caused Pasini to again run wide in the chicane. He gained ever so slightly again although he could not avoid having to use that area, and had no time to give up and try and recover the position before the finish line.

 

Morbidelli wins again in 2017

Morbidelli won at the TT Circuit Assen crossing the line just 0.158 seconds ahead of Luthi. Although Pasini crossed the line ahead of Nakagami, just 0.394 seconds behind race winner, Morbidelli, he was penalised by race control and had to give up the last podium place to the Japanese rider. Finishing 0.630 seconds behind Morbidelli, he joined him on the podium in third.

Pasini unhappy with fourth in Assen

An angry Pasini had to settle for fourth, spoiling his run of podiums since his win in Mugello. Oliveira was fifth, he looked disappointed with the result despite a fantastic performance. Marquez had dropped off the lead group when he lost some pace finishing back in sixth a couple of seconds behind Oliveira.

Simeon was seventh ahead of Syahrin in eighth. Rookies, Quartararo and Bagnaia completed the top 10 in Assen. Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) was 11th ahead of Aegerter in 12th. Brad Binder was 13th, ahead of Hernandez and rookie, Navarro who collected the last available championship point in 15th.

Morbidelli remains championship leader

Morbidelli’s win means that he remains the championship leader with 148 points, 12 points ahead of Luthi in second. Marquez is third with 113 points,. Oliveira is fourth in the championship ahead of Pasini in fifth, and Nakagami’s podium means he is sixth. Bagnaia is the highest placed rookie in seventh ahead of Aegerter, Marini and Vierge who complete the top 10. 


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