What a battle it turned out to be at the end of the Motul TT Assen where the MotoGP class met for the third round of the season. Rain threatened all weekend, fell heavily on the second day, and with eight laps remaining struck again.
White flag waved so riders could change bikes in wet
A light shower meant that the white flag was waved which meant that the riders were allowed to return to the pits to change bikes should they wish to; their second bikes would have been ready and prepared with a wet set-up.
Johann Zarco (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) initially led from pole at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ but then a mistake when he came under attack from Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) saw him drop to fourth. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) battled it out for second, and the lead momentarily when the rain hit, but then Dovizioso made a mistake and found himself engaged in another battle.
Marquez recovers from what should have been a crash
The 2016 MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who should not have been there as he practically crashed his bike and somehow made another miraculous recovery as we have not witnessed him do many a time, was following the leaders and working to try and remain within contention of the podium.
He was initially second, before Rossi attacked, and then Petrucci passed him in pursuit of Rossi. Dovizioso passed but his mistake proved costly and he ended up down in seventh behind Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing).
Vinales crashed out of the Dutch GP
Fortunately for Dovizioso, but unfortunately for Vinales, he crashed out and Dovizioso was narrowly able to avoid him. Redding came across other issues and went backwards, and soon enough, as Dovizioso caught Marquez in the wet, along came Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) to join in on the party. Zarco had opted to change bikes and then received a penalty for exceeding the speed limit in pit lane that he had to try and recover from and so was out of contention.
Things heated up in the final stages
Marquez first got in front of Dovizioso on lap 23 when the Italian ran wide. Dovizioso remained all over the back of the Spaniard though and passed him in the third sector of the lap. The penultimate lap saw the battle commence properly as Crutchlow caught the two and initially passed Dovizioso after the Italian had passed Marquez. By the final chicane of the lap, Crutchlow was up to third and potentially had the final podium spot in his sights when they began the last lap.
It looked like it was Crutchlow who was going to emerge successful, and the three were as close as ever until the final chicane of the last lap. Marquez made his move, overtaking at the final chicane of the race and stole third from Crutchlow. Crutchlow was fourth, and Dovizioso crossed the line in fifth.
Subdued Marquez claims final podium spot
A very subdued Marquez stood on the podium alongside Rossi who won for the first time in over a year, and Petrucci who claimed his second podium of the season. The podium was crucial in placing him back in contention of retaining his championship title. He is now fourth in the championship, 11 points cover the top four. What turned out to be Marquez’s 94th podium in his career was Repsol Honda’s 400th.
After a tough weekend Marquez confirmed he was “very happy with the podium” and also with their race as he found they “were competitive enough in the dry at this track”; one that he claimed “isn’t one of the best” for them.
He discussed how “conditions were quite tricky” and he explained that “in this kind of situation” that a rider can “lose or gain many points”. He admitted that he “opted for the ‘safe’ option more or less”.
Marquez hoped to fight for the victory in Assen
Delving further into his experience at the TT Circuit Assen he thought that he “would have been able to try and fight for the victory” but he admitted that he “had some warnings and thought it too dangerous for the championship”. Instead he explained that he “decided to be consistent in the race and to push hard at the end”. He described how he “paid close attention” as he found it “hard to understand where the limit was”, but overall felt that in the end he was “able to manage well”.
Discussing the championship, with Sachsenring the following week, he highlighted that they were “just 11 points down on the lead” which he felt was “important, no matter the fourth position”. Seeming positive, he said, “Now we go to some circuits that could be better for us”, and planned to “keep working hard and see what happens” in the following rounds.
Crutchlow contract extended for two years
The race after having his contract extended with LCR Honda, Crutchlow thanked them clearly with another fantastic performance. Although he missed out on the podium, he put up a good fight and still finished as the second highest placed Honda and the highest independent team rider in fourth.
He spoke of how he was “pleased to finish and pleased to finish fourth”. He found that he was “a little disappointed” with his “pace in the middle of the race” as found that he “had some sort of problem with [his] front tyre” and that he “couldn’t push as hard as [he] wanted to”. He still felt that they were “on for a good result and kept battling”.
Bad start hindered the Brit
He explained how he “got a bad start” which he found “really hindered” him, which added to the hindrance from “not starting from the front rows”; the British rider started from eighth on the grid. He felt that this “really cost [him] the podium” and also even “the chance to fight for the win because the pace was not drastically fast”.
Crutchlow's thoughts on the battle for third
After it started to rain he “kept a cool head” but then found that he “made a mistake by showing Marc and Dovi [his] hand”. Discussing further he felt that he “went too early “ and that instead he “should have passed them on the last lap”. He said, “As it was, Marc just followed me and passed me on the second to last corner”, at this point he knew “there was nothing [he] could do”. Still, he felt it was “a great fight” and that he “really enjoyed it” and went on to give “credit to the podium guys”.
Dovizioso takes over as championship leader
Dovizioso may not have won the race, scored a podium, or emerged victorious from the battle, but he won his own little achievement. The consistent Italian picked up 11 points in Assen, which meant not only was he able to close the seven point gap between him and championship leader, Vinales, he was able to become the new 2017 MotoGP championship leader with a four point lead.
Dovizioso admitted that the race in Assen “was a very difficult one” and that “having to start from row three complicated things a bit”. He found that at the start he “wasn’t able to be very smooth” and as a result he “lost touch with the leading group”. Still, he “remained focused to where [he] could recover” and then when Vinales crashed in front of him, he “pushed hard to get back up with the leading group”.
Dovizioso happy with performance of the bike
He found that at that moment he as “quickest on track” which he felt was a “good sign” for their bike. He then found that when he “came up on the leaders it started to rain”; he explained how you “couldn’t see where the track was dry and where it wasn’t”.
Dovizioso explained how it was “for this reason” why he “didn’t want to take any risks” and instead he “tried to finish the race in the best possible way to score some valuable points for the championship”.
Championship lead comes from back-to-back wins
Turning his attention to his latest achievement that comes as a result of back-to-back wins at the two previous rounds, he spoke of how they return home “in the lead of the table” which he described as a “new emotion” as he has “never been in the lead of the MotoGP”.
He then went on to thank all of his team as he found over the weekend in Assen they “again worked really well” and explained that “despite the constantly changeable weather decisions” that they “made the right decisions, stayed calm” and found that “in the end it all paid off”.