Assen was the venue for a sensational battle royale as eight riders duked it out for the win in one of the most incredible MotoGp races of all time at Assen.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez emerged from the melee to take the win on premier racing’s 70th visit to the track, but the headlines were stolen by the close racing as Marquez battled with Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, Ducati factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow.
It was Marquez who took the holeshot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo sliced through from tenth to P2 after another awe-inspiring launch.
The Italian and Catalan GP winner didn’t wait long to strike for the lead either, attacking Marquez with the the two riders locked side-by-side in a war of wills until Lorenzo edged ahead.
Marquez hit back a lap later at Turn 15, before Lorenzo repaid the favour once more. The duel was the first of many; an early taste of what was to come.
Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard missing a gear soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. Incredibly, both riders stayed on and retaining their track position, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.
Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso…but Lorenzo held firm at the front. With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.
The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two made contact, with the reigning champion suffering a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.
The Italian fought his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with just eight laps to go.
Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they both ran wide.
It was then Rossi’s turn to shine with a clinical move at the final chicane, but he couldn’t make it stick and Dovizioso immediately struck back..
A four-way tussle for the front saw no inch given by any of the riders, before Marquez pulled the pin to make his way back into P1…and once past he managed the gap to take a stunning win; his fourth of the season.
The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third , his first time back on the podium since Texas.
The fight for fourth was equally intense and showed why Rossi had been rehearsing; the ‘Doctor’ left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but the Ducati pilot took him back on the exit, gaining such good drive that the had almost caught Viñales over the line.
Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller completing the top ten in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.
Speaking after the race, Marquez said: “It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport. I was expecting something like this before the race, but nothing like it actually was. We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing.
“It was crazy out there and impossible to define the best strategy, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the amount of championship points available.
“I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap.
“It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”