Assen, the Netherlands – Marc Marquez delivered a master class in riding under difficult conditions at the 2014 Dutch TT to make it eight wins from eight races so far this year – the first rider since Giacomo Agostini in 1971 to win the first eight premier-class races of the season.
Krugersdorp teenager Brad Binder was in the thick of a seven-way fight for fourth in the Moto3 race, eventually finishing ninth - and in the points for the sixth time in eight races.
After a start that was delayed due to wet conditions, Honda’s reigning world champion judged the 26-lap race to perfection, running with Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) at the front in the early stages and asserting his authority as the riders changed to dry set-up machines on lap seven.
Marquez eventually pulled away in the closing stages to win by 6.7 seconds with Dani Pedrosa on the second works Honda grabbing the final podium spot after holding off the pursuing Aleix Espargaro (who had started from pole on the open-class Forward Yamaha) for several nail-biting final laps.
Yamaha veteran Valentino Rossi came home fifth, having ridden a blinder in the second half of the race after a late decision to swap back from slicks to wets at the start forced him to start from the pits.
It was the right choice, if poorly timed, however, as Rossi made up considerable ground before the change to slicks on lap seven and then really put his head down, moving up from 10th to fifth in eight laps.
Ducati privateer Andrea Iannone, Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith (Yamaha Tech3), Ducati Team rider Cal Crutchlow and Honda privateer Stefan Bradl completed the top 10.
Broc Parkes on an open-class Kawasaki rode superbly to 11th having started from pit lane following a problem on the warm-up lap, but Pol Espargaro on the second satellite Yamaha Tech3 retired with six laps to go after crashing for the second time.
Wet specialist Anthony West (Speed Up) used all his experience to pull off a surprise win from Kalex riders Maverick Viñales and Mika Kallio. The 32 year-old, Australian former premier class rider came from 23rd on the grid in his 211th Grand Prix to finish 0.3sec ahead of Viñales, with Kallio 0.4sec further back. It was West’s first win since the 2003 Dutch TT.
The start was delayed by 20 minutes as heavy rain fell on the initial sighting lap, causing pole-sitter and championship leader Esteve Rabat (Kalex) to crash before the race even started. Rabat still started on pole and eventually finished eighth.
Sam Lowes (Speed Up) took the hole-shot to lead off the start, but crashed twice after trying to stay with Simone Corsi (Kalex), who finished 13th after crashing out of the race lead at the midway stage
Johann Zarco (Caterham Suter), Alex De Angelis (Suter), Thomas Luthi (Suter) and Julian Simon (Kalex) all used their considerable experience to finish in fourth to seventh places respectively.
Behind Rabat, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Suter) and Hafizh Syahrin (Kalex) rounded out the top 10, while Luis Salom (Kalex) was 15th having crashed out of third place in the final stages.
Several riders crashed and rejoined on a wet track which saw dry lines forming despite further rain during the course of the 24 lap, 109km race. Some took gambles on slick tyres which did not pay off whilst Dominique Aegerter (Suter) went for a front wet, rear slick combination that only produced a 21st place result.
Alex Marquez, the premier-class champion’s younger brother, took a second successive win of the season with Honda team-mate Alex Rins and Mahindra rider Miguel Oliveira joining him on the podium, after championship frontrunners Jack Miller and Romano Fenati (each on a KTM) crashed out.
Marquez built on his Barcelona win with another dominant performance to take victory by three seconds, leading for the majority of the race from second on the grid. His team-mate briefly challenged him for the lead but Marquez eventually had too much for his compatriot over the course of the 22 laps.
Rins overtook Oliveira for second in the final stages, whilst 12 seconds further back Alexis Masbou (Honda) got the best of a seven-way battle for fourth with Niccolo Antonelli (KTM), Efren Vazquez (Honda), Isaac Viñales (KTM), Danny Kent (Husqvarna), South African Brad Binder (Mahindra) and John McPhee (Honda) – who completed the top 10.
Miller crashed in the early stages whilst Fenati battled to 18th after coming back from an early mistake and then crashing to drop back again.
Neither of the championship front runners was hurt and they remained first and second in the standings with Miller still seven points in front, though Marquez was now level second with Fenati and Rins was fourth, three points adrift of his team-mate.