Assen, The Netherlands - Marc Marquez took a hard-earned fourth win of the season at Assen, extending his championship over veteran Valentino Rossi to 41 points, with Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales getting the best of a magnificent five-way battle for second.
The TT Circuit Assen hosted a showcase of the best of MotoGP starring Marquez, Valentino Rossi and his factory Yamaha partner Maverick Viñales, Ducati Team-mates Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Alex Rins on a factory Suzuki and Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow, in the closest top fifteen of all time.
The South African contingent did well at ‘The Cathedral’, with Brad Binder finishing seventh and Steven Odendaal 20th aboard the underdeveloped NTS in the Moto2 race, while Darryn Binder posted his best result of the season so far with a hard-fought sixth in the Moto3 race.
Marquez took the hole shot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo pushed through from tenth on the grid after another awe-inspiring launch. Lorenzo didn’t wait long to strike for the lead, with the two 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 - but Lorenzo had a big moment as Rossi closed in on him and, unable to avoid him, smashed into the rear of the Ducati. Nevertheless, both stayed on and stayed ahead, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting for third.
Marquez passed Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso passed Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins passed Rossi and then Dovizioso - but Lorenzo held firm at the front.
With 15 laps to go Rins went inside Marquez and pushed him off the racing line; the two didn’t touch but Marquez had a big moment as he got back on the gas coming out; he saved it but lost two places, as Rins and Dovizioso chased after Lorenzo.
Soonafter, Dovizioso then challenged his team-mate for the lead and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly; Vinales then took the lead for the first time with eight laps to go but next time around Marquez was back in front - before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as he and Vinales ran each other wide. Rossi took over after another stunning from the ‘Doctor’ at the final chicane - but Dovizioso struck back…
With the leaders running four abreast at times, Marquez fought his way back into the lead, and found a just that bit more in the final laps, opening a gap of a little more than two seconds to the chasing pack, after one of the closest, most spectacular races in the history of the world’s oldest motorsport championship.
But the battle behind him; Vinales pushed through to second before a last-lap attack from Rins gave the Suzuki rider his second premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third - but back on the podium for the first time since Texas.
Rossi left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap and got ahead but the Ducati rider took him back on the exit, getting such a good drive out that he almost passed Vinales on the line. They were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha and Ducati privateer Alvaro Bautista, with Andrea Iannone on the second factory Suzuki completing the top 10.
Francesco Bagnaia strolled to a comfortable fourth victory of the season, taking the chequered flag 1.748 seconds ahead of the chasing pack, while Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up) produced a stunning fight back through the pack to secure his second consecutive podium in second, beating Alex Marquez to the line after Lorenzo Baldassarri pulled out of second on lap 21 with a puncture - a rarity in Grand Prix racing and a cruel blow for him after a brilliant ride.
Bagnaia got the perfect launch from pole to grab the hole shot into Turn 1 as Marcel Schroetter and Marquez tucked in behind him, with Joan Mir the early hard charger, climbing up to fourth on lap one before getting the better of team-mate Marquez a lap later.
Bagnaia’s lead hovered around the half-second mark for the first six laps, before the Championship leader pulled the pin to stretch his lead to more than a second on lap eight, as Marquez moved up to second. But Baldassarri, who started 13th, was the man on the move, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap eight to reel in Mir, before carving his way past Schroetter and Marquez to slot into second.
By this stage Bagnaia was looking imperious as the gap crept up to two seconds, with Baldassarri pulling away from the battle for third. Further down the order, Miguel Oliveira’s early race progress on the factory KTM stopped at seventh, with Quartararo now the rider on the move, putting himself in the podium picture with four laps to go, passing Mir and then quickly making Schroetter his next victim with a sensational pass at Turn 8.
Then heartbreak hit for Baldassarri as the Italian pulled into the pits with a rear tyre puncture with three lap to go, before Quartararo used his superior edge grip to slice past Marquez at Turn 4 - a sublime move.
But nobody had an answer for the No. 42 at the front, with Quartararo and Marquez rounding out the podium. Schroetter was fourth for the second race in a row, beating Mir to the line as the rookie finished fifth. Oliveira salvaged sixth after starting 17th, while factory KTM team-mate Brad Binder recovering to seventh after starting 22nd.
After earning his first Grand Prix front row start, Luca Marini left Assen with a solid eight points under his belt for eighth, as Sam Lowes (KTM) crossed the line ninth for a second consecutive race, just ahead of team-mates Andrea Locatelli and Mattia Pasini.
Jorge Martin became the first to win a Moto3 race at the TT Circuit Assen from pole position, breaking the jinx in style to fight it out at the front before pulling the pin to perfection. Martin crossed the line nearly seven tenths clear of a duel to the line between Aron Canet and Enea Bastianini for an all-Honda podium, and the 25 points took him back the top of the championship after late drama for former points leader Marco Bezzecchi, as he crashed out of contention on the final lap.
Martin got the perfect start from pole, safe from attack into Turn 1 as Bastianini tucked in behind and third was taken by his team-mate Lorenzo Dalla Porta. Nicolo Bulega (KTM) dropped from the front row, but the biggest gain was made by championship leader Bezzecchi from 10th on the grid, as he moved up to third by the end of lap one.
Bezzecchi then attacked Bastianini for second and set his sights on race leader Martin, with the two joined by Canet in the hunt to cut the gap to the leader. But it was Canet who had the pace to do it, taking Martin as soon as he reached him and Bezzecchi then doing the same.
John McPhee (KTM), meanwhile, had pulled away from the second group to join the fight for the win as it became a five-way scrap for glory with 16 laps to go. With some incredible moves exchanged between the five riders, the laps ticked down with nothing in it and positions chopping and changing – classic Moto3 at the ‘Cathedral’.
With two laps to go, Bezzecchi was in the lead but then ran wide and Martin pounced, immediately pulling the pin, half a second clear in the blink of an eye. Canet was the man pushing to catch him, before drama then hit as McPhee suddenly slid out at Turn 9 and the fight became four.
Martin was free and clear of it with almost eight tenths in his pocket as they began the final lap, but the drama behind wasn’t over as Bezzecchi slid out into the gravel. That made the stakes that much bigger for Martin as he crossed the line clear to take not only the win but also the championship lead - with Canet just able to hold off Bastianini for second.
After the crashes up ahead the second group became a fight for fourth; a stunning performance from top rookie Jaume Masia (KTM) took it by a mere tenth from Czech veteran Jakub Kornfeil (KTM), who came from 23rd on the grid after a penalty and put in an impressive push through the pack to complete the top five.
Dalla Porta beat Darryn Binder (KTM) to sixth by just 0.022s but it was nevertheless Binder’s best result of the season so far, with another close fight just behind them to decide eighth as Gabriel Rodrigo (KTM) pipped Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda) and former Moto3 Junior world champion Bulega, who finished less than a second behind Masia in fourth, to put his first points on the board in 2018 after a difficult start to the year.