Maverick was Top Gun for the first time in 2019 to make it five winners in eight races
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) earned his and Yamaha’s first win of the season after a magnificent ride on Sunday afternoon at the Motul TT Assen, the Spaniard beats second place Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and polesitter Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) after the trio treated us to a fantastic scrap in the Netherlands.
Quartararo didn’t make a bad start from pole position, but two blue machines shot to the fore as the lights went out for the MotoGP™ race. Team Suzuki Ecstar duo Alex Rins and Joan Mir went P1 and P2 into Turn 1, with Viñales getting the better of Quartararo into Turn 1 as the number 12 Yamaha got out of shape on the exit. Quartararo got back at Viñales heading into Turn 5 though, with Marquez P5 off the start as the two Suzukis led the premier class freight train around the opening lap at the Cathedral of Speed.
Sitting as one of the pre-race favourites, Rins was looking comfortable at the front as he eyed win number two of the season. But on Lap 3, his race would end at Turn 9 – Rins tucked the front and slid out of contention, leaving rookie teammate Mir in the lead of a MotoGP™ race for the first time. The 2017 Moto3™ World Champion wouldn’t keep it for long though, Mir ran wide at Turn 16 to let Quartararo through.
It wasn’t long before Marquez and Viñales would follow the Frenchman through as Marquez soon became the meat in a Yamaha sandwich. Meanwhile, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had made a cracking start from P11 to get himself into P4, just behind the leading trio, with Mir dropping into the clutches of Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci in the battle for 5th.
Quartararo, Marquez and Viñales were locked together with Dovi just under a second back. Viñales was looking eager to get past Marquez but heading into Turn 1 on Lap 10, the factory Yamaha man ran wide and lost over half a second to the duo. At the front, Quartararo was struggling to control his YZR-M1 heading out of Turn 5 and onto the back straight. The 20-year-old kept having to shut the throttle to avoid a bucking bronco effect as Marquez closed right in, no such problems for him down the straight as the number 93 took the lead on Lap 11.
Viñales reeled Marquez and Quartararo back in and it wasn’t long before the latter was back past Marquez after the Spaniard made a mistake at Turn 1. This trio had now dropped Dovi as the Italian found himself in company with teammate Petrucci and Mir. However, all the focus was at the front. With 11 laps to go, Viñales was your new race leader – Quartararo wrestling his M1 again down the back straight as the Frenchman slipped to third. With 10 to go, Quartararo was seemingly struggling. 0.9 was the gap to Viñales and Marquez as it became a two-way scrap for the win.
Was the pressure getting to the leading Yamaha? Another mistake into Turn 1 let Marquez through with nine to go but Viñales regrouped and re-passed the Championship leader. Now, we started to see Viñales get in the groove as he set two consecutive personal best laps. Marquez stayed with him but once clear of Quartararo, thinking about the Championship, the Repsol Honda started to back off as Viñales’ pace was superior. Viñales’ lead was over a second with two to go and with Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig leaning over pit wall to tell Marquez that P2 was more than ok, Viñales could enjoy the last lap as he came round to claim his first win since the 2018 Australian GP. It’s a win that means four manufacturers have now won in the first eight races this season, with Marquez upping his title race advantage to 44 points heading to his fortress: the Sachsenring.
Quartararo, still not 100% fit after his arm pump surgery, picks up a second consecutive podium in P3 to leapfrog himself to P6 in the Championship. Dovizioso did well to come home fourth to limit the damage in the overall standings as much as he could, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) securing his equal-best MotoGP™ finish with a final chicane move on Petrucci – the Italian finishes sixth. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) crosses the line seventh, the British rider had strong pace mid-race but a mistake at Turn 1 ended his P4 charge, with Mir also making a mistake late on to finish P8. The rookie was on for his best result of the season as he was embroiled in a race-long scrap with the Ducatis but nevertheless, it was a hugely positive weekend for Mir.
Completing the top ten was Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), a lonely ride for the Australian on a circuit he won at in 2016, with Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) earning his best result of the season in P10. Nursing a wrist injury, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) led home older brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – Aleix also riding injured – as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) came across the line together to complete the points.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) were involved in a crash together at Turn 8 on Lap 5 – riders ok – as Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) also crashed, rider ok. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) retired from the race.
An intense battle sees Viñales kick-start his 2019 season with an awesome Assen win. Marquez heads to the Sachsenring as the clear favourite – and the clear leader in the Championship. We only have to wait a week to find out how the 2019 German GP will play out.
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
2. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 4.854
3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 9.738
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 14.147
5. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 14.467
6. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 14.794
7. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 18.361
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 24.268
9. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 26.496
10. Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 26.997