Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Fabio Is Fast, Marquez Is Back, And What Joan Mir Needs Most

Though Maverick Viñales dominated the headlines at Assen – both on and off the track – there was a race to talk about too. For a deep dive into Viñales' situation, see the first part of my Assen review. But let's talk about the race, shall we?

Though Fabio Quartararo won the race comfortably, that is far from the whole story. How and why Quartararo won, how he got past Pecco Bagnaia, why Maverick Viñales couldn't catch his teammate, Johann Zarco's stealthy title campaign, Pecco Bagnaia's defensive masterclass, Joan Mir's strength and shortcoming, and Valentino Rossi's imminent and inevitable retirement decision. All this and more is worth talking about.

But let's start with the winner. Fabio Quartararo came into the race as joint favorite with his teammate, Maverick Viñales. The Monster Energy Yamaha riders had dominated practice, Viñales and Quartararo three or four tenths faster than anyone else, and Viñales holding a slight advantage in race pace.

Made for Yamaha

A new track surface combined with tires which were a known quantity and worked well in the conditions meant there was grip aplenty. Add that to a track which suits the Yamaha – long, flowing corners where carrying speed is what counts – meant that everyone was waiting for the inevitable. If a Yamaha got to the front of the race, they would be gone. With Viñales and Quartararo first and second on the grid, the only question was which one it would be.

The fact that it was Quartararo who led into the first corner should not really come as a surprise. The match up between Viñales and Quartararo illustrated neatly the difference between the two. Viñales got the better drive off the line, but ran out of steam as he struggled with his clutch. Quartararo swooped across and into Turn 1 in first place, while Viñales got swallowed up by Pecco Bagnaia, Takaaki Nakagami, and Alex Rins.

Knowing he couldn't let Quartararo escape, Bagnaia launched his first attack on the exit of the Ruskenhoek, the pair slugging it out through Stekkenwal while Nakagami harried them from behind. In his rush to defend, Quartararo was forced to run wide at De Bult, and that let Bagnaia through.

Making plans

From there, Quartararo faced a dilemma: he knew he had to get past Bagnaia before the GT chicane, and the Ducati Lenovo rider had a chance to deploy his rear ride height device to his advantage. The amount Bagnaia gained out of the final corner and along the front straight, and out of Stekkenwal and on to De Bult, was staggering. Watch the footage from the helicopter camera or Quartararo's onboard camera, and the Ducati takes off like a scalded cat, turning two bike lengths into ten in a twist of the wrist. If you didn't know any better, you would be searching Bagnaia's bike for a bottle of nitrous oxide.

The way Quartararo solved this problem was masterful. He closed Bagnaia down through the Southern Loop, using the corner speed advantage against the Ducati at the point in the track where it struggled. He tried creeping up on Bagnaia at Meeuwenmeer, but couldn't get close enough to attack at the GT.

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Noticed it wasn't included on the list of remaining races. I hadn't heard any official word of it being cancelled, but with current restrictions on international travellers it did seem unlikely to run....

Anyone coming into Australia must quarantine for 14 days - with Thailand on the 17th Oct and PI on the 24th Oct that just isn't going to happen, sadly. I'd have been there otherwise.

Not even a mention of JM43, which pretty much sums up his weekend. Hopefully just a season low for him and he can come back strongly in Austria.

Does Marc battling Aleix allude to a not-quite-up-to-speed Marc, or to an Aprilia that is quicker than everyone thinks it is?

Good job by Garrett Gerloff to finish all sessions and the race intact, but says a lot about one Jonathan Rea who in 2012 managed to qualify 9th and finish 8th at Misano, then qualify 7th and finish 7th at Aragon, on Casey's bike. And for good measure took a WSB podium in between the two MotoGP races.

I have no idea but i think they were pulling those moves back and forth all race. Was nice. Marc has had that move on the way into ramshoek nailed for many a year and this time it seemed Aleix was the perfect foil on the exit. Lovely fight.

Watching Marc, his bike was moving around under him alot. Again. More like the old days in which he is fighting to wrangle an unruly beast. Good news that Marc is more himself. Bad that the bike is still itself. The same thing no longer looks inspired and miraculous, it looks desperate and held together.

The Honda and Aprilia are fairly evenly matched right now? And so are recovering Marc and inspired Aleix? 

Maverick's father just made a interesting valid point. He said to journos that his son has a forceful aggressive riding style more like Marquez (we could add Pol), the Yamaha does not suit him. It is for a smooth/butter/"soft" riding style. And that Blue did not bring a bike towards Mav's style (obviously). 

I think that perspective holds some water. Vinales on a high aero V4 could be a very interesting prospect! 

Fabio is very aggressive on the front end and he already mentioned this year that the bike needs to be ridden aggressively to make it work. When there's grip you can ride aggressively, when there is no grip you can't, to generate grip you have to ride aggressively ? Also Mav was super quick right away while the seat was still warm from Mr Smooth himself. I do think he'll ride the wheels off anything they give him. Doing the job is the issue it seems...subject to whatever reasons.

Any change adds some interest...can you imagine if Mav freed from his jail is suddenly born again super hard for the remainder of the year ? One thing is for sure, if Yamaha need him to play team...

Good point ^. And, what if it is also about how the rider responds when the bike isn't working well? Not just aggressive like Quartararo is on the brakes etc as you say, but more do you settle in and settle down, or do you wrong it's neck? Fabio has struggled when he gets "aggressive" in the more desperate hungry unsettled way. Not often, but there right? He is trying to not be aggressive with himself too w the therapist. I see some butter as well as the demon w Quarty. Not Vinales, he thrashes the bike and himself. Not smooth. 

Does that look valid as well you think? 


Quartararo talked about the differences between the 2019/2020/2021 Yamaha. The need to be aggressive with the 2021 bike and to a lesser extent the 2020 bike was one of those differences. Therefore, it's not aggression delivered through anger or frustration, it's just a term to describe an aspect of riding the different bikes. Did he have his issues with anger and/or frustration while racing ? Certainly seemed so last season. Le mans was his best race this season for me. Not because of pace or overtakes but because when things started to go against him he didn't throw it away and got a podium....that was different.

Do you see Marc ? He's aggressive, bike constantly reacting, complaining at the treatment, rough and brutal. Yet Cal, Taka talk about the smoothest most precise inputs. I remember Luthi while he was at VDS Honda saying he looked at Marc's telemetry and admitted that it was impossible for him to be that precise...not that he saw what he needed to not possible period. What we see is the bike reacting. Difficult to differentiate between bad bike/good bike/rider. Anecdotes may give insight and ultimately winning is the royal seal of approval for all. Who is the fastest rider on the grid ? Zarco...because it said so in Qatar at the end of the start finish straight. Who is the best rider on the grid at the moment ? Fabio because he's got the most points and wins.

I've always thought Maverick was one of the most natural riders I've ever seen. When he's on song often spellbinding. Some things stick in the head, his fast laps in practice and qually for Qatar 2019 watching him come through turns 12, 13 and 14...the guys past what the tyres want to do, this is where the lap goes bad, either a crash or ok, lets call it a mistake and tenths are lost....nope Maverick is just expressing himself and he's fastest because nobody could do what he just did with that bike, setup as it is good or bad. One lap...two laps maybe but that was just Mav going to the shops to buy some bread with a heart rate of 13 beats per minute.

Then it all goes to s*** in the race. Then the next race he's somewhere...nowhere.

When the grip is low he can't do what he wants to do yet he seems most at home when the bike is moving around under him. That's not generating grip because a bike that's moving around in the way Mav seems to like is not loading up its tyres as much ?

No idea to be honest. Beyond what i see of the bike/rider on track I have no idea what he's doing and very probably wouldn't understand it either. One or two races ago you can hear Miller and Oli talking about Maverick's riding, something about the very nice way he handles the speed into the corner...anecdotes.

It seemed like Rea his performance is way better than Gerlofs if you look at the position he's finished at. But if you look at time behind the leader Rea is still better. But by a lesser margin. Gerlof finished about 53 seconds behind the leader and Rea was about 43 seconds behind the leader at misano. At aragon he was 32 seconds behind the leader. Rea was on a full factory bike and Gerlof is on the slightly older spec yamaha. It was slso gerlof his first time racing at assen. I don't know if rea was already familiar with misano and aragon


Props to Rea, but he also raced when CRTs were in the field.  It would have been an unbelievable weekend for Gerloff if he finished within 30sec of the winner.  In the end, it was a "test" weekend for Gerloff.  Post Tech3, Yamaha's Jr talent seem to be in SBK. 

Vinales was not joint fav for me in the race. It was clear on Saturday Fabio had better race pace. Even though Vinales on pole Fabio clear fav!

Thanks for these insightful notes David. Judging by recent events there is plenty work on the horizon when racing resumes, so get some rest and enjoy your holidays!

If there are $1x,xxx street bikes with electronic preload control, it seems silly that MotoGP bikes should need pneumatic Rube Goldberg devices for it. Let the teams add ride height actuators and 2 ECU data points (front and rear preload setting) to control them. And while we're at it, active damping wouldn't hurt either. This all has direct carryover to the street and is not rocket science or unobtanium tech. MotoGP bikes should be more advanced than street bikes, not the other way around.

I'm with you #CTK. MotoGP bike are supposed to be prototypes at the pinnacle of design and technology. Let them use automated devices like they might put onto street bikes to ensure it will filter through to street bikes. They are spending the money anyway to gain advantage by developing and refining manually operated ones, so simply restrict some of the automated guidelines to keep the result in line with might be provided on a future street bike. 

Not to be confused w crystal ball.

Dovi has been pursuing a seat at Yamaha. 

Mir may be talking w other Factories (this HAS to mean Yamaha).

Rossi has decided to hang up the leathers and is announcing over break.

Maverick and Bonesaw46 Duc see each other as a fit, talks are more than casual/tire kicking. 

Morbidelli to Factory Yamaha, but contractual details between Blue and Aqua aren't speedily finished. There is a lingering over Dovisioso at Blue. 

Several kids (Bezzecci/Gerloff and maybe Toprak, Raul F) are far along in talks with Aqua.

Zarco Red next yr, whomever is 3rd Duc bumps back to Pramac. 


Not fully awakened from a nap. That in-between state.

Lorenzo comes out of retirement to partner Quartararo. Yamaha dream team. Similar riding styles. Bike development benefits more than one rider. Initially makes as much sense as Vinales to Aprilia. Lorenzo was too busy chewing over contracts to vlog this week.

Now that! would be quite something. Although King Jorge playing second fiddle...?

Cant see it happening - Morbidelli to factory team - and Gerloff or Toprak to Petronas is my guess. Cant see Petronas wanting to risk another old bloke eg Dovi on other bike. Petrux ?

We didn't have a fix last year so I need everybody to give out a lot of positive vibes for us here and come to us please. I want to say thanks to Rossi also. He is my No2 after Mick Doohan.