Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Quartararo vs Espargaro, Outstanding Ducatis, And Big Crowds

The Circuit van Drenthe, or the TT Circuit, as the glorious ribbon of asphalt to the south of Assen is officially known, always delivers, and Sunday was no exception. We had an outstanding Moto3 race, where the main championship contenders and promising youngsters broke away and fought down to the wire. We had one of the best Moto2 races in a long time, with action all the way to the finish. And we had an eventful, dramatic MotoGP race that saw some incredible battles from front to back of the field. It was a good day.

Adding a little spice to proceedings was the kind weather which is so unique to Assen. The race started dry, but the rain radar showed a very light shower heading for the track and likely to hit at around the two-thirds distance mark. It rained alright, but it was the worst kind of rain: the kind that leaves lots of spots on your visor, but barely touches the track. If you can blot the rain out from your mind, you can keep pushing just as hard, but it takes enormous mental strength and conviction. Worth the effort, though: even in the midst of the drizzle, riders were still posting 1'32s.

"When I saw the rain, I saw it on the screen of the bike. I saw that it was very small. I tried to think that it was not raining," Marco Bezzecchi said after the race. "I was trying to stay focused, but anyway pushing like at the maximum that I could."

Under a cloud

Fellow Italian Ducati rider Fabio Di Giannantonio tried to think back to qualifying in Mugello, which took place in similar conditions. "I went in Mugello mood, let's say! So it's not raining, it's not raining, it's not raining! So I was just going full gas because I saw all the front group that was closing a little bit the throttle, was going a little bit slower and I wanted to push more."

That wasn't easy, though. "It's so hard to understand if it's going to rain more or not," Johann Zarco said. "There are the flags, you don't see too much rain on your visor, but you don't know and finally it was just a cloud."

The rain also created practical problems which made it hard to judge just how bad it was. Pecco Bagnaia found water creeping between his visor and tear-offs, creating vision problems. The fact that he was leading the race, and had no reference ahead by which to judge whether adhesion was lessening made things worse. "My problem was that I saw the rain and I was thinking it was more slippery than what in reality it was," the Ducati Lenovo rider said. "The problem is when it’s raining, also when it’s light rain, always also when you start light rain, and you have the tear-off, the rain comes from the tear-off and your screen into your visor. You start to see not clearly the things. So, I just removed the tear-off and I lost like six tenths, five tenths in this lap."

The spots of water did not turn into proper rain for the rest of the race, remaining what Chris Hillard of Alpinestars so eloquently dubbed "mental rain", rain which exists more in the mind of the rider than on the surface of the asphalt. Thankfully, as it allowed for a ferocious and fascinating finale to the MotoGP race.

Plenty to discuss in these subscriber notes. (With my apologies for their lateness, but as Aleix Espargaro said on Sunday night, "sincerely, I'm very tired. Super super exhausted. I need rest." 11 races in 17 weeks has been pretty punishing, given the level of intensity a GP weekend demands.)

  • Quartararo vs Espargaro
  • Aleix Espargaro's astonishing race
  • Why Fabio Quartararo crashed
  • Penalty? What penalty?
  • The Super Desmosedici
  • Why fans turn up

We start with the defining moment of the race. Pecco Bagnaia had gotten away at the start of the race, getting the holeshot and then taking advantage of Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Quartararo taking the first few corners to dispose of Jorge Martin's challenge – a challenge they opened the way for as Quartararo ran wide on the exit of the first corner. Espargaro and Quartararo were inching closer to Bagnaia as the laps ticked off, and at the start of lap 5, Quartararo saw an opening.

At the Strubben hairpin, he tried to slide his Yamaha M1 up the inside of Espargaro's Aprilia RS-GP. It was a move he had pulled off successfully on the opening lap, albeit briefly, the Spaniard using the speed of the Aprilia to draw level and enter the Ruskenhoek ahead of Quartararo.

This time, however, Quartararo was a little too optimistic: the front washed out from under him, and his bike slammed into the lower fairing of the Aprilia, pushing Espargaro wide and into the gravel. Thankfully, the Strubben hairpin is so slow that Espargaro was able to remain upright, driving his way out of the gravel trap to rejoin in 15th place.

That failed pass would have a profound effect on the course of the race. Aleix Espargaro saw his hopes of a race win evaporate, and believing that all was lost, vowed to try to recoup as many points as possible.

"When Fabio hit me, I saw on my board P14. So in that moment I said, ‘your race is done’. Nothing will change if you score 2-3 points, it doesn't matter," Espargaro told us after a stunning comeback ride which saw him cross the line in fourth eventually. "You need to go for more than 10 points. If you crash, you crash. That's it. And I thought it's not going to be your fault if you crash, because it's going to be Fabio’s fault!"

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What a great article! There is no other sport that has in-depth coverage like David Emmet delivers to US FANS. This one is among his best! It helps that we are witnessing an incredible storyline around Aleix, Aprilia, and now Maverick too. And after this race, I am finally a Fabio fan too. He's a stand-up guy and deserving of all his accomplishments and status. Yamaha owes him on and off the track.  

I will root for Fabio to win the championship for a lot many reasons including some Rossi-love that has trickled down.. i was heartbroken when he crashed.. but seeing Aleix's race, I kept thinking "this is a champion's ride". I would not be sad to see him take this year's championship. 

I think what struck me most about his pass on Brad & Jack was how easy he made it look. He sailed past them. 

In my opinion, Jack and Brad were battling, therefore they would not see the charging Espargaro. Hence the impressive passing manoeuvre, I guess..

That how the races would look like, if the riders were not running defensive lines.

Amazing move by Aleix and perfect timing. His confidence is growing.

Isn't that nicely timed too, Aprilia becoming competitive just about when we lost the beloved Suzuki?


Seems to me that Aleix is actually improving as the season progresses. Two or three races back I’d have said he was destined to be another forever bridesmaid. Now I’m not so sure. As is so often said here, titles are won on your bad days. And he certainly snatched a victory of sorts from the jaws of defeat. It was refreshing too, to see someone slice through the field cleanly and fairly.

The Quarty penalty? How droll, so obviously a ploy to close the points gap. This kind of thing damages MotoGP.

The old spanish conspiracy or just plain inconsistency in judgement by RD? 

*grabs my bucket of popcorn* XD 

“never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately described by stupidity”

My favourite variation is grey’s law which modifies Arthur c. Clarke’s 3rd law:

”any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”

As a therapist, there is neglect and abuse.

Neglect reaches a threshold where is is abuse. There is an "active passivity." If I am an adequate swimmer and watch you drown whilst eating popcorn, next to a life saving bouy on a rope comfortably in my swim trunks? Most neglect is abuse.

I saw a man once who looked like he had "a life saving buoy on a rope comfortably in [his] swim trunks". I was quite jealous. Must say, he did look a little ridiculous though, Fortunately he was passive at the time. Sorry, Shrink...

There is no 'ploy', and there is no damage to MotoGP, it has been much improved over recent years (and will be even more so when the ride-height devices go).

Thank you David. Great writing and race report all very informative with fantastic photos also. Being a big fan of MotoGP I really hope FQ20 has a good Silverstone. I think he's been very hard done by being given that penalty and I think most race fans, journalists  and the paddock seem to agree.. 

I'm clearly one of the few people that reckon Fabio did deserve a long lap penalty - but I think they've only handed it out after being asleep on the job with regards to Nakagami (twice) amongst many others. 

Wait another day or two for a really good race recap? No problem. We all know that we will always get some great post-race insight from you.

Thanks David

I'll join the chorus: many thanks, David for providing deep insight into the minds and emotions of these supremely talented and complex racers and their teams, their strengths and weaknesses, and the occasional vagaries of the machines they pilot.

I think we'd all be interested in your equally candid analysis of Race Direction:

  • Is the frustration with their decisions expressed by riders, teams, and fans warranted, or just sour grapes?
  • Is there a need to reconsider the methods of Race Direction as a process?
  • How should we view the merits of this particular RD team?
  • What do Dorna and the FIM think about a group that has such a big impact on race and championship outcomes?

It is the FIM stewards at the centre of the complaints. Race direction are not the ones handing out the random penalties.


^ Personally, I am not seeing stewards far enough out of line to bring me concern. I think when you are the leader unsafely diving and taking out the #2 guy, you can get a damn penalty.

And when you get one, you argue it and sometimes strongly. The team too. Yes, Nakagami didn't get a penalty. I am JUST inclined to say one was warranted for taking out Rins (injury too) and Pecco. I think Quarty's error was a bit worse one, but Nakagami had done it before. I don't know, it just seems a fairly close call. I'm keeping in mind that stewards are dealing with the whole field, in which dives and unsafe crap has just been on the rise needing sanction. It isn't just about any single incident or rider. I'm no Taka fan, but he's been ok over time. He has recently been riding for his job and career on a shitty handling gravel muncher.

Basically within okay parameters! I'm not even reading this stuff.

Putting this here. Mike Booth is a REALLY good guy and popular. He does journalism AND is a fast racer. He has lots of friends appreciating that he wasn't another fatality at this year's quite dangerous Isle Of Man. 

I've been following his video blogs via 44teeth as he prepared for IOM. He had a bad crash, and just now finally was ok enough to tell us this. (Basically, broken spine, both legs horribly broken, one removed below the knee, in and out of lengthy surgeries, having the toughest difficulty in his life). He is taking it INCREDIBLY gracefully.

Heal up well Boothy! Warmest wishes as you adjust to new levels of functioning.

Please be assured that this is not a criticism of anyone, riders, promoters , fans or the IOM people. In fact I am full of admiration for the riders and the brilliance of the TT in general.

But here's the thing. There were another 5 deaths there this year. And I gather that Mike Booth was one of the two 'serious' injuries.I do wish him well.

I reckon I would love to have a beer with any of the TT competitors and the bios of the people who are no longer with us are invariably so impressive and so familiar in perspective to anyone who loves to ride. For me though the losses are too great to bear. I feel that supporting the TT in any practical way is unconscionable. I would never argue to ban it and will never criticise any competitor for their life choices, but I cannot support the TT given that this level of loss is so clearly, at least to me, unacceptable.

^ I hear you, understand and respect that. 

My stomach does different stuff watching the road course racing vs closed circuits. My body is telling me something not dissimilar.

And, I step into it and HUGELY respect and support it in our padded coddled world.

I once set up a mini bike race where we were shot at by paint ball guns. Why? We could. I could race circuits. Couldn't/wouldn't go full out without a roll off in those over the top risky corners at certain tracks. 

This yr at IOM was exceptionally dangerous and I have a sense of why. It should come back to usual dangerous plus just a wee bit next go.



I'm no race rider, but I can't watch it either, it just worries me too much. But (thinking back to my old rock climbing days) it's probably one of those things which in some respects is easier to do than watch. You're the person in control then.

Passing is an important skill for racers. Some get it right.

Mat Oxley says " Basically overtaking in MotoGP is pretty much impossible now, for technical reasons. " in a comment at the end of this article

I say overtaking is challenging when all the field is bloody fast. Unless you are Aleix Espargaro! The Prilla seems to do the overtaking biz fairly well. That was a very good move in the GT chicane! That's why I love motorcycle racing!

^ Hiya Ape! Last season remember Miller consistently getting a good start (Duc devices etc) then Mir catching him, and OVER AND OVER we saw this: Duc straight line speed and line leaves it coming together with Suzuki line and corner speed. Mir passes inside, they meet and touch at apex. 

It was just bound to happen! That is the story of those two bikes racing each other, normal racing circumstance.

Now? We have something even further forced to occur, dives and loss of predictable handling. Why? I think a large factor is the bloody shape shifter gizmos combined with strong aero and it changing drastically via them in combination. Lastly, this Michelin front tire has been both a mismatch with the rear in terms of balance, and on the not stiff enough side...getting overridden. Over heated. Plus close racing of course, which is related to the above shite.

Shuck Fapeshifters

Dial back aero one significant step

New Michelin front tire promised damn YEARS ago

Throw a few more penalties out to reel in our divers. Make it clear to the riders and paddock as a whole, get over that is about anything personal. Have a solid talk with first offenders as an aside.

Apical makes a good point though. What we saw in Assen was a bike/rider with a very decent advantage over those passed. Without the off track excursion Aleix wouldn't have passed many riders if any at all. Obviously not least because he was running 2nd at the time, could only pass one but also because the advantage over the riders at the sharp end would be much less. However, if Aleix's one lap speed and pace placed him 10th then the same applies. In a 'ideal' weekend scenario the field comes out of qualifying much as much in the order they should run during the race. The difference in reality is that some riders/bikes can't hammer the one lap blitz in qualifying and or preserve their tyres better than their rivals during the race. This produces shifts in relative performance during the race resulting in some good passing. Apical points to all bikes being fast but I would also add that all teams/riders are getting very good at doing the job in hand. The field is more often running close to the potential of the 'package' than in previous years and the potential of each is very similar to all. This results in a rider running 10th and remaining 10th in 'their place'. Starts very important. Thank god for imperfect performance.

Great article as always, enjoy vacation and if possible, provide some insights on “market movements” . Not just pilots, technicians , test riders and team managers. Looks like there are interesting and challenging changes ahead.
many thanks


Odd thought:

 I think Rins made a mistake not taking the 2022 Gresini Ducati in favor of a 2023 Honda. 

The 2022 Red bikes get updated "to match the Factory bikes" at Summer break next yr. Perfect scenario. HRC Haven't Really Corrected this tosser.

Congrats to Pecco, Marco and Maverick for terrific rides. Welcome to the podium, Marco and welcome BACK to the podium, Mav! Well deserved!

re: difficulty in passing..   David's remarks have emphasized two aspects of the track itself  -- that the asphalt gives grip & is easy on the tires, and that the track layout gives so many lines to take. 

Taking nothing from Aleix --  14 laps below previous record !   insane pace!  fits in memory banks along with Rossi at Phillip Island.. with Cormac's final photo sequence here 'icing the cake'.   amazing!  .. 

What a way to finish first half!

Anyone else disappointed with Suzuki's showing as of late? They've got the riders...what's going on? The bike looked strong initially.

If both Mir and Rins go to Honda next year as rumored, Honda will have a POWERFUL rider line up (Marquez, Mir, Rins), much stronger than what they currently have. If they still don't get results... oh dear.

It seems like two things happened. They developed a bike with more power, but got more fuel consumption than they were expecting. And the new power curve seems to have upset the balance out of corners (feel free to debate this point) and upset the balance of the thing. They seemed to be working this out and then Suzuki decided to walk out of a contract with DORNA that had years to run. Imagine the impact of that on a group of highly motivated and incredibly focused people. Imagine calling the family you have left at home for about 75% of the year and explaining that your great big dream project had fallen over and special bonus - you will be unemployed in a few months.

It isn't impossible for teams to function well under this sort of pressure but it is very unlikely. There did seem to be a few rounds which defined the idea of cognitive dissonance in that team. Still in the last two rounds both Rins and Mir, both of whom I rate very highly, seemed to have improved pace amidst some appalling luck. Given that this year's Honda was supposed to be a whole new concept it seems like they are in a real mess. Note that Rins and Mir seem to have rather studiously avoided KTM though.

Thanks for those great photos of that awesome last lap pass by Aleix. Also thanks David for a great write up

Ducati just released specs on the new MotoE bike...


Energica MotoE = 260kg

Ducati MotoE = 225kg

(MotoGP = 157kg)

Horsepower will be about the same as Energica (around 150hp), but MUCH less torque (220Nm for Energica and 140Nm for the Ducati). 

Lap times for the current MotoE bike are a good bit slower than Moto3. For me, the electric oinkers are just to heavy and slow to be of interest. Looks like little has changed. A step in the right direction on weight loss though. 

The only thing that has caught my attention was the whole thing burning down. Is this bike going to get you interested if you aren't yet? Minus 35kg, but minus one third of the torque? Approximately HALF of the overall weight is evidently the battery. Wow! 

In the future, smaller lighter batteries could make this work! But the bike is 500 pounds. 

v Wavey, I hear you. And for me, weight effects the racing, and also there is a significant part of my being a fan that is about sympathy re riding a beloved bike. Even if "King Of The Baggers" (huge Harley Davidson and Indian disgusting American vehicles) racing is close or eventful, it holds no interest for me. I have to like the bikes, or wish to ride one. It isn't a decided attitude, it arose naturally. Does that make sense, or sound weird? 

-- P.S. yes, this is a bit tangential, it is Summer Break so I pop in with an attempt to churn discussion and entertain --

To be honest I could care less about the weight as long as the racing works. The drop in torque is a huge disappointment though. Nice to see the torque directly (with a capital D) associated to twist. If the racing is good the rest is just numbers. They really do need the original Tron light bike sounds though.

^ me weight is also a big issue. MotoGP is too heavy relative to....etc. I'm in two minds about MotoE. On the one hand they will make MotoGP look backward and ancient because the idea that you cannot just do exactly what you very precisely want to do very rapidly with the torque being delivered is just stone age. On the other hand they will be far simpler to force a very stone age relationship between twist and torque. I'm all for that. One thing is for sure, they are a long way from being a huge Harley. Very much a prototype even if it is a spec class. Myself I find it helps if I see it as it stands alone. No gears, constant torque (or played with I dunno).

Electric bikes = zzzz. Call me back when I can ride 300 km at a spirited pace and recharge pretty much anywhere in five minutes.

Aleix on the (first) podium for Aprilia last year at Silverstone? I was there and am sure he was, the report says Pol pipped him to it, please help an old veteran recall this hazy memory…!

I noticed that too yes ;-)  It was said it was a dream first MotoGP podium for Aprilia, so maybe it was a collective imagination, but I'd say it actually happened. David got Silverstone 2021 and Qatar 2022 mixed up, it seems...