97,150 turned up to watch a 26 lap race on a dry day and they were not disappointed as Assen gave the fans the kind of race they've come to expect.
Jorge Lorenzo's eighth place start would ensure his unbroken run of laps led would end when Valentino Rossi led Aleix Espargaro, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro through turn one. Marquez, finally on a Honda he felt he could race, wasted no time despatching Aleix Espargaro and glued himself to the back of Rossi's Yamaha. Lorenzo passed both Espargaroes and finished the first lap right behind Rossi and Marquez. Andrea Iannone clawed his way to fifth and passed his second Espargaro to take fourth at the end of the third lap.
On lap four, Rossi set the lap record and one lap later, Marquez beat it to close whatever small gap there was and the front two started to gently eke a gap from Lorenzo in third while Lorenzo kept increasing his gap from Iannone to two and a half seconds.
As Rossi and Marquez broke away at the front, Lorenzo started getting lonely, with a large gap in front and behind, able to just lap comfortably at his pace. Iannone behind him took a while to clear the fifth place battle behind him. As Iannone's gap increased, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow continued their career long battle at the lead of the pack.
Rossi and Marquez at the halfway mark were over four seconds clear of Lorenzo and Lorenzo had over five seconds from Iannone. This stretched out over the next few laps but Rossi couldn't shake Marquez, even making a slight error with a tearoff that let Marquez close right up, but he couldn't close.
With seven laps to go, it was a bit different, Exiting the chicane, charging towards his pltboard that read "L7 BRK", Rossi hit a patch of grass, losing a slight amount of traction. It was all Marquez needed to have the drive to take the lead into turn one, and Marquez would finally have the opportunity to make a break at the front. Rossi, however, had other ideas and sat behind him, not letting him get away. The pair seemed to never be further apart than a few tenths for most of the race and the switch of the lead did nothing to change this. Four laps from the end, Rossi made a rehearsal of a pass at the chicane but passed much earlier on the subsequent lap. By the chicane just before the penultimate lap, Marquez was able to delete whatever advantage Rossi had made and the pair were once again in lockstep.
With two laps to go, Valentino Rossi increased the pace and made a run for it. Marc Marquez followed. The gap built to four tenths, five tenths, back to four tenths and the last lap started after Rossi set his personal best lap of the race trying to unsuccessfully break Marquez.
The race would, as they so often do at Assen, come down to the last chicane, in front of a baying crowd. On the right hand entrance, Rossi went wide and Marquez drove to the apex, touching Rossi's knee and elbow with his bike and Rossi took to the gravel. Marquez recovered and charged for the exit only to see Rossi looking back at him, having wound on the throttle in the gravel and taken a huge advantage from their contact. Valentino Rossi won his first race from pole position since 2009 and increased his title lead.
Thirteen seconds back, Jorge Lorenzo took third place, five seconds clear of Andrea Iannone while Pol Espagaro beat Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Dani Pedrosa in a very crowded race for fifth place.
Did Rossi play the youngster like a fiddle to guarantee the win? Only Valentino knows, but he did seem survive the impact a little cleanly. Let's call it racecraft and look forward to the next race.
|15||76||Loris BAZ||Yamaha Forward||+52.396|
|18||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||Ducati||+1'14.513|
|19||33||Marco MELANDRI||Aprilia||1 Lap|
|15||Alex DE ANGELIS||ART||3 Laps|
|50||Eugene LAVERTY||Honda||11 Laps|
|6||Stefan BRADL||Yamaha Forward||21 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|8||Hector BARBERA||Ducati||0 Lap|
|43||Jack MILLER||Honda||0 Lap|