Moto2: Bagnaia extends title challenge
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took a dominant fourth victory of the season at the Motul TT Assen after leading from start to finish, eventually taking the checkered flag 1.748 seconds ahead the chasing pack. But Catalan GP race winner Fabio Quartararo (Lightech – Speed Up Racing) produced a stunning fight back through the pack to secure his second consecutive podium in P2 and light up the fight for the podium, beating third placed Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to the line after Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) retired out of second place with a rare puncture on Lap 21 – a cruel blow for the Italian after a brilliant ride.
‘Pecco’ got the perfect launch from pole to grab the holeshot into Turn 1 as the top three on the grid held station, with Marcel Schroetter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Marquez tucked in behind the Italian. Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the early hard charger, climbing up to fourth on Lap 1 before getting the better of his teammate a lap later.
Bagnaia’s gap was hovering around the 0.5 second mark for the first half-dozen laps, before the Championship leader pulled the pin to stretch his lead to over a second on lap eight, with Marquez moving his way up to second. After starting 13th, Baldassarri was 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 position.
By this point, Bagnaia was looking imperious as the gap crept up to the two second mark, with Baldassarri stretching away from the battle for third. Further down the order, Miguel Oliveira’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) early race progress to seventh halted, with Quartararo now the rider with scintillating pace. The Frenchman put himself firmly in the podium picture with four laps to go, passing Mir and then quickly made 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 to go, before Quartararo used his superior edge grip to slice past Marquez at Turn 4 – a sublime move.
In the end though, no one had an answer for the number 42 at the front, with Quatararo and Marquez rounding out the podium. Schroetter was P4 for a second race in a row, beating Mir to the line as the rookie finished fifth. Oliveira salvaged sixth after starting P17, but loses ground in the Championship to Bagnaia heading into Round 9, with teammate Brad Binder recovering to P7 after starting 22nd.
After earning his first Grand Prix front row start, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) leaves Assen with a solid eight points under his belt with P8, as Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) crossed the line P9 for a second consecutive race. Just behind the Brit was Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), who got the better of teammate Mattia Pasini – the two Italians were P10 and P11 respectively. Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) was an impressive 12th at Assen as he looks forward to the rest of the year in the Pons team, with Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) – recovering from the back of the grid – rounding out the point scoring positions.
A commanding weekend for Bagnaia at the ‘Cathedral’ means he takes a 16-point advantage to the German GP over Oliveira, as the intermediate class head towards the mid-point of the season. Will the Championship pendulum swing once again at the Sachsenring? We'll see on the 15th July.