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Hole in One: Quartararo conquers the cathedral
The Frenchman pulls the pin to reverse the Yamaha 1-2 on Sunday, with Mir cutting through to third place
Fabio Quartararo. Photo courtesy of Dorna.
Sunday June 27th 2021
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) has perfected the tactics in the Motul TT Assen to assert himself as the winner. The duo are also pushing the plant past the milestone of 750 podium positions, with Yamaha now counting on 751 with two riders on the podium at Assen. Reigning champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completed the podium and started from tenth on the grid.
Quartararo took the holeshot from second, but the Frenchman was not allowed to escape prematurely as a co-starter from the front row when Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) jumped lap 1 at turn 8. It was close between Quartararo and Pecco, their exits compromised, which allowed Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) to be by the pair’s side when Quartararo ran hot at Turn 9. Bagnaia said thank you very much, the Italian took the lead and held the position – for now.
Quartararo took a step to answer in the final chicane but was far away and Bagnaia got his GP21 up and fired back. That happened again on lap 6 before Quartararo took P1 on lap 7 in turns 12 and 13. How crucial should that turn out to be? Meanwhile, Nakagami was still holding Viñales in check, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), Mir and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) right behind.
In two 1: 32.8 seconds, Quartararo built a 1.2 lead over Bagnaia on lap 9. On lap 11 this gap was increased to 2.5 as Bagnaia had to concentrate to keep Nakagami behind. The Japanese overtook the Ducati rider on lap 11 with the quick kinks, but Bagnaia snatched P2 back on the first straight. Viñales, Zarco, Mir and Oliveira were all waiting in the starting blocks and a few laps later there was a copy of Nakagami against Bagnaia. However, drama hit when the number 63 was penalized for long laps for exceeding the track limit.
There was a lot of action on lap 15. Bagnaia went into the long lap penalty loop, and then his teammate Jack Miller fell unharmed at Turn 5. Nakagami was dropped by Mir in the same corner and Viñales was now in second place, four seconds behind the runaway leader Quartararo. I then passed Zarco at Turn 5, with eight laps to go he was third, while Oliveira was about half a second behind the Pramac driver in fifth.
At the front, the gap between Quartararo and Viñales narrowed to 2.5 with two laps to go as the latter seemed faster, but after losing too much ground, no one had an answer to El Diablo at Assen. A fourth 25-point season extends his championship lead to 34 points before the summer break. Viñales delivered impressive pace on the soft front tire at the end of the race, but it wasn’t enough to get Quartararo in place. Still, after finishing last at the Sachsenring, P2 is a great achievement for the Spaniard as the number 12 returns to the podium for the first time since his GP victory in Qatar. I kept his powder dry in front of Zarco and secured third place, the podium also his third of the season.
Zarco had to settle for fourth place, ahead of Oliveira in fifth, with a real fight that decided sixth place right behind. Marc Marquez got off to a breathtaking start from 20th place on the grid and quickly gained ten places. The eight-time world champion couldn’t quite get past despite being within 0.075 of the finish line while Bagnaia held sixth place. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) finished eighth, Nakagami disappointed with ninth after an early podium battle and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) completed the top ten.
11th place went to Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) despite a run-off for number 42 after contact with Johann Zarco at the start of the race, with Suzuki holding back Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as the South African von Assen got his first taste on a MotoGP bike. Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) finished 13th ahead of Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) – another premier class debut – and rookie Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama), who completed the points.
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed quickly at Turn 7, but driver ok, Miller crashed at Turn 5. He came back but then had to stop with a mechanical problem. Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) also crashed and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) was forced back into the pit lane with a problem.
Now it’s the summer break and a fresh start, with a one-two at the Red Bull Ring at the beginning of August. Quartararo enters the game with another win and a sizeable lead at the front, but can anyone strike back in the second half? Be there at the Grand Prix of Styria from August 6th to 8th.
Fabio Quartararo: “I trained a little higher with the ball all days, but it was tough. It was a really tough race, I struggled so hard to overtake Pecco. I struggled a bit with my right arm all weekend and in the race I could have been three or four tenths faster every lap but I felt really bad and halfway through the race I was a little scared but I have it keep the pace and I can be happy because he won the fight with Maverick on Saturday, but the points come on Sunday so I’m so happy. “