Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) increased his 2019 points advantage with a fine ride to second place at sun-blessed Assen today.
The 26-year-old Spaniard fought a typically spirited battle for victory with eventual winner Maverick Vinales, finally making sure of the 20-point haul for runner-up spot in the closing stages. After eight of 19 races he leads the championship by 44 points from Andrea Dovizioso, who finished fourth today.
Assen is a very unusual circuit, with multiple changes of direction which make life tougher than ever for riders. During the weekend Marquez struggled somewhat with this issue, which put him fourth quickest in qualifying and off the front row for the first time this year.
However, the five-times MotoGP king gave it everything he had in this afternoon’s race, swapping the lead with compatriot Vinales on several occasions. Marquez had chosen a soft-option rear slick, which gave him excellent traction for much of the race, but during the final laps the harder compound chosen by Vinales gave him the edge.
Marquez’s second-place result continues his amazing record of seven podiums from the first eight races of 2019. Indeed, when Marquez has made it to the checkered flag he has always finished first or second, with four victories and three runner-up results. His only non-score came at April’s Americas GP, where he slid off while holding a commanding lead.
On the podium Marquez raised a flag celebrating the 60th anniversary of Honda’s first World Championship race in June 1959. The race got underway following a popular lap of honor by five-times 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan and Kunimitsu Takahashi, the first Japanese to win a Grand Prix race, in May 1961. Doohan rode the 1989 Honda NSR500 which Eddie Lawson to that year’s 500cc world title, while Takahashi rode a 1959 125cc RC142, the machine which began Honda’s world-class racing adventure that has so far won 779 Grand Prix victories, 60 Riders World Championships and 69 Constructors World Championships.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) rode a strong race to seventh. The 33-year-old Briton might have done even better, but he had a brake issue entering the very first corner and then twice ran off the track while battling with rivals. At one stage of the race he was the fastest man on the track and his pace was certainly good enough for a top-four result, but in the end he had to be content with seventh place, his best result since he finished third at the season-opening Qatar GP.
Japanese ace Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) had high hopes of another great result, until he was taken out by a rival in the early stages of the race. The 27-year-old from Chiba started well and was biding his time to move forward when he was knocked down at speed entering turn eight on lap four.
Marquez’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) took no part in today’s action. The three-times MotoGP World Champion was ruled out of the weekend when he crashed at the high-speed turn during Friday morning’s FP1 session. Lorenzo sustained a stable fracture of his T6 vertebra and a trabecular fracture of the T8 vertebra in the crash. He underwent tests and treatment at a local hospital and was transferred to his home in Lugano, Switzerland, yesterday. The 32-year-old Spaniard won’t be able to compete in next weekend’s German GP. It’s not certain when he will be able to return to racing.
The paddock now heads into the heart of Europe for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring next weekend. After the ninth race of the year the paddock gets a three-week break before August’s Czech GP at Brno.