Photography by Gold & Goose
Honda’s Marc Marquez just keeps finding new ways to win. The still undefeated defending World Champion scored his eighth straight MotoGP victory of 2014 Saturday in front of 90,000 at the Dutch TT in Assen. If ever there was a race for an underdog to come through it might have been Assen where the race started on a wet to drying track that forced the entire field to pit to change from wet to dry bikes. In spite of the tricky conditions Marquez again showed his mastery to remain perfect in 2014.
It marked the first time a rider won the first eight Grands Prix since the great Giacomo Agostini accomplished the feat in 1971. Marquez now has an almost unbelievable 72-point lead in the championship standings over Rossi and Pedrosa, who are now tied in second. That’s very nearly a three-race wins worth of a lead.
Second at Assen was Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who led portions of the crazy race. Dovi finish 6.714 seconds behind the winner. It marked his best result of the season and second podium of 2014. Dani Pedrosa came home a solid third, this after battling mightily with pole winner Aleix Espargaro for much of the race. Espargaro matched his best result of the season in fourth, while Valentino Rossi came home fifth.
Marquez celebrated the victory by crossing the finish line in swimming motion and then climbing a TV camera platform, waving to the crowd and then shaking hands with the cameraman.
If any race looked a bit shaky for the series leader it was Assen. Marquez crashed in the morning warm-up session. Parkes and Rossi started from pit lane after deciding to switch to wet race set-up. Danilo Petrucci had an issue with his bike and it died at the starting line.
Marquez led Dovizioso and Aleix Espargaro as the rain began coming down hard on the second lap. Yonny Hernandez, the only rider to gamble and start on slicks, pitted at the end of the first lap for his rain machine.
The biggest mover in the first lap was American Nicky Hayden, who started 22nd, and had moved up to 12th by the end of lap two.
By lap four Marquez was beginning to pull away from Dovizioso, the gap up to around 8-10ths of a second and then there was a big gap (almost four seconds) to Aleix Espargaro.
Things started getting even more interesting on lap five when the track began to dry. Would riders be able to stay out on their rains was the question. The Repsol Honda team looked to be prepping Marquez’ dry bike. On laps six riders began pitting for bikes with slicks.
On lap seven leaders Marquez and Dovizioso putted for dry set-up bikes. That put Lorenzo in the lead over Hayden and Aoyama.
Marquez ran off the track on his out lap on slicks, illustrating how slippery it still was.
Abraham and Pol Espargaro nearly collided when almost all the rest of the riders, including former leader Lorenzo pitted for dry bikes.
This put Dovizioso in the lead on lap eight by four seconds over Marquez and Aleix Espargaro. By lap 10 Marquez began chipping away at Dovi’s lead and Aleix Espargaro battled back and forth with Pedrosa over third.
Riders were greeted by rain flags again on lap 11. The teams had all put fresh rains on their bikes, so the riders could pit again for a wet set-up should the rain increase.
There was a gaggle of five riders battling over fifth on lap 12 with Iannone, Bautista, Crutchlow, Parkes and Rossi in a battle royale. Meanwhile Marquez had Dovi’s lead now under two seconds.
At the halfway point rain was still threatening Marquez was closing ever closer to Dovizioso, while Aleix Espargaro and Pedrosa battled hard for third, passing and re-passing nine seconds back from the leaders. Iannone was still heading that five rider battle for fifth.
Pol Espargaro crashed and re-joined the race on lap 15.
With 10 laps to go Marquez made the pass on Dovizioso for the lead. Pol Espargaro and Pedrosa continued their torrid battle and it was Rossi moving to the head of that big battle for fifth as he put in the fastest lap of the race.
In the closing laps things sorted out with Marquez pulling away from Dovi. Pedrosa finally broke away from the challenge by Aleix Espargaro and Rossi was now alone in fifth.
“Before the race I was quite nervous because it’s a race that nobody want because it’s so dangerous and so complicated to know which is the best strategy,” Marquez explained. “We started on rain tires. We know in six or seven laps it would be dry, but it was too dangerous at the beginning to go with slicks. And then when we changed the bikes I had a small mistake, I go out (wide) and then I come back and Dovi was in front. OK, I was happy with second place after the race, but then it start rain again in the mid, with remain 10 laps I think and after that again I catch Andrea. I overtake him. I had a better rhythm like more race in the free practice form. After that it just was a little bit easier, but even like that it was quite complicated because even in this condition it was quite difficult.”
The series moves to Germany in two weeks.
Dutch TT MotoGP results from Assen, June 28, 2014
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 43m 29.954s
2. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 43m 36.668s
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 43m 40.745s
4. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 43m 49.153s
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 43m 55.767s
6. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 43m 58.957s
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 44m 0.836s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 44m 0.939s
9. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 44m 13.985s
10. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 44m 18.616s
11. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 44m 21.817s
12. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R) 44m 30.283s
13. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 44m 34.595s
14. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 44m 35.934s
15. Danilo Petrucci ITA IodaRacing Project (ART) 44m 47.565s
16. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 44m 49.707s
17. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 44m 57.584s
18. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) 44m 58.096s
19. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 43m 41.754s
20. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia) 43m 58.159s
21. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 44m 49.966s
22. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 43m 33.704s
Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) DNF