Francesco Bagnaia, Marco Bezzecchi and Brad Binder battling for the win at TT Assen

Bagnaia strikes back at Dutch TT as Dixon breaks his duck

Just one week on from Round 7 at the Sachsenring, the MotoGP fraternity headed west to the Netherlands. The TT Circuit Assen has hosted a whopping 74 Grand Prix since 1949 (the only disruption coming in 2020 as a result of Covid-19). Rather serendipitously, Jake Dixon has completed the same number of Grand Prix – across MotoGP and Moto2 – with the Brit claiming his first-ever victory after a superb ride.

In the top class meanwhile, Francesco "Pecco" Bagnaia and Marco Bezzecchi duked it out for the victory in both the Sprint and the Grand Prix, taking a win apiece, while drama unfolded behind for Brad Binder with track limit infringements in both races.

MotoGPBezzecchi sets the pacePerfect weather conditions would see lap records broken and a thrilling duel for pole. Before the front rows of the grid could be decided though, there was the small matter of Q1 to settle. As is always the case in the first qualifying session, the top of the timesheets was hotly contested with just two spots up for grabs to go through to Q2. Once the final laps had been completed, Prima Pramac Racing’s Johan Zarco and Miguel Oliveira aboard the CryptoData RNF MotoGP Team Aprilia were the triumphant duo. Astonishingly, Marc Márquez was the most high-profile rider not to make the cut, colliding with Enea Bastianini when he attempted to line up the Ducati for a slipstream.

From the outset in Q2, it was evident that Bezzecchi was a man on a mission, setting the fastest time to sit atop the table once the first runs had been completed. The ever-present Bagnaia meanwhile lay close behind in second. Sachsenring winner Jorge Martín made his first appearance on track with five minutes to go, a high-risk strategy that proved costly with an eventual P10 on the grid. As the clock ticked down to four minutes, Fabio Quartararo hit the front with a strong showing, but Bezzecchi regained his P1 slot, that he wouldn’t relinquish again. Bagnaia and Luca Marini on the second Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati filed in behind to take the second and third-place spots respectively. The second row comprised Quartararo, the fast-starting Binder and Aleix Espargaró.

Bezzecchi's relentless chargeOn the run down to Turn 1 of the Sprint, it was reigning champion Bagnaia who seized the advantage, followed by the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing bike of Binder through the first lap melee. The VR46 riders had fallen backwards to third and fifth respectively for Bezzecchi and Marini. Further down the order, Martín had made a superb start to move up four positions into sixth. As the field began their second tour, Bezzecchi got back past Binder for second and began closing the gap to compatriot and friend Bagnaia.

With 10 laps remaining, the Italians went wheel-to-wheel for the lead over several corners. Eventually though, Bezzecchi made the move stick and was untouchable from then on. During the final laps of the race, Quartararo was putting in the ride of his season on the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, pressuring Binder all the way to the flag. Although the Frenchman was unable to find a way past the South African, the #33 rider was handed a track limits penalty, handing third place to an elated Quartararo.

Bagnaia turns the tidePerhaps unsurprisingly, Binder had a point to prove during Sunday’s Grand Prix, and it was the rapid-accelerating KTM that got the holeshot into Turn 1, with Bagnaia and Bezzecchi in hot pursuit. Wasting no time, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider ominously closed on the KTM before making the pass for the lead on Lap 3.

As the laps ticked down, the gaps between the top five began to increase, but with 10 remaining, Bezzecchi made his move on Binder at Ruskenhoek to take second. Once past, the Italian set about closing the one-second gap to Bagnaia but the #1 rider managed the gap to perfection in the closing stages to take the win by 1.2 seconds. Further back, the battle for third intensified, as Binder, Espargaró and Martín began the final tour separated by mere tenths. Ultimately, no moves were made but Espargaró finished just one thousandth ahead of Martín, and when Binder was handed his second track limits penalty in as many days, the Spaniard claimed a well-earned podium finish.


Moto2Dixon takes emotional winHaving been the man to beat from the first session, and missing out on pole to Alonso Lopez by the narrowest of margins – nine thousandths of a second – Inde GASGAS Aspar Team’s Jake Dixon was determined to make a statement when the lights went out at Assen. Ai Ogura wasn’t going to let him have it all his own way though, and got a superb launch to take second off the start. During the opening laps, the four-bike group of Lopez, Ogura, Dixon and Pedro Acosta broke free from the chasing pack.

Having made several attempts to get past the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia rider, Dixon finally made his move into Turn 1 with 15 laps to go. Six laps later, he took Lopez for the lead and immediately began to build a gap. His success was short-lived though, and just two laps later he ran wide at Strubben. Luckily, he managed to stay on the bike but had to concede first to Ogura and second to Acosta. By the end of that same lap, however, Acosta had run wide at the final chicane, handing second back to Dixon. With seven laps left to run, the Brit began closing the one-second gap to Ogura and on the penultimate lap, he reclaimed the lead into Turn 1. After 74 attempts, an emotional Dixon took to the top step of a Moto Grand Prix podium for the first time, followed by Ogura and Acosta.

Jake Dixon on the podium after winning the Moto2 race at Assen

Round 9 of the 2023 MotoGP World Championship, the Monster Energy British Grand Prix MotoGP takes place at Silverstone (4-6 August).

WATCH: highlights from the Dutch TT Sprint at Assen

WATCH: highlights from the Dutch TT at Assen

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