Francesco Bagnaia celebrates win number four of the season at Assen
Assen (Netherlands) (AFP) - Francesco Bagnaia took another step towards defending his world MotoGP title, winning the Dutch MotoGP at Assen on Sunday to extend his lead in the championship.
Pole-sitter Marco Bezzecchi took second with Brad Binder in third only for KTM’s South African rider to pick up a penalty for exceeding track limits that knocked him off the podium.
Demoted to fourth Aleix Espargaro was the beneficiary of Binder’s misfortune with the hapless South African suffering exactly the same fate in Saturday’s sprint.
Bagnaia takes a 35-point lead over Jorge Martin into the summer break, with racing resuming in early August at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, with Bezzecchi a further point behind.
“It’s fantastic! It wasn’t easy, they were pushing a lot behind,” said the Ducati factory race winner.
“I was on the limit.
“I love this track,this crowd - Assen, you are fantastic!”
Bagnaia became the first back-to-back winner of the Dutch MotoGP since his Italian compatriot and mentor, Valentino Rossi, in 2004-2005.
Bezzecchi bemoaned a poor getaway.
“I lost time at the start, then it took me a while to pass Brad, but overall I’m really happy,” he said.
A full house with 105,000 fans at a sweltering hot ‘Cathedral of Speed’ - one of the jewels in MotoGP’s crown - watched Binder get a blistering start.
The KTM rider surged into the lead at turn one past a trio of Ducatis - Bezzecchi, world champion Bagnaia and Luca Marini.
Binder’s teammate Jack Miller made an early exit, the Australian crashing out at the end of the opening lap.
He was quickly followed by a crash between French duo Johann Zarco and Fabio Quartararo, as up front Bagnaia nicked the lead off Binder.
The race lost a fourth rider with only three laps completed when Maverick Vinales parted company with his Aprilia.
Binder was keeping close tabs on Bagnaia, with Bezzecchi in hot pursuit as Enea Bastianini slipped out of contention.
As the midway point of the 26-lap race approached Miguel Oliveira was forced to retire his Aprilia.
Bezzecchi moved up to second 10 laps out, to go in hot pursuit of Bagnaia, over one second further up the road.
But hard as he pressed Bezzecchi, winner of Saturday’s sprint, couldn’t conjure up the speed to deny Bagnaia his fourth win out of eight this season.
In all eight of the 22-man grid failed to finish.
One man who didn’t even even get to line up was Honda star Marc Marquez who was forced to pull out of hours before Sunday’s eighth round of the season due to injury.
The six-time former world champion missed last weekend’s race in Germany in similar fashion.
The Spaniard is enduring a troubled season, hitting the deck twice at Assen following no fewer than five falls at Sachsenring.
That left him nursing numerous injuries including a rib fracture which he aggravated this weekend.
“After (Saturday’s) sprint the pain became worse and worse,” Marquez reported.
“This morning I went to the medical centre to let them know that I wasn’t in a fit state to ride,” he added.
“Last Tuesday, after a check-up in Madrid, the results were reassuring despite the discovery of a fractured rib.
“But a test this morning showed the rib had moved slightly,” he said, adding it was better to be “cautious” to avoid the injury worsening.