Viñales Wins Hard-Fought MotoGP Assen TT Race
Assen (The Netherlands), 30 June 2019
It was a day of mixed emotions for the ENEOS-sponsored Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team at the TT Circuit Assen on Sunday. Maverick Viñales delivered a strong race performance at the Dutch round, riding his YZR-M1 to a brilliant victory after a hard fight at the front. However, Valentino Rossi‘s luckless streak continued. He suffered a crash on lap 5, prematurely ending his challenge.
Viñales had a good start from P2, but a wobble in Turn 1 left him unsettled. He fell back to fourth, which he held crossing the finish line for the first time. There was a small scrap between him and Marc Marquez early on, until the #12 Yamaha rider noticed the three front men getting away, prompting him to make his move. As Viñales chased the race leaders, frontrunner Álex Rins crashed. Viñales then passed Joan Mir, and the battle with Marquez and Fabio Quartararo really started.
The 24 year-old Spanish rider was in third place for a while and was having a good look behind Marquez with 14 laps to go, deciding carefully where he would make his move. He first led the race on lap 16, but Marquez proved difficult to shake. With 9 laps to go, the Yamaha rider ran wide going into Turn 1 and fell back to second place, but it was only briefly. He retaliated that same lap by using the Yamaha‘s nimble chassis to perfection, reclaiming the P1 spot. It was the right moment to put his head down, and this time he broke free from his rival.
Viñales showed his incredible race pace, setting a personal best lap of 1‘33.720sec on lap 21. The Spaniard kept his concentration until the very end and took the checkered flag with a 4.854sec advantage.
“It feels like I’m dreaming,” Viñales said. “These have been difficult times for me, because I had problems on the three tracks where I thought I had the most potential with the bike. My season has been difficult, but I’ve tried to keep the momentum we gained in Catalunya, because I felt really good on the bike. I’m so grateful to the team, because they did a great job this weekend and prepared well for the last laps of the race. I was strong, even equal on the brakes, so I knew I could overtake. It was very important to relieve some of the pressure on us by taking a victory. I think the team will be more relaxed now. Being back on the top step of the podium again feels really good, and bringing Yamaha back to its winning ways is the most important thing to me. We knew we had the potential but hadn’t been able to show it. It’s always a combination of the team’s, rider’s, and the bike’s efforts. Sachsenring is a track I’m usually fast at, so we’ll try our best at the next round.”
Rossi did well to maneuver himself through the busy mid-pack in the early stages of the race. Setting off from P14, he held his position in the opening lap and gained a place on the next. He had found a set-up he liked in this morning’s warm-up, and it clearly worked for him in the early stages of the race as he swiftly moved up to 11th place by lap 3.
However, bad luck struck for the third time in a row. Eager to hit the front, the Italian attempted to overtake Takaaki Nakagami on lap 5 and suffered a fast crash in Turn 8, unfortunately taking his rival down with him. Thankfully, the Doctor was quickly back on his feet and able to check on his fellow rider, but he could not resume his challenge
“I was quite fast, so I tried to recover some positions in the race,” Rossi said. “I was battling with Nakagami and tried to overtake him, entering Turn 8, but I was a bit too far off-line, I think. When I entered the corner, I lost the front and unfortunately I also took out Nakagami, so that’s a great shame and I have to apologize. It was a mistake and a pity, because today, after being slow this weekend, we had found something, so the race was good. I felt good with the bike. So, on one side this makes it an even bigger shame, but on the other side it’s also important to realize I was suffering too much and we need to be stronger.”
Today’s DNF means Rossi stays in fifth position in the championship standings with an 88-point gap to first. Viñales, on the other hand, moved up from eleventh to seventh in the rankings, with a 95-point margin to the top. Yamaha remains third in the constructor standings, while Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP gains one position, to third, in the team classification.
The team will be back in action next weekend, when the riders take on the Sachsenring for the German GP