World champion Marc Marquez maintained a cool head to win what many commentators considered the one of the best MotoGP races of all time when he scorched to victory in the thrilling Dutch Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old Spaniard had taken pole position in an equally exciting qualifying session that had seen top spot change numerous times as the flag came out, but that was nothing compared to a monumental 26-lap race which saw over 100 overtakes and the smallest gap between the 15 points scorers in history.
From the start it was the resurgent Jorge Lorenzo who set the pace. The winner of the previous two races headed a nine-rider train at the head of the field for the first 14 laps, but faded as the race went on and finished seventh at the flag.
A six rider battle emerged in the closing stages, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, Marquez and the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales all taking turns at the front, with Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Brit Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda completing the leading pack.
Marquez made his move on lap 22 and put the hammer down to break away from his rivals, establishing a lead of over two seconds at the flag. Behind him, Rins pipped Vinales for second place, with Dovizioso and Rossi just behind – the four separated by just over half a second. Crutchlow struggled with tyre wear in the closing stages but still came home a clever sixth, within a second of Rossi, and the closeness of the race was demonstrated by the fact that 15thplace finisher Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’ team-mate at the Repsol Honda squad, was just over 16 seconds behind the winner – the closest gap ever between the top 15 riders.
“It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport,” Marquez beamed after the race. “Yesterday I was expecting something like this, but nothing like it actually was! We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing. It was crazy! It was impossible to define the best strategy, impossible to make plans, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the championship. I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap. It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”
Of the other Brits, Scott Redding scored two points for Aprilia in 14thplace, with Bradley Smith 17thon his KTM. In the championship, Marquez extends his advantage in the points standings to 41 ahead of the consistent Rossi, with Vinales a further six behind in third. Despite Yamahas lying second, third and fourth in the championship, the Japanese manufacturer has failed to win since Rossi took top spot in Assen 12 months ago and the 18 race winless streak equals the company’s worst run in the MotoGP era.
The next round takes place at Germany’s Sachenring in two weeks’ time – a race which has ominously been dominated by Marquez in recent years.