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Going Dutch: who can break the Marquez-Morbidelli dominion?

Pasini did it in Mugello - but otherwise this season the EG 0,0 Marc VDS riders have been splitting the bill

After the dust settles in the wake of an uncatchable Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) at the Catalan GP, the paddock heads for the Motul TT Assen with the title fight close at the top. With Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) proving himself the rider to beat in the first races of the year and Marquez unstoppable on home turf, twice, both will be confident ahead of the Dutch GP. In 2017, they’re getting used to splitting the bill.

Morbidelli has already visited the podium in the Netherlands, so he will surely be in the fight for the win. On his part, Marquez won the Catalan GP and then doubled down in the Dutch for his first ever back-to-back wins on the way to his Moto3™ crown in 2014. So the EG 0,0 Marc VDS dominion could well continue.

The only man to have stopped the duo thus far is Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), who was the hero of Mugello before coming home best of the rest behind Marquez in Barcelona. With raw pace now converting into podiums for the Italian, Pasini has experience and confidence ahead of the Dutch GP – surely one of those ready to fight at the front to break the VDS stranglehold once more.

There are more big names lining up to try their hand, too. Last year the TT Circuit Assen saw Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) take his first ever Moto2™ win, and the Japanese rider will have good memories to give him a serious confidence boost as he arrives at the venue this year. Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) is another who will have his crosshairs trained on the win from the outset, with a solid record at Assen. Lüthi is now only seven points off the top of the Championship and if the Swiss veteran were to win, the worst-case scenario would be a deficit of only two points. The best-case would see him take over at the top.

However, the path to victory never did run smooth. The difference between hero and zero can be mere tenths of a second – and the grid in Moto2™ is deep. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has become a constant threat, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) will want to hit back in the battle for Rookie of the Year and Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) is an experienced frontrunner and winner. Then there’s Forward Racing Team riders Lorenzo Baldassarri and Luca Marini, Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) – all having shown impressive pace this year.

Free Practice begins for Moto2™ on Friday at 10:55 (GMT +2), as the race begins to become the next winner of 2017. In Assen, it's light out for the intermediate class on Sunday at 14:30.