The drama just inches behind him at the Catalan GP, which included key title rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), allowed Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to extend his Championship lead to 37 points ahead of Round 8 of the season: the Motul TT Assen.
Marquez has enjoyed plenty of success at the TT Circuit Assen, including coming out on top in last season’s epic encounter when seven riders went head-to-head for victory. This added to his 2014 Dutch GP win in the MotoGP™ class, with his other three wins coming in 2010 (125cc), 2011 and 2012 (Moto2™). As well as these victories, Marquez has finished on the podium for eight consecutive years in the Netherlands, a run that stretches back to that 2010 125cc win.
So, you’ll be right in assuming Marquez will be heading into the weekend confident of stepping onto the Assen rostrum once more. Spraying the bubbly is something the number 93 has only failed to do once this season, a crash at the Americas GP ended his COTA reign, but since then the seven-time Champion has bounced back in emphatic fashion. Spanish and French GP wins were followed by a P2 at Mugello, with a first Barcelona victory since 2014 coming his way last time out. But if you think the number 93 will have it easy this weekend, think again.
Last season proved we can expect several challengers in Assen and with the likes of Italian GP winner Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) thrown into the mix, along with Petronas Yamaha SRT duo Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli - plus other potentials - we could have another ding-dong Dutch GP duel on our hands. Marquez, barring any unexpected twists, will be right in the hunt. But the likes of Dovizioso, Petrucci and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins simply can’t afford to be beaten by Marquez if they want to keep the Championship leader within reach heading towards the summer break – so they’ll be out to ruffle the feathers of the 93 Repsol Honda Team bike.
“Assen is a circuit where you need to be very precise and it’s difficult to be consistent there,” previews Marquez. “To be consistent and precise in the fast change of directions is really important to go well at Assen. I’m looking forward to racing there again as we have had some good battles in the past and have put on a great show for the fans. I am sure we will have a great race on Sunday. The weather is also looking good so I am confident we can have a strong weekend.”
Temperatures look set to soar this weekend, so it will be intriguing to see which teams and riders can deal with conditions the best. Will Marquez stretch his Championship lead further come Sunday afternoon?