The Italian proved he’s not going anywhere in the Championship fight whilst Quartararo returned to the top 3
The tables continue to turn in the 2023 MotoGP™ Championship story. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) took his debut Sprint victory to close in on his title rivals Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing). Bagnaia had no answer for his Italian counterpart as the World Champion was forced to settle for 2nd place in the 2023 Motul TT Assen Sprint. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team) crossed the line in 3rd place but was awarded a three-second penalty for exceeding track limits. This promoted Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) to 3rd as he returned to the top three.
Crunch time in Assen
With two of the title-fighting trio on the front row and the other down in P10, a lot was riding on the inaugural Assen Sprint. Bezzecchi lined up on pole position, eager to get the better of Championship leader Bagnaia.
The lights went out and it was a lightning start from Bagnaia who slotted up the inside of Bezzecchi at turn one to take the holeshot. Binder got a flyer off the line as well, shooting himself up into P3 at turn one from P5 on the grid. Binder quickly found his way past Bezzecchi too, with Bagnaia locked in his sights.
One lap later Bezzecchi pushed his way through on Binder, with Quartararo waiting to pick up the pieces in P4.
Bezzecchi swiftly pushed past Binder and it didn’t take long for the pole sitter to close down on Bagnaia’s lead. The young Italian put in the fastest lap of the race so far to drag himself and Binder up to the World Champion with 10 laps to go.
Whilst on Bagnaia’s rear wheel, Bezzecchi wasted no time in getting past the no.1 plated Ducati, flying past on the back straight.
Bezzecchi then proceeded to stretch out the field as he put down a pace that no one could match around the Assen circuit. The Italian controlled the pace at the front, keeping Bagnaia consistently just under a second at bay. The VR46 man then sailed to victory, leaving his title rival in his tracks and denying him Sprint glory.
A slither of hope for Yamaha
Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo kept himself in podium contention from start to finish during Saturday’s Sprint. The Frenchman did all he could to get the better of Binder for the final spot in the Sprint top three but didn’t quite enough in the tank, as Binder instead homed in on Bagnaia.
The South African kept the 2nd-placed Bagnaia honest to the line, but a few too many ventures out of track bounds meant a three-second penalty for the South African, which demoted the KTM man to P5 behind the 4th-placed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).
Whilst it wasn’t the way Quartararo would’ve wanted to achieve it, it was an important top three for the Yamaha squad.
Martin on the move with title hopes on the line
With his Championship rivals locked in battle at the front, Jorge Martin had a mountain to climb from the fourth row.
Whilst the action unfolded at the front of the Sprint, Martin had shot his way up into P6 after the first lap had been ticked off.
The Spaniard was the fastest man on track on lap 2, shooting his way up into the top 5. That was all she wrote for the Sachsenring victory however, as he was unable to improve any further and lost 5th place to Aleix Espargaro by the time the flag had dropped.
Almost a second back from Martin was his Spanish compatriot Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) who finished in P7 ahead of Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) who took the final Sprint points.
If Saturday’s action at the Motul TT Assen is anything to go by, you do not want to miss any of the action on Sunday’s billing as the race gets underway at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).
1. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team)
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – +1.294
3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – +1.872
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – +2.245
5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – +4.582
6. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) – +5.036
7. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) – +5.876
8. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – +10.056
9. Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) – +10.102
10. Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – +10.525