Rossi extends lead after thrilling last lap

Valentino Rossi extended his lead in the championship to ten points after holding off Marc Marquez in Assen. The Italian had qualified on pole, and led for the majority of the race, recording his first victory from pole for six years.

Marquez makes contact with Rossi on the last corner.

Marquez makes contact with Rossi on the last corner.

Marquez, who was running his 2014 chassis, appeared to be content following Rossi and using the advantage of a harder front tyre late on. This looked to be the case when with seven laps remaining, the reigning world champion slipped under Rossi at turn one. But the Spaniard couldn’t pull away, and after a rehearsal the lap before, Rossi took the lead back with three laps to go. Rossi appeared comfortable, but on the last corner Marquez made a move on the inside and made contact with Rossi. The Yamaha man skipped across the gravel trap as he was forced in to cutting the chicane, whilst Marquez managed to stay on the track, albeit losing time on the Italian. Honda may have some complaints about the way that Rossi seemed to gain time by cutting across the gravel, but race direction have described the incident as a “racing incident”, and that “no advantage was gained [by Rossi]”.

Jorge Lorenzo recovered from a poor qualifying, starting eighth, by moving to third by the end of lap one. Although that meant the end of his 103 consecutive laps led, he didn’t seem to have the pace of the top two, meaning that his third place was really the best he could have hoped for in respect for his title bid. Fourth-placed Andrea Iannone also had a lonely race, finishing five seconds behind Lorenzo, and five clear of fifth place.

The battle for fifth place

The six way battle for fifth place, led by Pol Espargaro.

Pol Espargaro came out on top in an intriging six way battle for fifth place, with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith pipping Dani Pedrosa late on, and Aleix Espargaro finishing ninth. The other member of the group, Andrea Dovizioso, continued his poor weekend by dropping behind Maverick Vinales and Danilo Petrucci. Scott Redding finished 13th whilst Eugene Laverty crashed out.

Danny Kent extended his Moto3 championship lead with a third place, with Miguel Oliveira taking the vicotry, whilst in Moto2, Johann Zarco made it back-to-back victories, with Britain’s Sam Lowes also finishing third.

Pol in pole for Tech 3 ride, but is he the best fit?

Tech 3’s reported approach for Pol Espargaro could pave the way for Cal Crutchlow to get a ride on a factory bike. In Mugello, Valentino Rossi’s personal manager, who is involved in the possible return to MotoGP of Suzuki, hinted at the prospect of a return for the former race winners, whilst refusing to rule out the team offering a factory ride to Crutchlow.

Crutchlow is likely to be looking for a new ride at the end of the season, after his Tech 3 contract expires at the end of the 2013 season, whilst team-mate Bradley Smith and factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi all have contracts until 2014. Instead of renewing the Brit’s contract, Yamaha are looking to promote a rider from Moto2, with Pol Espargaro looking the most likely candidate. Espargaro, brother of current MotoGP rider Aleix, finds himself 5th in the Moto2 championship, 47 points off the lead. After his win in Qatar, Espargaro has had a mixture of results, including a 3rd position, a 4th, a 20th and a DNF. This inconsistency, although expected from a young rider, doesn’t seem to warrant a place on the MotoGP grid.

If Yamaha are looking for a rider to step up to MotoGP, it’s hard for them to look past Scott Redding, Having been tipped for a ride on a Pramac Ducati this year, only to be pipped by Ben Spies, Redding leads the Moto2 championship by 47 points, having already racked up an incredible 101 points from just 5 races, including back to back wins in France and Italy. His weight, a disadvantage on the smaller Moto2 bikes, and his aggressive riding style would be better suited to the premier class, making him well worthy of a gamble from a satellite team.

The best option for the Tech 3 team though, is surely Pol’s brother, Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard has already proved himself in MotoGP in the Aspar CRT team, finishing as the top CRT last season, in 12th place. This season, he looks a certainty to retain that crown, as he sits 10th in the championship, above prototype riders Bradley Smith and Andrea Iannone.

Whoever gets the Tech 3 ride though, the return of Suzuki would be a welcome one, adding yet more competition for a place on the podium, and sets up a tantalising season to come.