MotoGP Raceweek: Marquez out of position as Yamaha set Dutch TT pace

For the first time this season, Marc Marquez will start a race off the front row at the Dutch TT.

One of MotoGP's marquee races in Assen will see the Repsol Honda rider begin in fourth on the grid, but his chances of improving the championship picture on Sunday still look strong.

Marquez holds a 37-point lead over Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso, who struggled to 11th place in qualifying, while his next closest title rival Alex Rins is only one place up the road in third.

That means the five-time world champion is right in the mix at a circuit where he has finished on the podium in all six of his previous appearances, though just two of those were wins.

The Catalunya Grand Prix last time out became easy for him when team-mate Jorge Lorenzo caused a second-lap crash that led to the retirements of the four other riders challenging Marquez at the front.

A dreadful season for Lorenzo after his move from Ducati got worse when he crashed out in practice for this race and fractured two vertebrae, ruling him out of this meeting and the next one in Germany.

Fabio Quartararo is the youngest rider to record back-to-back MotoGP poles, with Maverick Vinales and Rins joining him on the front row.

"I'm happy with the race pace and we knew before the qualifying that it would be tough as there is more competition than normal," said Marquez. "In the afternoon, once the conditions get warmer, we are there. 

"It's going to be a very close race and there are four or five of us with good pace. Normally it's a circuit where we struggle, but in Mugello normally we struggle and we got second and in Montmelo we struggled and won."

Dovizioso has not recorded an Assen podium since 2014 and knows he has work to do, with team-mate Danilo Petrucci also only managing seventh as he seeks a fourth straight top-three finish.

"It was a strange day, with really high temperatures," said Dovizioso. "Unfortunately we couldn't be as competitive as we were in free practice during qualifying.

"It's a shame because starting from fourth row complicates our plans a bit, but I wasn't able to complete a 'clean' lap - we are more competitive in terms of pace. We still have to improve but we can ride a solid race and won't give up."

Rins is perhaps the man to watch, having typically found qualifying difficult this season before showing excellent race pace. This time, a rare positive Saturday performance has dramatically improved his usual starting position.

"I was feeling quite strong," Rins, a winner in Austin this season, said. "We started Q2 with a used tyre on the rear so when I saw I had done the best lap time at that point I was a bit like, 'Wow'. 

"We have a clear mind. It'll be a hard race, but we will do a good job and I'm starting in a good position. We will fight for the win; we have a good rhythm, though the two Yamahas are really strong."


YAMAHA HUNTING FOR FIRST VICTORY

Honda, Ducati and Suzuki have all tasted victory this season, but Yamaha are gunning for their first win with Quartararo and factory rider Vinales filling the top two grid slots.

"It's just incredible," said in-form rookie Quartararo. "Assen is one of the most legendary circuits - taking pole position and breaking the track record is amazing. 

"I'm very proud of what the team have done. The feeling we have at this circuit, especially on the last sector, is awesome. I think we are good in regard to race pace."

Vinales, who looked quick in Catalunya before being taken out by the crash involving Lorenzo, hopes the fact he is not fighting for the championship will work in his favour, giving him freedom.

"I have nothing to lose, so I'll be pushing 110 per cent," he said. "I'm really satisfied. We worked really hard throughout the whole weekend, especially in FP3, when we worked more for the race than focusing on one lap, so this means we have a good set-up. 

"It's important for Sunday to have a 'normal' and clean race. I will try to be at my best level and get out in front, because it's important for me to ride my own lines. I'm going to start from the front row and fight hard."

Between them, Quartararo and Vinales have topped every session so far in Assen, though a season of frustration continued for Valentino Rossi as he qualified 14th, failing to reach Q2.
 

THE GRID

1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
2. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha)
3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
4. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)
5. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar)
6. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda)
7. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
8. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda)
9. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
10. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)
11. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 
12. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
 

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Marc Marquez
2017: Valentino Rossi
2016: Jack Miller (for Honda)
2015: Valentino Rossi


TITLE STANDINGS

Riders

1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 140
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 103 (-37)
3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 101 (-39)
4. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 98 (-42)
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha) 72 (-68)

Teams

1. Ducati 201
2. Repsol Honda 159 (-42)
3. Suzuki Ecstar 123 (-78)
4. Monster Energy Yamaha 112 (-89)
5. LCR Honda 90 (-111)


WEATHER FORECAST

Sunny and warm conditions are expected in Assen on Sunday, with moderate winds likely to be something the riders have to contend with.

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