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MotoGP

Dutch TT 2023 MotoGP rider rankings

by Simon Patterson
11 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

If there’s one thing that normally you can rely on in MotoGP, it’s close-pack racing at the Dutch TT – and if this year’s race at Assen is reflective of anything, it’s the stranglehold that Ducati currently has on the championship because the race was far from a classic.

What we saw was one comfortable win apiece from the brand’s current fastest two riders, extending Pecco Bagnaia’s title lead yet again and allowing him to go into the summer break very comfortable – something made even easier by a bit of a disaster behind him for a whole host of potential rivals, some of whom didn’t even make the starting grid in Assen.

Scoring the grid in order based on their performances not just in the main event but also Saturday’s qualifying and sprint race, it’s obviously all subjective – but comes not just from their final race results but also takes into account things like the machinery they’re on and, primarily, the pre-race expectations from them.

1 Pecco Bagnaia

Started: 2nd
Sprint: 2nd
Race: 1st

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Assen wasn’t the weekend where Pecco Bagnaia won the 2023 MotoGP world championship for the second year in a row – but it might be, with hindsight, the weekend where his rivals showed that none of them have the momentum to consistently keep the Ducati rider under the sort of pressure they have to in order to defeat him.

Taking almost the maximum available points haul (losing out on only two to Bezzecchi on Saturday) despite a tough start to the weekend on Friday, consistency and momentum are now very much on his side.

2 Marco Bezzecchi

Started: 1st
Sprint: 1st
Race: 2nd

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There’s no questioning that the fastest man present this weekend at Assen was Marco Bezzecchi – yet, it seems, there’s still plenty of work to be done on the Italian’s racecraft, because while he might have emerged with a sprint race win, he had no real answer to Pecco Bagnaia on Sunday.

That is of course a result of experience, and it’s worth remembering that this was only the Italian’s second MotoGP visit to Assen. His time will come – but it certainly wasn’t this weekend.

3 Aleix Espargaro

Started: 6th
Sprint: 4th
Race: 3rd

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Considering he’s still nursing the (admittedly self-inflicted) cycling crash injuries he picked up at Mugello, coming away from Assen as the best performer against the might of Ducati and with a Sunday podium to boot means that all in all, it’s a good way to go into the summer break for Aleix Espargaro.

Sure, there’s still something absent when it comes to fighting for race wins, but that’s common to all the Aprilias right now rather than unique to him, so emerging as the best of the pack means that he can go into the break to recover his fitness content with his results.

4 Taka Nakagami

Started: 14th
Sprint: 12th
Race: 8th

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Credit to Taka Nakagami: he worked miracles this weekend, and especially on Sunday afternoon, to extract more than most thought was possible from the Honda RC213V.

Knowing he’s riding a bike that at any minute is seemingly capable of jettisoning its rider into orbit, he took a soft tyre gamble that paid off and nursed it home to a decent result that left him as the top Japanese bike on a weekend where the likes of Marquez, Quartararo and Morbidelli weren’t able to do the same.

A little reminder that he’s still just as skilled as many of his rivals even if his bike doesn’t give him many opportunities to display it.

5 Augusto Fernandez

Started: 21st
Sprint: 14th
Race: 10th

Augusto Fernandez

Another weekend, another solid result for MotoGP’s sole rookie. Now the only rider to have scored points in every single Sunday race of the year – that’s no mean feat for him – but it’s very much reflective of a great opening half of the season.

Assen was no different to normal for him, either, with a slow start in qualifying meaning that the sprint was tough – but with consistency and steady speeds in the main event making him yet again a top 10 finisher in the premier class.

6 Lorenzo Savadori

Started: 19th
Sprint: 16th
Race: 11th

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You’d have been forgiven for not even noticing that Aprilia test rider Lorenzo Savadori was even on the grid in Assen, such was the lack of time devoted to him on the championship’s TV cameras. Yet the Italian did yet another decent job for the factory, and not only did he manage to pass and catch Marc Marquez on Saturday, he was unlucky to miss out on a top 10 finish right at the end of Sunday’s race too.

7 Iker Lecuona

Started: 22nd
Sprint: 20th
Race: DNF

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Iker Lecuona isn’t exactly your usual production-to-prototype stand-in from the World Superbike paddock given his own extensive MotoGP CV, but that doesn’t mean that the task of pulling on a set of Repsol Honda leathers for the second time this season is any easier.

He rose to the challenge, though, with a strong showing on Sunday in particular looking on the cards until a rare Honda technical problem robbed him of a potential top 10 finish. A gutting end to his weekend and one that he didn’t deserve.

8 Jorge Martin

Started: 10th
Sprint: 6th
Race: 5th

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Arguably not a bad weekend for Martin given the decent haul of points he managed to salvage, but his slipping title challenge all started in Q2 – and once again highlights the importance of qualifying in modern day MotoGP.

Crashing out of the session and unable to improve on the fourth row, it meant that he was up against it in both races and unable to turn frontrunning pace into anything better than average (by his own standards of late) performances.

9 Enea Bastianini

Started: 18th
Sprint: 8th
Race: DNF

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A weekend of positives for Enea Bastianini despite being unable to finish Sunday’s race. He’s clearly made strong progress over these past three rounds recovering from a badly broken shoulder, and with a five-week summer break coming up, he’s going into it at least full of confidence about his own level again, even if he didn’t manage to see the chequered flag.

10 Miguel Oliveira

Started: 11th
Sprint: 19th
Race: DNF

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A rather anonymous weekend for a rider who is still very much on the road back to full recovery from his shoulder injuries, despite what some of his performances of late might have hinted at.

Compounded by a handshake in the bike that they never managed to get rid of and which subsequently led to brake problems on Sunday, the end result was a ride into the pits rather than risking further harm ahead of five long weeks to fully recover for the second half of the year.

11 Brad Binder

Started: 5th
Sprint: 4th
Race: 4th

Brad Binder

Assen should have been a dream weekend for Brad Binder, given that the KTM racer looked to be the only person out there with the pace to match the Ducati riders. And yet, through what can only be described as his own carelessness, he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Two podiums would have been a very solid weekend to go into the summer break with, but losing both of them for the exact same track limit violation is hard to justify. Sure, it was a case of millimetres, but in Saturday’s sprint he was warned beforehand what he had done – and to do the exact same thing again on Sunday was just dumb.

12 Alex Marquez

Started: 9th
Sprint: 9th
Race: 6th

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A rather average weekend for Alex Marquez, who didn’t really seem to make an impact on the sharp end of the racing at any point. He wasn’t bad, per se, and managed to do what plenty of others weren’t able to do by seeing Sunday’s finish line, but much is Ducati’s dominance right now that fighting for the last spot in their own internal championship isn’t too much of an honour.

13 Luca Marini

Started: 3rd
Sprint: 10th
Race: 7th

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Never ever a rider who has gelled with Assen, Marini came to the Dutch track expecting it to be a tough one and leaving without any surprises at all. Able to put together a lap in qualifying food enough for the front row, it all went backwards from there in both races for him.

There might have been something more on offer on Sunday, but early contact with team-mate Marco Bezzecchi harmed both their races and left Marini far from where we’ve come to expect him in recent weeks.

14 Johann Zarco

Started: 8th
Sprint: 13th
Race: DNF

Johann Zarco

There are weekends where Johann Zarco is one of the fastest guys in the world – and then there are others where he just seems to be unable to find his way to the front, and even before Fabio Quartararo crashed out in front of him on Sunday, this was going to be the latter type.

Things just didn’t quite click together for him, as evidenced by a disappointing sprint, and it’s very much one to forget as he leaves the Netherlands without a single point scored.

15 Stefan Bradl

Started: 20th
Sprint: 22nd
Race: 13th

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Given that he’s now long retired (officially, at least) from racing in MotoGP, there’s a lot to be said for Honda test rider Stefan Bradl’s ability to turn up when needed and nurse a difficult and aggressive motorcycle home to a good finish in the points, and here he achieves that goal time after time.

Sure, he doesn’t set the world on fire when he’s called into his super sub role, but he’s still able to make impressive results happen.

16 Fabio Quartararo

Started: 4th
Sprint: 3rd
Race: DNF

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There was always going to be pressure to perform upon Fabio Quartararo at Assen, given that it’s a track where the combination of him and Yamaha works well together. That played out in Saturday’s sprint too, with fourth on the grid and at the chequered flag translating into a much-needed podium when Brad Binder got demoted.

However, Sunday didn’t go his way at all, when a bad start dumped him down the field and overriding the bike didn’t just drop him out of the race but took fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco with him…

17 Jonas Folger

Started: 23rd
Sprint: 21st
Race: 14th

Jonas Folger

Probably the German Tech3 Gas Gas rider’s last weekend standing in for long-term casualty Pol Espargaro went much the same as all his others: very much off the pace at the back of the grid, but able to stay on long enough to ensure that he scored some points at the chequered flag.

It’s hard to see what he’s achieved during his time in the class beyond putting a rider on Espargaro’s bike, but it would be remiss not to point out the rather impressive haul of points that his consistency has delivered him.

18 Raul Fernandez

Started: 16th
Sprint: 18th
Race: 12th

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Coming into the race, Fernandez had one mantra that he kept repeating to the media. He needed a clean weekend at Assen with ‘no stupid mistakes.’ And then he went and made a stupid mistake in Sunday’s race, throwing away a potentially solid result.

Making the most of low grip conditions and picking off opponents one at a time, everything was looking good until hubris got the better of him, and the presence of a couple of juicy targets in front of him left him watching them cross the line from far behind rather than ahead of them.

19 Jack Miller

Started: 12th
Sprint: 11th
Race: DNF

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It’s fair to say that Assen never really clicked for Jack Miller this year. There was potential there, as evidenced both by flashes of speed for himself and stellar work from his team-mate Binder – but unfortunately, it all ended a bit too familiarly for the Australian, picking himself out of the gravel in Sunday’s main event.

Now arguably just as fast on a KTM as he was on Ducati, Miller’s biggest problem remains his own consistency.

20 Fabio Di Giannantonio

Started: 13th
Sprint: DNF
Race: DNF

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There was a lot of pressure in this block of three races on Fabio Di Giannantonio to deliver the necessary performances to secure his MotoGP future – and it briefly looked like the speed was there to impress at Assen.

However, hubris absolutely got the better of him in both races, and it won’t be too long until he’s left rueing what could have been possible had he raced a little calmer and brought the Gresini Ducati home safely.

21 Marc Marquez

Started: 17th
Sprint: 17th
Race: DNS

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Where do you even start with yet another abysmal weekend for the Repsol Honda rider? Coming to Assen still carrying the scars of last time out at the Sachsenring, the broken rib he sustained in particular was never going to make life easy.

What we saw, though, was a distracted Marquez who managed to exacerbate his injury with a dumb crash while not paying attention to what he was doing, a sprint race where he had to cruise around, and a withdrawal from the main event. All in all, he’d have been better off staying at home.

22 Maverick Vinales

Started: 7th
Sprint: 7th
Race: DNF

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For a brief time at Assen, Maverick Vinales looked set to come in from the cold and make a bit of a reappearance on the MotoGP grid after a bit of a disappearing act of late – but that didn’t really come to pass in the end, with yet another low score from a track where both he and the bike should have been much, much stronger.

It looks even worse in the context of injured team-mate Aleix Espargaro pulling something quite decent out of the bag, and will put more internal pressure onto Vinales’ often-delicate shoulders.

23 Franco Morbidelli

Started: 15th
Sprint: 15th
Race: 9th

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Perhaps the most under-pressure rider on the grid right now thanks to his looming contract deadline, Morbidelli needed a good weekend at Assen – and failed to deliver it.

It was in many regards his not-unusual disappointing result of late, one made worse by the lack of grip at Assen, but there was one fundamental problem for him: this weekend, team-mate Fabio Quartararo was able to be fast.

It won’t be Morbidelli’s last weekend in Yamaha blue, but it might be the one that decided conclusively that he’ll be wearing a different colour in the near future.

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