Starting from tenth on the grid, after being at the wrong end of an ultra-close qualifying, Jorge Lorenzo faced a challenge just to reach the front of Sunday's Dutch MotoGP.

Yet the Spaniard was into second place by the first corner and went on to lead more laps than any other rider.

"The start was very good. The first few first meters, but especially the acceleration," Lorenzo said. "Also I was happy that everyone went into the inside of the first corner, so I had space to brake hard. So I overtook a lot of riders."

That getaway set the scene for a starring role in much of the epic 26-lap encounter.

Fighting for a third Ducati victory in a row, Lorenzo admitted he was 'really surprised' to be up front for so long (13 laps), "because I didn't have the pace. I was half a second, six tenths slower than Marc and the other guys, for example. 

"But you know, I have good concentration and I had good stability on the braking."

However, as had been the case all weekend, the fast final sector of the lap proved Lorenzo's biggest weakness.

"We couldn't solve the speed in that sector during all the weekend," said the triple MotoGP champion, who also suffered a huge scare when he lost the front of his Desmosedici through Turn 12 and was hit from behind by Valentino Rossi.

"We didn't lose so much in the first part of the race, but when the rear tyre started to drop and my energy wasn't the same - because I needed to spend a lot of energy to be faster than the pace I could be - I was losing so much in T4. 

"All the Ducatis struggle a little bit in T4, in the high-speed changes of direction, but especially from my side. Because I was already struggling with the Yamaha."

But the constant juggling of positions at the front meant Lorenzo was able to get a close look at how other riders negotiated that section and 'understood some secrets'.

"In the middle of the race, I understood some secrets to make this sector a little bit quicker. But I already didn't have so much energy, because I was faster than I could be during the race and also I didn't have any tyre left.

"It was the only reason I couldn't fight to the end for something big.

"But next year I think I will improve in that sector. It's a pity that we are very fast in all the sectors apart from that one."

When Lorenzo returns to Assen in 2019 it will be as team-mate to Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda.

Marquez broke free in the closing stages for victory in Sunday's race, while Lorenzo last featured at the front on lap 17 and faded to seventh (+4.462s) by the chequered flag.

Lorenzo, who did not race with the modified Ducati chassis featuring some carbon fibre reinforcement, is now seventh in the world championship and 65 points from Marquez.