Bagnaia takes early fight to Quartararo in 'most difficult' race

The Dutch TT at Assen turns into 'one of the most difficult races I've ever had in MotoGP' for early leader Francesco Bagnaia.
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Dutch MotoGP 27 June 2021
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Dutch MotoGP 27 June 2021
© Gold and Goose

Fabio Quartararo didn't quite have things all his own way in Sunday's Dutch MotoGP, thanks to the early efforts of Francesco Bagnaia.

When the world championship leader snatched the holeshot into Turn 1, he was in danger of disappearing immediately into the distance, given the fearsome pace shown in final practice.

But before Quartararo could escape, fellow front-row qualifier Bagnaia attacked the Yamaha rider to lead the opening lap.

"It was good that Pecco tried to block him a bit, overtake and fight with him," said fellow Ducati rider Johann Zarco.

The Italian remained at the head of the field until lap 5, when Quartararo's obvious performance advantage proved too much to contain.

But while Quartararo rode to a comfortable victory, Bagnaia's battles continued to the chequered flag and included a long-lap penalty.

That was for exceeding track limits twice during a fight over second place with Takaaki Nakagami, demoting Bagnaia to eighth.

He then spent the final ten laps sparring with Marc Marquez (Honda) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) for sixth, a contest Bagnaia won by the smallest of margins.

"Today has probably been one of the most difficult races I've ever had in MotoGP," Bagnaia said. "I tried hard to defend myself from Fabio, but it was clear I couldn't stay with him when he passed me.

"In the first part of the circuit, I made up some ground, but I lost a lot from him in the last sector."

The last sector would be a visibly weak area for Bagnaia throughout the race, team-mate Jack Miller explaining:

"It was a little bit windy out the back, especially Turn 12 where Pecco and I were struggling when the tyre dropped a little bit.

"It wasn't the easiest corner let's say because as you'd load it up, it would sort of lose the rear and shake. Then with the traction control cuts and you'd lose drive down the straight."

By contrast, Bagnaia was able to pull an advantage when his 'lowered' Ducati accelerated out of the final chicane, but he was never able to escape any of his pursuers for long.

"It was hard fighting with Nakagami too. In my attempt to defend myself, I exceeded the track limits twice and had to serve a long lap penalty," he said.

"At that point, it wasn't easy to make up positions. I apologise to my team for this mistake, which I could have avoided, but today I really gave it all to try and bring home as many points as possible."

Bagnaia goes into the MotoGP summer break third in the world championship, 13 points from Pramac Ducati's Zarco but is now 47 from Quartararo.

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