Yamaha's Valentino Rossi won his first race for more than a year on Sunday, as he came through to take victory in a thrilling MotoGP Netherlands Grand Prix.
The veteran hadn't savoured glory since the 2016 Catalan Grand Prix, but he showcased all his experience in spades at Assen, as he held off Ducati's Danilo Petrucci in an absorbing battle. Defending world champion Marc Marquez came home in third place for Honda.
The MotoGP Twitter feed captured the moment Rossi crossed the line:
#VR46 WINS! He OFFICIALLY has the longest winning career through ALL classes - 20 years, 313 days! #DutchGP #MotoGP https://t.co/EaymFdbIC22017-6-25 11:47:08
Rossi's team-mate Maverick Vinales crashed out, allowing Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso to take the lead of the championship by four points; the top four riders in the standings are now covered by just 11 points.
MotoGrandPrixID provided the final race result:
#MotoGP #DutchGP full Result: https://t.co/MfdfgrG2KO2017-6-25 11:52:35
Rossi Wins Assen Thriller
It was Johann Zarco who started the race on pole having produced a storming qualifying performance. The rookie eventually didn't finish in the shakeup for victory, losing ground due to a misguided tactical switch and coming home in 14th spot.
Another rider who endured a disappointing day was Vinales. After enjoying a blistering beginning to the season with his new team, the young Spaniard has lost momentum in recent weeks and paid the price for losing balance at Turn 17 with 14 laps to go.
As noted by MotoGP journalist Neil Morrison, his team-mate Rossi is chopping down the advantage built up initially by Vinales:
Neil Morrison @NeilMorrison87
Viñales fastest everywhere all winter & Rossi says the right things & keeps @ it. Now VR's 7pts off & MV's spitting. It's all going to plan.2017-6-25 12:01:55
With the duo out of contention, some more seasoned competitors were juking it out at the front in pursuit of the victory, with Rossi moving through into first position. Petrucci was keeping the Doctor on his toes, though, as the pair engaged in a fascinating tussle.
Indeed, as the heavens threatened to open and drizzle sprinkled across the Assen circuit, the riders needed to be careful. Eventually, it was the duo aforementioned who handled the conditions the better, as they pulled away from the rest of the field.
The Italians each held the lead in the final stages, as they each pushed their bike to the limit in pursuit of the win. Per the Crash.net MotoGP Twitter feed, there was very little separating the pair in the final stages:
CRASH.NET MotoGP @crash_motogp
It's Rossi vs Petrucci for victory as the rain drops continue to fall #DutchGP #MotoGP https://t.co/ZkAvHau7gK2017-6-25 11:39:37
Petrucci did everything possible to seize what would have been his first win in MotoGP and rode superbly, but eventually Rossi's experience just about shone through, as he nipped ahead to take the chequered flag. The nine-time world champion's winning margin was eventually a miniscule 0.065 seconds.
World Superbikes rider Alex Lowes paid tribute to another great Rossi performance, who has now won 10 times at the Assen circuit:
Alex Lowes @alexlowes22
Nothing more than total and utter respect @ValeYellow46 take another bow #GOAT2017-6-25 11:49:52
Meanwhile, Petrucci wasn't pleased with the race officials, as lapped riders seemed to hold him up in the final stages, per MotoGP reporter Simon Patterson:
Simon Patterson @denkmit
Petrux blaming marshals for costing him the race - said Barbera and Rins weren't shown blue flags when he and Rossi caught and lapped them2017-6-25 11:54:56
"This place is always special," said a delighted Rossi afterwards, per Crash.net. "Today, I have a lot of people around and the track is fantastic. I'm back in first after one year. I'm so happy. It's the best way!"
Further back, Marquez was also involved in a brilliant battle, as he fended off Cal Crutchlow and Dovizioso to take the final spot on the podium. It keeps the Spaniard right in the hunt at the top of the standings when the riders head to Germany next weekend.