Jack Miller took his maiden win in a controversial 2016 MotoGP Dutch Grand Prix race on Saturday, beating standings leader Marc Marquez to top spot in dreadful weather conditions.
Conditions in Assen were horrid right from the start, and the weather deteriorated to the point where the race was red-flagged with 12 laps to go. The re-start raw more than half a dozen crashes in the first few laps, and Valentino Rossi was arguably the top victim, as the nine-time world champion didn't finish the race.
This allowed Marquez, who trailed the Italian before the race was red-flagged, to increase his lead in the championship standings, and Rossi won't be happy with the decision to suspend the race in the first place. Here's a look at the race results, via MotoSponsor:
The current championship standings, via MotoGP's official website:
The riders knew they would be in for a wild affair at the TT Circuit Assen on Sunday, as dreadful weather conditions and a technical track spelled disaster. The Moto2 race was red-flagged, and Eugene Lafferty took a nasty spill during warmups, an ill omen, as shared by Crash.net MotoGP:
The one area of the track where major crashes were expected was the final chicane, one that has often decided race winners in the past. MotoGP's official Twitter account shared this short video of riders taking the turn at speed, showing it's nearly impossible to avoid the curbs, which become extremely slippery when wet:
The rain stopped just in time for the race, but the track didn't have time to dry. Rossi overtook Scott Redding in the first turn to take the early lead, while Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Iannone had great starts in the background.
Marquez moved up to fourth place toward the end of the second lap, but no rider made a better start than Yonny Hernandez, who gained several spots in the first few turns.
Dry lines started forming in a hurry, and as shared by MotoGP, Movistar Yamaha made the decision to swap tyres early:
Hernandez overtook Rossi for the lead in Turn 4 of the third lap, and he, Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso quickly built a lead of over two seconds on Marquez, who led the chasing pack.
Danilo Petrucci was running the same pace as Hernandez, who was almost two seconds faster than Rossi, and before long, the Italian caught up with Marquez before passing him in the fifth lap. At the front, Hernandez quickly pulled away from Rossi and Dovi, but the impending bike swaps meant the race was far from over.
In the background, Jorge Lorenzo had dropped out of the points completely, a nightmare scenario for his world title hopes.
Marquez fared little better, as his pace was a full second off the leading group, and Iannone passed him before long.
A wide dry line appeared on the main stretch and soon spread to the rest of the track, improving the lap times and tempting even the top riders to make the switch before it was too late.
And just as it seemed the worst of the weather had passed, race officials had some bad news for the riders, per Crash.net MotoGP:
Rossi now started taking less risks as the rain intensified rapidly, and Dovizioso passed him on the main straight after a great exit out of the chicane. Here's a look at the overtake:
Hernandez's lead stalled at four seconds, but the weather soon took its toll, and disaster struck in the 13th lap. The 27-year-old lost all grip in Turn 1 and crashed out of the lead, ending his bid to win the race.
As shared by MotoGP, he had to enter the pits for a bike change as well, and he was visibly distraught at his ill fortune:
Iannone crashed in Turn 2 shortly after, sliding across the track and opening the door for Scott Redding to catch the leaders. At the front, Petrucci and Rossi were engaged in a fantastic duel for second place, but the 23-year-old soon joined them.
Petrucci finally shook Rossi with 11 laps to go, and just as Redding made contact with the leaders, the red flag came out. Visibility had deteriorated to the point it was no longer safe to race, as you can see from this image:
As two-thirds of the race hadn't been completed yet, it was unclear whether there would be a re-start, possibly in a sprint.
Eventually, the decision was made to re-start for a 12-lap race, pending an improvement in the weather. The riders got back underway shortly after 3 p.m. local time, with Rossi grabbing the lead and Dani Pedrosa falling in the opening lap.
Cal Crutchlow fell as well, while Redding missed his start completely, dropping to eighth place. Petrucci retired while Marquez moved up to second place, and Bradley Smith joined the numerous riders crashing out during a hectic re-start.
Rossi was the next to lose his grip, crashing out of the lead in Turn 10. Miller suddenly found himself challenging Marquez for first place after one of the most hectic sequences in recent MotoGP history: No less than eight riders crashed during the first two laps.
Miller took the lead from Marquez and quickly put a second between himself and the Spaniard, but his position was far from secure, as riders kept hitting the asphalt. Esteve Rabat crashed out of seventh place, shaking the top 10 up even further.
Marquez soon eased the pressure, settling for second place and the major boost in the standings that came with it. Miller held on for the win, becoming the first Independent Team rider to claim top spot since 2006, per MotoGP's official Twitter account. Further back, Redding claimed his first podium finish of the season.
Per Crash.net's live blog of the race, he was more than happy with the result: "I struggled more at the beginning. I had the feeling toward the end. It was hard to pass Pol. I made the move and risked it. I'm happy with the podium and so happy to be here."
Marquez was also pleased: "Today was the race to lose the points. I was really calm and did my race. I saw Rossi was pushing and thought I couldn't follow him. When Jack passed me I said the second place is like a victory."
This race will be talked about for weeks to come, as Rossi appeared to be on the verge of gaining ground on Marquez in the standings before the re-start. Instead, the veteran had to watch from the paddock as the standings leader increased his advantage, and the decision to red-flag the race will not sit well with Rossi.