After a two-year drought, Yamaha finally won a grand prix today, with Maverick Viñales finishing first, rookie Fabio Quartararo third, and his teammate Franco Morbidelli fifth. Marc Marquez extended his championship lead, but Valentino Rossi was a non-factor in perfect conditions at a track he loves. The Doctor needs a doctor.

Though lacking much of the drama and action of last year’s tilt, the 2019 TT Assen offered up some noteworthy achievements. Viñales, who has been AWOL since Phillip Island last year (although his three DNFs this season were assisted by other riders) finally got himself a win that did next to nothing for his 2019 season other than to provide a little window dressing. Marc Marquez was in the hunt all day until he threw in the towel with two laps left and smartly settled for second. Rookie wonder Quartararo started from pole and led for over half the race before fading to third beneath the onslaught of #12 and #93. Andrea Dovizioso flogged his Ducati to a face-saving P4, as Marquez extended his lead over the Italian to 44 points with the Sachsenring looming next Sunday.

Embed from Getty Images

With a victory in the TT Assen, Maverick Viñales ended Yamaha’s MotoGP winless streak at 25 races.

Practice and Qualifying

Friday was a good news, bad news kind of day. Happy campers included the increasingly imposing Quartararo who, along with Viñales, put Yamahas in the top two spots in both sessions, with a dogged Danilo Petrucci placing his Ducati in P3 twice. Alex Rins, loving him some Assen, was in the top five all day. Rossi improved from 12th in the morning to 9th in the afternoon, while Marquez spent the day twiddling his thumbs at sixes and sevens, as they used to say 500 years ago. Viñales flirted with Rossi’s track record in the afternoon, with those of us who follow such things expecting the record to fall on Saturday afternoon, if not before.

Embed from Getty Images

Fabio Quartararo continues to demonstrate why he’s the favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

The central event of the day, a really bad one, didn’t show up in the timesheets. Jorge Lorenzo, once again riding in pain after crashing during the Catalunya test two weeks ago, suffered another brutal off with about five minutes left in P1. As the marshals helped him out of the gravel trap, his gait resembled Ray Bolger, the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz; something was clearly wrong. I think it’s safe to say he probably came within 10 kph of spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, having fractured his T6 and T8 vertebrae and being declared unfit for Assen and the Sachsenring, at least.

Saturday brought more drama, in spades, with searing temps more like Sepang than Assen. Rossi, reduced once again to trying for Q2 by completing one fast flying lap at the end of FP3, found one, but ran through green paint in the final chicane, exceeding the track limit, scrubbing the lap, and ending up, again, in Q1. For the fourth time this year, he failed to advance to Q2 and would start 14th on Sunday, the slowest of the four Yamahas. His track record got splintered by Petrucci, Rins, Viñales and, bigly, Quartararo, who became the youngest rider ever in MotoGP to start two consecutive races from pole and now owns the fastest lap ever at Assen and Jerez. Dude is for real.

Embed from Getty Images

Andrea Dovizioso needed a strong weekend to keep pace with Marc Marquez. He didn’t get one.

The frantic chase for pole during the last three minutes of Q2 produced a front row of Quartararo, Viñales and Rins, who came through Q1 to do it, with Marquez, up-and-comer Joan Mir and Takaa Nakagami on Row 2. Dovizioso, second in the championship chase, was unable to get out of his own way during Q2 and would start from the middle of the fourth row, his season slipping away. France, having failed in the World Cup on Friday, must now hope for the first French winner in a MotoGP race in 20 years. The four Spaniards snapping at his heels on Saturday, however, looked interested in extending the drought on Sunday.

Let’s just award #20 the Rookie of the Year Award already and pay attention to other stuff for the rest of the season, shall we?

The Race

Embed from Getty Images

Suzuki teammates Alex Rins and Joan Mir shot out in front early but neither could stay ahead of the pack.

Rins took the hole shot with Suzuki teammate Mir gunning himself into second place for the first few laps; the last time two Suzukis led a MotoGP race was, probably, never. Once Rins crashed out of the lead unassisted on Lap 3 and Mir erred his way down to fourth, things returned to normal. Quartararo took the lead after Rins’ departure and, in conjunction with Viñales, kept Marquez in a Yamaha sandwich for most of the day. The rookie’s tires went off around Lap 16, allowing both Viñales and Marquez through, and the two factory riders went at each other hot and heavy for eight scintillating laps. Discretion took the better of valor late in the day when it became clear to Marquez that it was Viñales’ day, and the champ backed off, happy with his 20 points and looking forward to returning to Saxony next week, where he is undefeated since, like, the Bush administration.

The first Bush administration. Kidding. He’s only nine-for-nine in Germany.

Embed from Getty Images

Valentino Rossi goes to check on Takaaki Nakagami after they crashed out.

Rossi, thwarted in his effort to pass through to Q2 in both FP3 and Q1, was running in 11th place, going nowhere, on Lap 5 when he apparently took Nakagami and himself out of the race; I was unable to watch a replay by the time I had to move on to other, real-world things. Assen was the site of Rossi’s last win, a track where he has won ten (10!) different times, on a day that was breezy but not too hot for the M1. Under perfect conditions at a track he loves he was just another rider.

Here’s a quick quiz for the Rossi apologists in the audience: What does Vale have in common with Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat and Aleix Espargaro? No wins in at least two years. Sure, the other four have never won a MotoGP race. But sports are a “what have you done for me lately?” business. I’m not sure Lin Jarvis, the Big Cheese of Yamaha racing, gives a rip about how many hats and t-shirts Rossi sells. With three Yamahas finishing in the top five – when did that last happened? – there may be a brief inquisition in store for #46 this evening.

The Big Picture

Embed from Getty Images

Marc Marquez played it safe instead of pushing Maverick Viñales, happily taking home the 20 points for finishing second.

Marquez tightened his grip on the 2019 title, slightly disappointed at getting beaten by Viñales, but delighted to have gained ground on Dovi, Petrucci (5th) and Rins. Quartararo got himself another podium, another pole and another track record; pretty good weekend for the charismatic young Frenchman. Viñales got one of many monkeys off his back and can look forward to getting thrashed next week. All six Ducatis managed to finish the race, worth a mention here but little else. Assen was an opportunity lost for the Suzuki team as Mir faded to eighth at the flag. Aprilia had their most successful weekend yet, garnering 10 points with Andrea Iannone finishing in P10 and Aleix Espargaro in P12.

After eight rounds the 2019 championship is on life support, with Marquez likely to be standing on the air hose next Sunday. The Dovizioso, Petrucci and Rins camps will be discussing this for the next few days, with someone in each bound to mention that Marquez crashed at COTA and it could happen again. Uh-huh. Mostly, the riders are now reduced to playing “Beat Your Teammate” and being glad they’re not Jorge Lorenzo, who is wearing a body brace and a stiff upper lip.

Embed from Getty Images

Jorge Lorenzo’s disappointing 2019 season continues with the former world champion fracturing a couple of vertibra. He is expected to miss at least the next round.

I feel worse for Lorenzo now than I did in 2017. The only way he can generate enough speed to compete with Marquez & Co. is to violate the laws of physics, putting himself in terrible danger. The Honda RC213V is like Tiger Woods’ driver. People can’t expect someone who isn’t Tiger Woods to pick it up and yank a golf ball 340 yards down the middle of the fairway. Worse yet, there does not appear to be an exit ramp for Jorge. Friday’s crash could seriously mess with his head, never mind his back and chest.

This Tranche Stuff is Going to Tick Some People Off

After Catalunya:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo
Tranche 2: Valentino Rossi, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Takaa Nakagami, Maverick Viñales
Tranche 3: Cal Crutchlow, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

After Assen:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo
Tranche 2: Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Takaa Nakagami, Maverick Viñales, Joan Mir
Tranche 3: Valentino Rossi 😊, Cal Crutchlow, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

Embed from Getty Images

Valentino Rossi drops down to Tranche 3 in Bruce’s rankings. Rossi fanatics can direct their displeasure on Bruce’s blog.