‘Fast Fabio’ is an easy moniker to bestow, but it’s much harder to live up to. And yet, rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) just won’t stop breaking records. At the Motul TT Assen the Frenchman put in the fastest ever lap of the track in qualifying to take his third pole position overall, and in doing that he also becomes the youngest ever rider to take back-to-back poles in the premier class. 0.140 is his advantage over Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as the pattern of the two taking it in turns at the top continued, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking third as he blasted from Q1 to the front row.
Before pole was decided, it was that Q1 that would prove crucial for one big name: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The ‘Doctor”s difficult day at the office began earlier in FP3 as his lap that would have seen him move through to Q2 was cancelled for exceeding track limits, and that left him fighting it out in Q1. In that Q1, he eventually finished fourth and will therefore start from P14, with Rins and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) the two men moving through.
Rins held the advantage first as the Suzuki man started Q2 on provisional pole, but on the second runs Viñales had something to say about it. The number 12 machine put in a stunning lap with a few minutes left on the clock to cut a few tenths off Rins’ best effort, and he was the man with the target on his back as Quartararo began his assault. But then, Quartararo began his assault.
Keeping it together to perfection and able to pull out nearly a tenth and a half by the time he crossed the line, the Frenchman made some more history – and celebrated so hard, it made his airbag go off in his suit!
Behind that little slice of history, there’s one habitual front row starter missing from the top three: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). The reigning Champion starts fourth and misses out on a place in the fastest trio for the first time this season, and he’ll be looking to slice through early off the line. Alongside him, rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) put in an impressive effort to take a best-yet fifth, just into the 1:33s, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completing the second row.
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), third on Friday, is the top Ducati in qualifying and heads up an incredibly tight third row, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P8 and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) locking it out in ninth. The three men are covered by just 0.032.
2016 Assen winner Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completes the top ten and he was also just hundredths adrift, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) a few further tenths off the Australian in P11. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the final man in Q2 in P12, not far off the Italian ahead of him.
Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) starts just ahead of Rossi, with the number 46 facing down a few of his VR46 Riders Academy proteges in his mission to move forward on Sunday. He’s won ten times at Assen, and he is the Sunday miracle maker. Can he get in the fight at the front?
The front row will all be gunning to be first into Turn 1, and each of them will be aiming squarely for the top step. Marquez will be a threat as always, Dovizioso will need to replicate his stunning starts…and Rossi will be on the hunt. Last year’s Dutch TT was one of the spectacles of the season, don’t miss the rerun in Round 8 with MotoGP™ lights out at 14:00 local time on Sunday (GMT+2).
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’32.017
2 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) +0.140
3 – Alex Rins (SPA – Suzuki) +0.441
*Independent Team rider