Jack Miller clinched a sensational MotoGP victory in rain-affected and crash-riddled race of Motul TT Circuit in Assen, Netherlands. The two-part race was first halted because of torrential rains and finally became a 12-lap dash on a comparatively drier surface. For Marc VDS Honda rider Miller, it was one of the most unexpected wins in MotoGP history. First, he rode a non-factory backed machine and when the race was restarted, he braved the treacherous conditions to beat none other than double MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez. The restart also saw riders falling like nine pins with Valentino Rossi suffering his third crash of the season. 2015 champion Jorge Lorenzo managed to survive and finished tenth in a race, which only 13 riders could complete. Britain’s Pramac Ducati rider Scott Redding took the third place. Spaniard Toni Elias was the last satellite rider to win the MotoGP in October 2006 at Portugal.
Motorsports have two types of teams; factory-backed or satellite teams. Factory-backed teams have support directly from manufacturers, while the term satellite team is used for a group of riders or drivers, funded by other factory-backed teams. One example from Formula-one is Toro Rosso team that is supported by Red Bull. Thus strictly, satellite team is a semi-works team, backed by well-funded teams and not by manufacturers. In MotoGP, satellite teams may use the previous season’s motorcycles and they are allowed machine updates only after factory teams have had them. Miller used a Honda motorbike as a rider of Marc VDS Honda satellite team.
For many riders at Assen, season’s 8th MotoGP was eminently forgettable. Torrential rain made riding conditions difficult and the 26-lap race had a delayed start. All riders were prepared for a forced pit stop should the track start drying. However, after 15 laps, the race was red-flagged as conditions worsened. Even in Saturday’s qualifying too, the weather was nearly as bad, when Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had taken the pole ahead of Valentino Rossi and Scott Redding. Marquez was fourth, Yonny Hernandez fifth, Cal Crutchlow sixth, the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth places were taken respectively by Pol Espargaro, Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci. However, Iannone had to start from last because of his penalty at Catalunya.
As the race got underway on Sunday, Scott Redding shot ahead of everyone but couldn’t control his race in trying to run too fast. This allowed Rossi to go past with Dovizioso in tow. Yonny Hernandez was third in the initial stages but he overtook Rossi on second lap even as heavens were pouring down. Even before lap 4, riders started going to the pits for tyre-change as rains relented somewhat. Hernandez led Rossi by over 2 seconds by lap 5. Behind them, Aspar Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci had passed both Marquez and Andrea Iannone to take the fourth spot. At that point, reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo was on 18th spot. But rain returned with more intensity by lap 9. Now some riders got worried about their tyres since they had changed to dry-surface compound. On lap 12, race leader Hernandez went down, when he rounded a sharp turn. Andrea Dovizioso was now the leader, followed by Rossi and Petrucci. On 14th lap, Redding whizzed past Rossi but the Doctor reclaimed his position in a while. While all this was happening, the race was red-flagged because conditions had sharply deteriorated. The officials announced that they will have a restart in the form of a 12-lap sprint.
After riders had warm-up laps, the 12-lap dash began. Marquez tried to dive out at turn one but ran wide. This allowed Rossi and Dovizioso to get ahead. Marquez, Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro brought up the top five. However, the drama began unfolding in the opening lap itself. Aleix Espargaro ran into the gravel at turn 1 after making contact with Iannone, Dani Pedrosa went down at turn 9 and Cal Crutchlow crashed out at turn 12. By third lap, Rossi had assumed the top position with Marquez right behind him. Miller was on Marquez’s tail and Redding on fourth place. Next to crash out was Dovizioso, who had finished 2 laps but couldn’t keep control on a turn. Bradley Smith also crashed in lap 2 and though Petrucci didn’t suffer a crash, he had to go out because of the bike problem. On lap 4, Valentino Rossi also went down and Miller powered his way past Marquez.
When 5 laps remained, the rain stopped and Miller led Marquez by 1.1 second. Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro were fighting for the third place and Andrea Iannone was fifth. Redding finally consolidated his third place with 2 laps to go. In closing stages, Marquez looked content with the second place, which was like a victory for him under the circumstances. Lorenzo had miserable a race and Rossi had crashed out. When the race ended, Miller had nearly 2 second’s lead over Marquez, Redding took the third place, Pol Espargaro fourth, Andrea Iannone fifth, Hector Barbera sixth, Eugene Laverty seventh, Stefan Bradl eighth, Maverick Vinales ninth and Jorge Lorenzo completed the top 10.
With second place finish, Marquez leads the championship leaderboard with 145 points to Lorenzo’s 121. Rossi is way behind at 103. But the 21-year old Miller’s first MotoGP win was immensely creditable because of many reasons. He got promoted to MotoGP from Moto3 only 18 months ago and at Assen, he took heavy risks in both parts of the race. He also became the next Australian since Casey Stoner’s Phillip Island victory in 2012 and the first satellite rider since Spain’s Toni Elias, who won the Portuguese GP 10 years ago.