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Flawless Bagnaia claims third consecutive Dutch MotoGP

Francesco Bagnaia keeps championship leader Jorge Martin at bay at Assen (Marco BERTORELLO)
Francesco Bagnaia keeps championship leader Jorge Martin at bay at Assen (Marco BERTORELLO)

Francesco Bagnaia claimed his third consecutive Dutch MotoGP on Sunday ahead of championship leader Jorge Martin to narrow the gap to 10 points in his quest for a third straight world title.

Enea Bastianini completed the podium at Assen after a magnificent ride which saw him battling through the ranks from 10th place on the grid.

But it was polesitter Bagnaia who led from take-off on his factory Ducati to ride a flawless race, capping a memorable weekend after his success in Saturday's sprint race.

After giving a riding masterclass, the rider from Turin said: "It's incredible."

"I had to push from the start and suffering a bit from the rear tyre. But lap-by-lap I improved.

"We were very fast, very precise... I am very satisfied," added Bagnaia, 27, who twice broke the Assen lap record over the weekend.

He praised his Ducati team, saying "the bike was fantastic."

The weekend's win in Assen again also highlighted Ducati's dominance in the manufacturer’s championship standings, delivering the fifth full Ducati podium in a row.

- 'Another level' -

"Pecco" Bagnaia's race never looked in doubt as both he and Martin opened a sizable gap from the pack early on.

But the space between the first placed Italian and his Spanish rival also stayed constant around the 4.5km (2.8 mile) track — and although Martin pushed hard, he failed to reel in a rampant Bagnaia.

"At the end of the race I had nothing left. I tried my absolute best to catch him," Martin said.

"But Pecco was just on another level."

"We just didn't see any chance to be first this weekend, and then I had the penalty," Martin added, after being demoted three places on the starting grid for riding slow on the racing line in qualifying on Saturday.

Martin, who is leaving for Aprilia next season said it was a "difficult" weekend for the Prima Pramac Ducati team.

He said however the team "improved a lot" with each day at the legendary Assen track known as "The Cathedral".

The real battle was for third place, which turned into a titanic struggle between Bastianini, Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez on a Gresini Ducati and Fabio Di Giannantonio on a VR46 Ducati.

After rounds of racing ping-pong, Bastianini passed Vinales with four laps to go and held the third spot to the chequered flag ahead of the Spaniard.

It was 26-year-old Bastianini's first podium position at Assen.

Vinales eventally lost fourth place to Giannantonio after it was determined that he exceeded track limits in the final round. Fellow Spaniard and veteran rider Marc Marquez finished fourth, and although he seemed to make a few mistakes on the track, did well to recover from a fall in the sprint race on Saturday.

His good work was undone however when race officials afterwards penalised him for riding with incorrect tyre pressures -- which saw him drop down to 10th.

Vinales eventually ended fifth behind Di Giannantonio, with South Africa's Brad Binder in sixth on a KTM.

The riders now gear up for next week’s German MotoGP at Sachsenring.

"Sachsenring is a track were we can go very fast," said Martin, who won there last year.

jhe/bsp