Jaume Masia has taken a huge chunk out of Daniel Holgado's 2023 Moto3 World Championship lead after shaking out on top of a race-long, ten rider battle for victory in the Moto3 Dutch TT at Assen.
In a pulsating race that didn't let up in intensity from lights-to-flag, it was Masia's steely nerves on the brakes into the final corner that ultimately made the difference as he rebuffed a late charge from Ayumu Sasaki to secure his first victory of the 2023 Moto3 season.
His win comes on a disastrous weekend for series leader Daniel Holgado, the KTM Tech 3 rider - already starting last after fluffing his Q1 laps - compounding his misery by crashing on the opening lap.
Behind Masia, Sasaki held on for his third consecutive podium - again missing out on victory by mere hundredths - with Deniz Oncu surviving a scramble through Ruskenhoek that forced David Munoz and Romano Fenati from top three contention in sight of the finish line.
8 different race leaders, only 1 winner
While Assen has developed a reputation as one of Moto3's most exhilarating arenas for exciting race action, even by its high standards the 2023 edition in the Netherlands will go down in the annuls.
With eight different riders taking turns in the lead of the race at some stage of the 20 laps and ten riders coming into the final lap within one second, the fight for victory was bound to come down to the final metres.
In the end timing was arguably the pivotal factor in Masia's charge to victory, though the Spaniard - who, like the riders around him, yo-yo'd up and down the classification as the momentum ebbed and flows - emerged as the most solidly positioned rider in the critical final few revolutions.
Even so, he was still forced to make the different into the final corner Geert Timmer chicane after Sasaki - having played a comparatively low key role in the fight for victory up to that stage - got a strong run out of Meeuwenmeer to line up a neat pass into Ruskenhoek for the final time, the Japanese rider's experience seemingly coming to the fore.
However, he didn't shut the door aggressively enough, enabling Masia to slip up the inside without running out wide on the exit so as to allow the Husqvarna IntactGP a better run to the finish line. It means Sasaki - who has now finished third, second and second in the last three Moto3 races - would miss out on victory by 0.081s having also missed out in Mugello by 0.056s and in Sachsenring by 0.095s.
Joining them on the podium was Deniz Oncu, who dazzled with a selection of unconventional yet beautifully executed passes again over the course of the race, even if he was often found wanting in some of the quicker sections, his larger frame and weight once more counting against him.
However, he was able to benefit in the increasingly ragged scrap for the leading positions after David Munoz eliminated both himself and Romano Fenati from top three contention coming out of Ruskenhoek for the last time.
Starting from his first pole position, Munoz endured a checkered race with undoubted fast pace around the Dutch venue punctuated by a number of sloppy errors and wide moments - including on the first lap having held his nerve to lead initially - that kept demoting him back.
However, his notoriously aggressive style of riding came to the fore at an inopportune moment at the penultimate corner when his dive for third on Fenati instead levered both wide on the exit. It demoted Munoz back to fifth place at the flag, while his rival had to make do with a frustrated eighth after one of his best performances in years.
As well as Oncu, Ivan Ortola was also a big beneficiary to rescue a superb fourth place having been forced to fight back from both a 20th place starting position on the grid and a long lap penalty.
A two-time race winner this season, Ortola would have no doubt had his superb victory in Texas - when he scored a spectacular win despite having to take a long lap penalty after a Turn 1 mistake had already dropped him to plum last - in his mind.
Indeed, the Spaniard made rapid progress up the order, surging from 20th to eighth in just three laps. Even once he'd taken his long lap penalty, Ortola maintained the tempo, clawing his way up to second by the mid-way point in the race.
While he'd then get restrained by the frenzied action around him, he was up to second and poised to pounce coming into the final lap, only to then run wide at Turn 1, ending his hopes of glory.
Behind Munoz, Jose Antonio Rueda prevailed in the fight for top rookie honours over seventh place Colin Veijer, the pair always in contention among the front group without getting to the front of it.
Fenati was a disgruntled eighth, the Rivacold rider producing an electric performance that had him right in the thick of the victory battle during the second-half of the race. Though he was ultimately denied a podium by Munoz's forceful move, it was almost identical to one he'd pulled a few laps earlier than forced Sasaki and Stefano Nepa out onto the run-off.
Front row starter Joel Kelso was ninth having briefly led in the early laps, the Australian finishing ahead of Nepa, whose breakthrough performance on the MTA Angeluss bike ended with a disappointing tenth.
The Italian led more laps than any other rider having worked his way to the head of the field on lap six, holding firm for ten laps, before being swamped as the intensity ramped up. He then out-braked himself coming into the Geert Timmer chicane for the final time, leaving him at the back of the front group coming across the line.
Elsewhere, Scott Ogden made an early mistake to demote him out of the points en route to 20th in a race of low attrition, while team-mate Joshua Whatley was one of just two retirements after he rear-ended Adrian Fernandez on lap three.
Moto3 Dutch TT Assen | RACE Results
|2023 Moto3 Dutch TT | Assen, Netherlands | RACE Results | Round 8 of 20|
|1||Jaume Masia||ESP||Leopard Racing||Honda||20 Laps|
|2||Ayumu Sasaki||JPN||Husqvarna IntactGP||Husqvarna||+0.081|
|3||Deniz Oncu||TUR||Red Bull KTM Ajo||KTM||+0.276|
|4||Ivan Ortola||ESP||Angeluss MTA Team||KTM||+0.324|
|5||David Munoz||ESP||BOE Motorsports||KTM||+0.401|
|6||Jose Antonio Rueda||ESP||Red Bull KTM Ajo||KTM||+0.507|
|7||Colin Veijer||NED||Husqvarna IntactGP||Husqvarna||+0.819|
|8||Romano Fenati||ITA||Rivacold Snipers Team||Honda||+1.058|
|9||Joel Kelso||AUS||CFMoto PruestelGP||CFMoto||+1.341|
|10||Stefano Nepa||ITA||Angeluss MTA Team||KTM||+2.024|
|11||Kaito Toba||JPN||SIC58 Squadra Corse||Honda||+11.736|
|12||Diogo Moreira||BRZ||MT Helmets - MSI||KTM||+12.254|
|13||Ryusei Yamanaka||JPN||GASGAS Aspar M3||GasGas||+12.317|
|14||David Alonso||COL||GASGAS Aspar M3||GasGas||+12.592|
|15||Xavier Artigas||ESP||CFMoto PruestelGP||CFMoto||+12.594|
|16||Matteo Bertelle||ITA||Rivacold Snipers Team||Honda||+12.646|
|17||Taiyo Furusato||JPN||Honda Team Asia||Honda||+12.898|
|18||Riccardo Rossi||ITA||SIC58 Squadra Corse||Honda||+13.041|
|19||Andrea Migno||ITA||CIP Green Power||KTM||+13.100|
|20||David Salvador||ESP||CIP Green Power||KTM||+14.651|
|21||Filippo Farioli||ITA||Red Bull KTM Tech3||KTM||+22.458|
|22||Scott Ogden||GBR||VisionTrack Racing||Honda||+26.301|
|23||Mario Suryo Aji||INA||Honda Team Asia||Honda||+26.374|
|24||Ana Carrasco||ESP||BOE Motorsports||KTM||+31.379|
|25||Daniel Holgado||ESP||Red Bull KTM Tech3||KTM||+1m 14.519|
|DNF||Adrian Fernandez||ESP||Leopard Racing||Honda|
|DNF||Joshua Whatley||GBR||VisionTrack Racing||Honda|