Sterilgarda Husqvarna’s Ayumu Sasaki celebrated his long-awaited debut Moto3 World Championship win at TT Circuit Assen on Sunday.
Seven years in the making and having already secured the pole position for the Dutch GP, Sasaki secured the victory from Aspar GasGas teammates Izan Guevara and Sergio Garcia. His own teammate John McPhee crashing out from podium contention on the final lap.
A cool and bright Cathedral of Speed welcomed Sunday’s opening action with 26℃ track temperatures ahead of the 22-lap lightweight battle. Sasaki headed the grid after an impressive early comeback from injury with Leopard’s Tatsuki Suzuki and Izan Guevara alongside. McPhee launching from 11th with VisionTrack’s Scott Ogden and Josh Whatley 24th and 29th respectively as the lights released.
Rookie David Muñoz took control of the race, from fourth, as the action fired up before Suzuki swept through to the lead at turn one. McPhee wide and down to 18th in the opening drama with Dennis Foggia dispatching the rookie out front to join his teammate in the top three.
Guevara remained in the mix as the top five continued to jostle for position as the second lap began. Sasaki back in charge from the GasGas Aspar and Muñoz as the Leopard pair dropped to the back of the leading group. CIP Green Power’s Joel Kelso up to sixth from a gaggle of KTMs, Adrian Fernandez heading Jaume Masia with Sergio Garcia, who started 18th, slotting in front of the second Ajo of Daniel Holgado before the rookie dropped down to 24th.
Guevara lead the way as lap four fired up, Suzuki and Muñoz remaining in check from Sasaki, Masia and Fernandez. Foggia demoted to seventh with Kelso, Garcia and Xavi Artigas for company as McPhee began to regroup from 14th.
The Scot was at the head of the second group and looking to reel in the riders ahead as he made his way to 12th next time around. The pace picking up across the pack with Guevara in control as Elia Bartolini crashed out.
Masia bettered the Leopard pair as Garcia followed suit on Suzuki in the battle for fourth. Sasaki looking for a way through on the leading Aspar with the new Moto3 rookie sensation hassling from third before Masia dispatching him for the final podium position.
Ogden suffered a fast turn seven off on lap six as his summer break arrived earlier than planned. Suzuki back to fifth on Foggia and Garcia with the Italian issued a long lap penalty alongside Diogo Moreira and Luca Lunetta.
Suzuki’s climb continued as the Japanese rider found third then second to sit on the wheels of the Aspar machine. McPhee into the top ten with a quarter of a second to bridge to the leading pack. A feat he accomplished quickly before immediately bettering Artigas and Fernandez for eighth.
Foggia dropped to 13th as the penalty was dispatched on lap 10. McPhee up to sixth but with a full second separating him from the breakaway quintet as the halfway stage approached.
Rivacold Snipers’ Andrea Migno and MTA’s Ivan Ortola were the next to receive penalties for cutting the final chicane. McPhee dragging the second group up as he reduced the gap to less than half a second, Masia through on Suzuki for third as Guevara defended hard from Sasaki behind.
Masia dropped to sixth as McPhee arrived in fourth. Muñoz making his case for second as teammates Sasaki and McPhee began to battle for the final podium place, the Scot making it stick through Ramshoek.
The podium battle intensified as the trio swapped places repeatedly as the next laps played out. Sasaki running second from McPhee and Muñoz before Suzuki demoted the rookie with eight laps to go and the 27-year-old bettered his Max Racing colleague for runners up honours.
Foggia was back in the battle with seven to go as the Italian rejoined the fight from fifth. Sasaki retaking second from McPhee and the Leopard pair with Muñoz slipping to sixth before he hit back at the number 7.
Masia joined the party with six to go as Suzuki returned to third. The leading group now nine-strong as McPhee dropped to seventh in the home straight slipstream. Foggia crashing out after clipping the curb at turn two following a move from Muñoz.
Guevara maintained control with just four laps remaining. Masia mastering his comeback to second from Sasaki, Muñoz and Suzuki with McPhee in touch from sixth before they shuffled again. The latter pair continuing to bicker as series leader Garcia made his presence known.
Sasaki took charge with three to go with Guevara putting up a fight to return. The move successful as the lap concluded with Suzuki and McPhee now fighting again for the final podium position.
The lead continued to switch as the final laps played out. McPhee dumped back to sixth as his teammate strove for his maiden world championship victory. Sasaki leading across the line as the final lap got underway with Guevara finding himself in fifth.
A three rider crash found McPhee and Masia on the ground after Muñoz took the KTM down with a late move. Sasaki delighting his boss Max Biaggi on his 51st birthday to secure the celebrations on his 95th start from Aspar teammates Guevara and Garcia.
Suzuki claimed fourth from Artigas and an impressive comeback from Holgado. MTA’s Stefano Nepa, MT Helmets’ Ryusei Yamanaka, Tech3’s Deniz Öncü and CIP’s Kaito Toba completed the top ten from SIC58’s Riccardo Rossi, Ortola, Lorenzo Fellon, PruestelGP’s Tatay and Migno. While Whatley met the flag in 20th to equal his career-best finish of his rookie season so far.