Fabio Quartararo is bidding for a third straight win this weekend

Assen (Netherlands) (AFP) - Fabio Quartararo heads into this weekend’s Dutch MotoGP eyeing a third straight win and a substantial world championship lead going into the summer break.

The reigning world champion is 34 points clear of Aleix Espargaro at the top of the riders’ standings after back-to-back victories in Barcelona and Germany, where he was struggling with illness.

Quartararo is returning to the Assen track where he won last year and finished third in 2019.

“I’m so happy with the win at the Sachsenring,” said the Frenchman.

“I was riding well in Barcelona, but in a way Sachsenring was even better because I did it while not feeling well.

“I enjoyed a few days of rest and now I’m feeling better again, so I’m ready for the race in Assen. We have good memories from last year there with the team.”

The Yamaha rider was in a similar situation last year and only held on to win the title by 26 points after going through the last six races winless.

“I am not thinking of the championship,” Quartararo said after his win in Germany last week.

“I am here to win as many races as possible, maybe by the time it comes to Japan and Thailand (in September and October), I will think about the title itself.”

Quatararo has built his healthy lead despite his Yamaha not being the quickest bike in qualifying.

The 23-year-old has managed just one pole position in the first half of the campaign, while Ducati bikes have been fastest in seven of the 10 final qualifying sessions.

But the Italian manufacturer has struggled to get their riders to the line.

Enea Bastianini has won three races but failed to finish as many times, while Francesco Bagnaia has three poles and two wins, only to suffer four retirements.

Bagnaia, who races for the Ducati factory team, had looked poised to challenge for the title just a few weeks ago, but he has only finished one of the last four races.

He was visibly angry last weekend after crashing out, having been on pole, to slip 91 points off the pace.

Ducati’s woes have left Aprilia’s Espargaro surprisingly as Quartararo’s closest challenger.

His win in Argentina earlier this season was his first in MotoGP and his team’s maiden top-class success.

Johann Zarco, who rides for Ducati’s satellite Pramac team, is a further 27 points behind in third place and finished second at the Sachsenring.

He is yet to finish on the podium at Assen in MotoGP, although he did win en route to the Moto2 title in 2015.

But Quartararo could be out of sight by the time the campaign resumes at Silverstone in August if he can win again on Sunday.