MotoGP Round 7…The 65th Dutch TT at Assen
By: Tom Halverson
Photo Credit: www.motogp.com
Northern Holland’s Assen Circuit is the oldest track on the MotoGP Calendar, and is the only track that remains from the original MotoGP calendar back in 1949. Assen is a both a rider and fan favorite which always produces great racing, and this weekend’s race was no exception. Coming into the weekend, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa headed the championship points by a slim 7 points over Yamaha’s defending world champion, Jorge Lorenzo. Assen’s fast and flowing nature is more suitable to the Yamahas, and Lorenzo was looking to capitalize on this. Lorenzo’s teammate, and 7-times MotoGP champion, Valentino Rossi is also a fan of the track, and has an excellent record there, having won seven races there over the course of his career. Rossi was also looking for his first win since returning to Yamaha, this season. Rossi’s last win came in Malaysia in 2010, before he switched to the Ducati factory team for two very forgettable years.
The weather as Assen is always a crapshoot, and this weekend was no exception. Thursday’s second free practice session was a wet session, with several riders ending up in the gravel, most noticeably was Jorge Lorenzo. During the session, Lorenzo was pushing hard through one of the fast right-hand kinks, when his rear tire touched the paint on the edge of the track, which caused a massive, 150 MPH highside, sending Lorenzo and his Yamaha skimming down the track for quite a distance. Lorenzo suffered a fractured left collarbone, and immediately flew back to Barcelona to have it plated. Lorenzo’s surgery took place around 2 a.m., local time. After the surgery, Lorenzo immediately hopped another flight back to Assen to ‘be with his team’. The rumblings around the paddock were that he was going to attempt to race.
While Lorenzo was flying back to Assen, Friday’s qualifying sessions were taking place. Throughout the session, Repsol Honda’s wonder kid, Marc Marquez, was setting the pace, and looked like a shoe-in for pole position. Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow had other ideas, and went out with under a minute left in the session to put in a lap that was half a second faster than anyone else. Crutchlow’s lap gave him his debut pole position and the first pole position by a British rider since Jeremy McWilliams back in 2002 at Phillip Island. Marquez and Honda’s Stefan Bradl rounded out the front row. Rossi, who is not a fan of the new qualifying format, headed up the second row in fourth place…his best qualifying result of the season, so far.
Race day, and all the talk in the paddock is focused on Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo had passed an initial medical check which allowed him to run in the morning warm-up session…just over 24 hours after having a plate and seven screws inserted in his collarbone…amazing! Lorenzo went out in the 20-minute session and wasted no time getting up to speed, and went onto string together 11 laps at race pace. Subsequently, he was medically cleared to start the race. Lorenzo’s time from the first free practice was good enough for him to start from 12th on the grid.
A few hours later, the boys lined up on the grid, the lights went out, and Dani Pedrosa took the lead as they all piled into turn 1. Pedrosa’s lead was short-lived as his teammate Marquez made quick work of him to take over at the front. While that was going on, a hard-charging Rossi made his way past Bradl and Pedrosa to take over 2nd behind Marquez. Rossi eventually overhauled Marquez for the lead and rode like the ‘Rossi of old’ to take his 80th MotoGP win, and first win since rejoining Yamaha. Back in the pack, the injured Lorenzo had made an amazing start having worked his way up to 4th before being overtaken by a cautious Cal Crutchlow. Lorenzo cruised home in safe 5th position…not too shabby for a guy who was under the knife just over 24 hours earlier. Crutchlow went on to challenge Marquez for 2nd, but had to settle for 3rd after almost taking out Marquez’ rear tire on the last lap.
Lorenzo’s brave ride was an excellent example of damage limitation. If Lorenzo had not raced, he could have fallen as far back as 36 points behind Dani Pedrosa. Instead, Lorenzo left Assen just nine points down on Pedrosa. The title fight is very much alive! Rossi’s win showed that he still has the pace to do the business and battle with the younger riders for podiums and wins. I suspect this isn’t the last time we’ll see The Doctor on the top step of the podium, this season. Don’t rule out Cal Crutchlow for a win this season, as well. He has regularly shown he has the pace to run with (and beat) many of the factory riders on his satellite Yamaha.
The MotoGP boys (and girls) take week off before returning to action at the Sachsenring in Germany, on July 12th, and then a week later at Laguna Seca right here in the U.S.A. Buy your tickets and book your flights now!
Assen MotoGP Race Result;
8) Espargaro/Aspar CRT
MotoGP World Championship points after round 7 at Assen;