Alvaro Bautista apologized for taking out Jorge Lorenzo early in the Assen TT, but feels his penalty may be too harsh.
“Luckily there were no serious consequences in terms of injuries I am certain of one thing: it won’t happen again.”
The assurances of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista are no doubt cold comfort to Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, as the MotoGP paddock rolls into Sachsenring for Round 8 of the 2012 season. Bautista made an incredible error of judgment going into Turn 1 of last Saturday’s Dutch TT at Assen, miscalculating his braking marker which he then tried to compensate for by braking too hard too late. Baustista lost the front end and low-sided into Lorenzo, skidding both riders off the track seconds after the contest started. Bautista has since incurred a penalty for the reckless maneuver and will start from last position this weekend at Sachsenring.
Though Lorenzo has publically accepted Bautista’s apology and says he holds no grudge, the severity, or lack thereof, of Bautista’s penalty has generated a certain level of contentiousness that will no doubt fuel the two riders at the German Grand Prix. “Race Directon told me that he will start from last position on the grid in Sachsenring but this is nothing,” said Lorenzo after Assen. “Alvaro’s move was crazy. We hope that we will be lucky in the future, that nothing will happen but if riders are not penalized properly then they will continue to do crazy things like today.”
Bautista, on the other hand, takes the opposite position and feels as if he’s been unduly punished. “I think it’s an excessive penalty for a racing incident and whilst I accept it, I do so reluctantly.”
The immediate repercussions for Lorenzo are an injured right ankle and totaled engine, his third of the season. As a factory team rider, he can use up to six engines during the season without penalty, after that he would be forced to start from “pit lane 10 seconds after the start of the race.” Sachsenring is only the eighth of 18 rounds and it remains to be seen what the long-term effects this crash will have on Lorenzo’s championship title hopes.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner started at Assen in pole position and avoided the incident entirely as he and teammate Dani Pedrosa moved quickly to the front. Pedrosa led through the opening laps, but with 10 laps remaining, Stoner moved into the lead and proceeded to build a gap that was nearly five seconds by the checkers. The win put Stoner in a tie for first with Lorenzo and Pedrosa follows in third 19 points behind. Pedrosa earned his second win of the 2011 season at Sachsenring and is hopeful that he will post his first of 2012 at the German circuit. Stoner also made the podium there last year, taking third behind Lorenzo.
“I hope we can go to Sachsenring and get another good result especially after our tough, but rewarding weekend in Assen,” said Stoner. “We were quite competitive there last year, but in the long corners we are struggling a little more with our bike at the moment so we’re going to need to work hard on Friday and Saturday, try to find more grip from the edge of the tire and also see if we can reduce the front chatter.”
Tire issues played a big role in the outcome of the Assen TT and Bridgestone has launched an investigation into the matter, that hindered the performance of Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi . Rossi was engaged in a battle for sixth with teammate Nicky Hayden and Pramac’s Hector Barbera, but mid-race was forced to pit after his rear tire chunked. Rossi came back out behind the CRT field and fought his way as far up the timesheet as he could, ending in 13th.
“I could have finished sixth, which would have given me some points to help in the standings, but we had a big problem with the tire about eleven laps from the end,” said Rossi. “I had to return to the garage to change it because it was impossible to continue, so I started again with the soft and finished the race.”
Dovizioso managed his tire wear through the race and was able to push past Spies on the final lap for third-place.
Lorenzo’s teammate Spies also suffered from the rear tire chunking issue during his battle with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso for the podium. “I managed to stay past Dovi and ride at my own pace then about seven or eight laps from the end I was pushing to get away,” said Spies. “A chunk came out of the tire and then a second; I couldn’t do anything about it. I was hoping Dovi would get past me as I was worried the tire would explode and I didn’t want to fall right in front of him.” In spite of the tire trouble, Spies earned a season best fourth-place finish at Assen.
Dovizioso did eventually get by Spies, taking his second podium finish of the season with a final lap pass for third. “It was a really strong battle and the pace was very high and when I passed Spies for the first time I tried not to abuse the tires too much because I knew the first two were already too far ahead,” said Dovizioso of his strategy at the Dutch TT. “I dropped my pace and it really paid off because at the end of the race I was much stronger than him.”
Dovi’s teammate Cal Crutchlow started from the middle of Row 2 and was unable to completely avoid the chaos caused by Bautista and Lorenzo’s crash. Crutchlow managed to escape unharmed, but his evasive action, which took him off the track briefly, put him back in 12th after Lap 1. He spent the remainder of the race battling back through the field and ultimately ended in fifth-place. “Once again I am contemplating what might have been because without the incident at the first corner I had the pace to be on the podium today,” said Crutchlow just after the race at Assen. The British rider remains fourth in overall points and is still chasing after his first podium of the season.
MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda failed to finish a race for the first time this season after crashing early on at Assen. He was just one of a number of riders, apart from Bautista and Lorenzo, who failed to finish. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and Avinta Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez all pulled out as well.
In such a mitigated field, Espargaro’s teammate Randy de Puniet posted the best CRT finish of the season in eighth with San Carlo CRT rider Michele Pirro following in ninth and Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini in 10th. Assen marks the first time a CRT rider has finished within the top ten this season.