Conditions could not have been much better for the A-Style Assen TT this Saturday afternoon at the Circuit van Drenthe. Over 90,000 fans were lucky enough to witness the race of the year in person. When the dust settled it was Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi
taking the win aboard his garish Fiat 500 special M1. Behind the Italian was championship rival Casey Stoner
, followed by defending champ Nicky Hayden.
"I have to say a big thank you to Michelin and to my team, because today our package was brilliant and I was able to ride at the maximum. I'm so happy to win here in Assen, it's a special place for me and this is a great emotion. It was nice to have a special livery here as well, in the past I haven't been so lucky with new liveries but hopefully today has turned that around! Congratulations to Yamaha for 150 wins, I am glad that we could celebrate like this!"
"This was an incredible race," explained Rossi after the race. "I think maybe one of the top five of my career! Clearly starting from 11th is quite lucky for us because I've won a few times from that position, including last year at Sachsenring. Last night I didn't sleep so well and I couldn't have imagined that the race could turn out like this, in fact I was really a little bit worried after the qualifying and didn't know what to expect today! Once I got going though I saw that I had a great pace and so I just rode as hard as I could to get past everyone because I knew then that I could come back to Casey. When I finally got there I was quite tired, as were my tyres, plus he was riding very well and it was hard to overtake him, but my M1 worked brilliantly today and in the last few laps I was able to go past and win."
At the start it was Marlboro Ducati's Casey Stoner with the holeshot followed by the Rizla Suzuki pairing of Vermeulen and Hopkins. But the big story was the excellent start by Repsol Honda's number one plate holder. Hayden went from 12th to fifth behind Marco Melandri and worked his way to fourth by the second lap.
Meanwhile, Rossi was dispatching riders lap by lap, making his way from ninth place at the end of the first lap. With Stoner out front and pulling away it appeared to be business as usual for the Australian since his championship rival had a half dozen of the best riders in the world between them. Unfortunately for Stoner, this is no ordinary human at the controls of the number 46 Yamaha. It's Rossi.
Setting lap records on consecutive laps, Rossi had the Repsol duo in his sights by lap six. First he put Pedrosa behind him then worked past Hayden two laps later. Only Hopkins lied between him and his quarry by that point.
By the twelfth lap Rossi was hounding Hopkins and eventually made the pass stick following yet another record lap. With everything going so well for Valentino and Nicky, someone else had to feel the ill effects of lady luck and that fate fell to Randy De Puniet and Chris Vermeulen.
The Kawasaki pilot crashed and tumbled into the gravel trap on lap 12, nearly collecting Vermeulen in the process. They two were running 6-7 when the incident occurred and by the time the Rizla rider was back on track he was in 16th position.
It took a dozen laps for Rossi to move into striking distance on Stoner. On the 23rd lap he pulled the trigger and once past, he put distance between them and went on to win his third race of the season by a nearly 2-second margin. Hayden finished third followed by his teammate Dani Pedrosa and Suzuki's John Hopkins.
"It was definitely a tough race out there today and I feel like I've been in a real battle," said Hopper of his fifth place finish. "I really put my heart into that race and worked hard to get that result! The Bridgestone tires worked awesome today and the Rizla Suzuki was great again! A big thanks to my crew this weekend because we didn't have the best of set-up at the start of the weekend, but they improved it tremendously. Now we go on to Germany and I can't wait to get there and just carry on from where we have left off this weekend - I know we will be on that podium again soon!"
Rossi's heroic ride was good enough to chip five points off Stoner's championship lead which now stands at 185-164 with Pedrosa third at 119.
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha Factory Racing 42'37.149
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +1.909
3. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team +6.077
4. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +10.465
5. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +13.138
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing +15.139
7. Alex Barros (BRA) Pramac d'Antin Ducati +36.075
8. Alex Hofmann (GER) Pramac d'Antin Ducati +41.768
9. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing Team +43.605
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) Honda Gresini +43.796
11. Carlos Checa (SPA) LCR Honda
12. Shinya Nakano (JAP) Minolta Honda
13. Makoto Tamada (JAP) Tech 3 Yamaha
14. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Tech 3 Yamaha
15. Kurtis Roberts (USA) Team KR
16. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki
DNF. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team
DNF. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Marlboro Ducati
Round 10 of the MotoGP World Championship will be at Sachsenring, Germany on Sunday 15th July.