Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden
picked up his first win of the season after an epic battle with Yamaha's Colin Edwards. The Texan rode a valiant race, leading the first 24 laps with Hayden pushing him the entire way. On the final lap Edwards muscled his way past Hayden, who had taken the lead on the previous lap, and retook the lead briefly as the two went through the chicane. The move forced Hayden to go straight and sent Edwards off into the grass - as the Yamaha pilot twisted the throttle of his M1 a bit early he was spit off and sent sprawling to the ground, ending his chase for the win. Meanwhile, Hayden recovered and went on to claim his second career victory in MotoGP and a historic 200th for Honda in the premier class.
"It was a wild one today and I definitely enjoyed it it's just a really good day for me. I'm proud to win for Repsol Honda and really proud to score Honda's 200th win in the top class of Grand Prix too. At the end of the race I felt really good and really strong. Going into the last chicane he was going in so deep so I used a move I used on Hopkins earlier in the race. Honestly it wasn't going to work and I caught neutral, but he ran off the track too."
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano finished in second followed by Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa
. Nakano was in the middle of a number of battles throughout the race and in the end he managed to secure a career-best finish.
"It goes without saying that I'm happy to score my best result in MotoGP
with second place here today," explained Nakano, "although I was happy enough when I thought I was going to finish third. I got a good start, but I just couldn't stay with Colin, Nicky and John during the opening laps. We had to go for a hard front tire because of the rise in temperature this afternoon, and I had some chatter from the front early on in the race. But then it improved and I was able to chase down and pass John as the race approached the halfway stage. At the end I was too far back to see what happened to Colin, but as I came through the final chicane I saw his bike on the side of the track, but it was a second or so before I realized that this meant I was in second place."
Dani Pedrosa found himself in eighth place at the end of the first lap but he worked his way through the pack and then hooked up with fellow rookie Casey Stoner for the final seven. The two youngsters really picked up the pace and were closing in on the leaders when the checkered flag came out.
"I will have to improve at the beginning of races because I am often struggling a little there," said Pedrosa. "On the last lap Stoner tried to overtake me and in the last section I re-overtook him and we almost touched once so it was pretty close. Nicky and Colin's pace was a bit faster than mine so I think third position is good for the team, and I was also lucky because Colin crashed at the last corner and gave me the final place on the podium. It wasnt a perfect result for me today, but the Michelins worked well today so I'm happy about that. The championship is more open this year than normal, I'm new in this class so being in second place is very good, but I still have a lot to learn."
Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins rode a great race and looked to be battling for a podium finish from his pole starting position but he could not hold off late charges from Pedrosa, Stoner and Roberts. He finished in sixth, Vermeulen rounded out the top ten.
"I guess we can say that we did what we could," said a dejected Hopkins. "The bike worked well at the beginning of the race, we got away pretty good and it seemed to be too easy just hanging with Colin. We were doing the best we could but the bike just started to slide around, and when you are on the side of the tire so much - like you are here - it can really affect you if you and unfortunately I dropped back."
Kenny Roberts keeps on producing for Team Roberts. Junior ended the afternoon in fifth place, just behind the Honda-mounted rookie duo of Pedrosa and Stoner.
Yamaha's Valentino Rossi rode a gritty race despite the broken hand. The Italian finished in eighth, picked up valuable championship points and once again proved he has the heart of a champion. "That was a really hard race for me but Doctor Costa, Marco Montanari and the entire Clinica Mobile team did a great job on my hand and I was able to race until the end. I was in some pain, especially at the start and I wasn't able to ride at 100% of my ability, but it was okay. At the start I was worried how it would go, but when the adrenalin kicked in I started to feel like I could race and by the time we got to the midway point I was feeling much better and having some fun. I lost strength in my hand over the last three laps but I was able to hang on and we picked up some decent points in eighth place. The team have done a great job this weekend in difficult conditions. I wasn't able to do many laps in practice so they didn't have much data but the bike and the tyres felt great so I have to say a big thanks to everybody. I feel very sorry for Colin - he rode a great race and he was unlucky to make the mistake at the end because he deserved to win."
That fact is a small consolation for Edwards, who was on the verge of winning his first-ever race in MotoGP. Fortunately, it's a long season and the Texan will be even more motivated to get that elusive win.
"The bike felt great from the start and I was really enjoying riding it out there," says Edwards of his effort at Assen. "I knew my pace in practice would be hard for the other guys to cope with and that's how it proved to be. I got the start I wanted and just kept my head down, doing those times. When Nicky came up inside me two laps from the end he left the pass pretty late and there was nowhere for me to turn the bike into. I had to go straight and luckily it was at a point of the track where I could run back on again. I was determined not to lose hold of him and just gave it everything to give myself a chance on the last lap. I got past him and then tried to keep a really defensive line out of the final corner - I had no idea Nicky had run onto the gravel otherwise I wouldn't have needed to do it. Unfortunately I ran it a bit too tight onto the grass and the rear just spun up as I opened the throttle and it threw me off. I'm gutted but fair play to Nicky, it was a great race."
1. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
2. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Casey Stoner (Honda)
5. Kenny Roberts (Team KR)
6. John Hopkins (Suzuki)
7. Marco Melandri (Honda)
8. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
9. Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
10. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
11. Makoto Tamada (Honda)
12. Alex Hofmann (Ducati)
13. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
14. Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki)
15. Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
16. Ivan Silva (Ducati)
17. Jose Luis Cardoso (Ducati)
DNF: James Ellison (Yamaha)
1. Hayden, 144
2. Pedrosa, 102
3. Capirossi, 100
4. Rossi, 98
5. Melandri, 98