Yamaha's Ben Spies took his first ever win in MotoGP more than seven seconds ahead of the field at Assen.
American Ben Spies
claimed the first MotoGP
win of his career at the Assen TT on Saturday. Despite being eclipsed by San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli during qualifying on Friday, Spies rode a nearly flawless race under overcast skies to take the checkers more than seven seconds ahead of Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner
and Andrea Dovizioso. In doing so Spies has become the first former World Superbike champ to win a MotoGP race since Troy Bayliss – all while celebrating Yamaha’s 50th Anniversary at the Dutch Grand Prix. Spies' triumph coincides with another controversy for Marco Simoncelli, the pole position starter crashing on the first lap and taking out rival Jorge Lorenzo in the process.
“It was a strange race today as it was one of the most comfortable races we had and it resulted in a win," said Spies. "I saw the Simoncelli crash on the TV screen in the corner of my eye so I knew about it. I had a good feeling in the bike in the first couple of laps and had to push as much as I could to get a gap. When Casey was pushing back I still had a few tenths if I needed to, we could always match the pace. To do it this weekend with the 50th colors gives a little bit of pressure but it came out good! I was racing as hard as I could, I have to thank my guys; they gave me a great bike today. At least we’ve won a race now!”
An early crash by Marco Simoncelli (below) also took out Jorge Lorenzo (above), giving Spies the advantage.
The opening lap consisted of much drama as Simoncelli and Lorenzo
collided with each other in the third corner and both went down. Though not out of the race completely, it pushed both riders to the back of the field while Spies seized the opportunity to take the lead ahead of Honda teammates Stoner and Dovizioso. Just two laps into the contest Spies was leading Stoner by more than four seconds, making it clear early on that this was going to be the American’s day.
As the race wore on Stoner chiseled away some of Spies’ advantage, but tire wear became a factor for Stoner and he couldn’t keep up his attack. Dovizioso would engage Stoner briefly in a fight for the runner-up position, but the Italian couldn’t match the Aussie’s pace. Stoner went on to collect second place and extend his lead in the series ahead of Lorenzo by eight more points. The day was also a positive for Dovizioso, who picked up his third top-three finish of the year.
"Today we would have liked to challenge for the win but the way this weekend has gone for us I'm really very happy for a podium finish and to take some valuable points," said Stoner.
"I’m really happy with todays’ podium," Dovizioso said. "It’s a good result for the Championship and also it has come after a complicated race weekend."
Meanwhile Ducati men Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden both got decent starts and by Lap 5 Rossi was running fourth just behind Dovizioso. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was keeping Rossi honest in fifth and running a good pace, but the Brit eventually had to pull into the pits after completely wearing down his front tire. He later returned to the race, but was a non-factor and finished in a disappointing 14th. Unchallenged for fourth, Rossi held down the position through the remaining laps and finished just three seconds off the podium with his GP11.1, followed by Hayden in fifth.
Though Lorenzo started the race in ugly fashion, the Spaniard finished on a positive note after working his way through the field to earn sixth at the checkers. The defending champ's hard work helped minimize the damage in the championship standings.
Ducati's Valentino Rossi earned fourth during his debut race aboard the GP11.1.
"The good thing is that we finished in sixth and took some points," Lorenzo said. "I was fast with a good pace. The championship is now more difficult so we have to go all out to win races and go fast. We are making changes to the bike that are making it better with stability to brake harder and deeper so I think we can go to Mugello and be more competitive like Ben [Spies] demonstrated today."
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards collected seventh in the order following his first podium of the season in the last round. The Texas was followed just over two and a half seconds later by Hiroshi Aoyama, who snagged eighth at the line while filling-in for the injured Dani Pedrosa with Repsol Honda. After push-starting his own motorcycle to rejoin the race following his crash, Simoncelli finished in ninth nearly a minute and a half off the lead pace. LCR Honda’s Toni Elias finished just behind the Italian to round out the top-10 finishers in Round 7.
Frenchman Randy de Puniet and Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham had crashes early that put a stop to their campaigns. It was the fourth recorded DNF of the season for De Puniet, who is currently 17th in the standings.
The Simoncelli crash, a seemingly routine occurance now at every Grand Prix, is sure to spark more controversy. Having already been summoned by Race Direction following his incident with Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans, Super Sic also notably got into it with Lorenzo at an earlier press conference. The subject of the terse Lorenzo/Simoncelli exchange being the Italian's agressive tactics.
“Of course Simoncelli doesn’t want to throw me off the track, that wasn’t his intention but I think he is not very conscious about the risks in this class with these tires," Lorenzo said after the Assen race. "I thought he learnt from the past and the polemic he created with Dani [Pedrosa] but it’s clear he hasn’t learned."
“In this race you can’t put it all down to bad luck, but the truth is that I was very naive," said Simoncelli. "It was the first left hander, the asphalt was cold and, although I don’t think that I went in too hard to get past Lorenzo, I felt that I couldn’t hold back because I was third and close to the front two. There was time though, and I could have waited. I am unhappy to have caught Lorenzo up in my crash and can only apologize to him. The only consolation, small as it is, is that I was able to pick the bike up and finish the race and put down some good times –despite having parts and pegs missing from the bike and the back of my helmet digging in."
Assen MotoGP Results:
Teammates Casey Stoner (above) and Andrea Dovizioso (below) both made it on the podium for Repsol Honda.
1. Ben Spies (Yamaha)
2. Casey Stoner (Honda)
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
4. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
6. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
9. Marco Simoncelli (Honda)
10. Toni Elias (Honda)
11. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki)
12. Hector Barbera (Ducati)
13. Kousuke Akiyoshi (Honda)
14. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
DNF Randy de Puniet (Ducati)
DNF Karel Abraham (Ducati)
2011 MotoGP Championship Points:
1. Casey Stoner, 136
2. Jorge Lorenzo, 108
3. Andrea Dovizioso, 99
4. Valentino Rossi, 81
5. Nicky Hayden, 71
6. Dani Pedrosa, 61
7. Ben Spies, 61
8. Hiroshi Aoyama, 51
9. Colin Edwards, 46
10. Marco Simoncelli, 39
Current 125cc champion, Marc Marquez, pulled through for Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol at Assen. The 18-year-old crossed the finish line first and in doing so moved six places in the overall standings up to second. Technomag-CIP’s Kenan Sofuoglu came in second for the Turkish rider’s first podium of the season, followed by Tech 3’s Bradley Smith in third.
After winning the race at Assen Marc Marquez is now second in the Moto2 Championship.
"I am very happy with today's result and I have to thank my team for the job they are doing during the whole season, because they help me a lot," Marquez said. "The race was very complicated, especially due to the conditions we had. I had a good race, but the rain did not make things easier, although it went fairly well."
Sofuoglu and Smith both battled up front along with Marquez and Gresini Racing’s Yuki Takahashi. Takahashi eventually made it up to second, but shortly afterward the Japanese rider crashed out with just four laps remaining. Meanwhile MZ Racing’s Anthony West posted his best finish of the year so far in fourth ahead of JiR Moto2’s Alex de Angelis. The race became especially chaotic toward the end when the track began to dry and rain tires started deteriorating. Crashes quickly claimed a number of riders including Viessmann Kiefer Racing’s Stefan Bradl, Gresini Racing’s Michele Pirro, Forward Racing’s Jules Cluzel, Pons HP 40’s Axel Pons, Avintia-STX’s Kenny Noyes and Tech 3 B’s Xavier Simeon.
In the end Marquez found his way to the top for the win by more than two seconds ahead of Sofuoglu. Despite leading for eight of the 24 laps, Smith had to settle for third after being passed by Sofuoglu with four laps to go.
Assen Moto2 Results:
1. Marc Marquez (Suter)
2. Kenan Sofuoglu (Suter)
3. Bradley Smith (Tech 3)
4. Anthony West (MZ-RE Honda)
5. Alex de Angelis (Motobi)
Stefan Bradl lost points on Marc Marquez in the Moto2 Championship when he crashed on Lap 20 at Assen.
6. Mattia Pasini (FTR)
7. Esteve Rabat (FTR)
8. Thomas Luthi (Suter)
9. Randy Krummenacher (Kalex)
10. Max Neurkirchner (MZ-RE Honda)
11. Alex Baldolini (Suter)
12. Andrea Iannone (Suter)
13. Yonny Hernandez (FTR)
14. Simone Corsi (FTR)
15. Claudio Corti (Suter)
2011 Moto2 Championship Points:
1. Stefan Bradl, 127
2. Marc Marquez, 70
3. Simone Corsi, 67
4. Bradley Smith, 63
5. Yuki Takahashi, 56
6. Thomas Luthi, 56
7. Andrea Iannone, 53
8. Alex de Angelis, 53
9. Julian Simon, 49
10. Michele Pirro, 37