With the Dutch weather improving from the scattered rains of Friday, to just a grey gloom for Saturdays’ Dutch TT, MotoGP had a cool, but dry race day in Holland. This would bode well for the Hondas, who gambled on the tire selection, going with the softer of the two compounds available from Bridgestone, while the Yamahas played a more conservative game on the harder compound (Ducati chose the lesser of its two evils, opting for the harder compounding, though knowing it wouldn’t last the race).
As the premier-class headed into three back-to-back races, the bids for the 2012 MotoGP Championship were certain to get heated at Assen, the first of the three stops. Sitting on pole was Casey Stoner, who put in a fantastic exhibition of speed during the closing minutes of Friday’s qualifying. Despite Stoner’s performance, teammate Dani Pedrosa and Championship-rival Jorge Lorenzo couldn’t be counted out from the hunt either.
With Alvaro Bautista sitting fourth on the grid, the satellite Honda rider has found a new form in the past two races, and of course the battle between the three remaining Hondas has been entertaining to watch, as they fight for the last remaining factory seat at Yamaha Racing for the 2013 season and onwards. So as the lights went out, and the riders headed into Turn 1 at Assen, the Dutch track revealed the next chapter of our MotoGP saga.
It was Pedrosa who took the lead going into the first turn, but it was Bautista who stole the show at the first corner. Entering Turn 1 hot and on the brakes, the Spaniard lost the front end of his San Carlo Gresini Honda, taking out the former-World Champion in the process. With Crutchlow having to enter the gravel to avoid Bautista and Lorenzo, much of the race’s outcome was sadly determined by the incident.
This left Pedrosa and Stoner to runaway with the race, as the Australian mirrored the Spaniards every move down the track. Following in third was Ben Spies, who found Andrea Dovizioso close behind, with Stefan Bradl, Nicky Hayden, and Valentino Rossi trailing. Up front Stoner let Pedrosa do the heavy lifting with only a hair’s breathe separating the two riders, until 10 laps remained and the Australian made his move past his teammate, putting the hammer down until the finish line.
While Pedrosa and Stoner battled, the last step on the podium also become a point of contention, with the two anglophone Yamaha riders making moves on each other until the last remaining laps. Complaining of tire chunking, Spies saw Dovi go past, and didn’t respond to the Italian’s pass, expecting his tire to explode at any moment. This makes the race outcome another chapter in the bad luck book of Spies this season, and losing out to Dovizioso in the process is not helping the American one iota.
The battle for fifth was tightly contested by the Ducatis (sans Karel Abraham who was a DNS because of his hand injury), as well as Cal Crutchlow who had made his way back from the rear of the field. With Nicky Hayden the fastest of the Italian bikes, Rossi would have to wave the white flag, as he too was having tire issues. Coming into the pits, with 10 laps remaining, the Ducati Corse crew put a fresh tire on Rossi’s bike so the nine-time World Champion could salvage some points from the weekend.
With Crutchlow getting past Hayden and Barbara, the Honey Badger finished a comfortable fifth, while Hayden eased his way past Barbara, who was having tremendous issues with his machine, as well as his tires. With a bevy of riders finding the tarmac, the Dutch TT became a race of attrition, and while it may not have been the show fans wanted to watch, it should prove to have a significant impact on the 2012 Championship.
With today’s result, Stoner and Lorenzo are now tied in the Championship points standings. That tie-breaker will come soon enough though, as MotoGP returns next weekend with the German GP at Sachsenring.
Race Results from the Dutch TT at Assen, The Netherlands:
|1||Casey STONER||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||41’19.855|
|2||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+4.965|
|3||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+11.994|
|4||Ben SPIES||USA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||+14.775|
|5||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+22.074|
|6||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+31.660|
|7||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||+59.107|
|8||Randy DE PUNIET||FRA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||+1’04.441|
|9||Michele PIRRO||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||FTR||+1’06.980|
|10||Mattia PASINI||ITA||Speed Master||ART||+1’25.087|
|11||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Came IodaRacing Project||Ioda||+1’32.103|
|12||Ivan SILVA||SPA||Avintia Blusens||BQR||+1’33.797|
|13||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||1 Lap|
|14||James ELLISON||GBR||Paul Bird Motorsport||ART||1 Lap|
|Aleix ESPARGARO||SPA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||12 Laps|
|Colin EDWARDS||USA||NGM Mobile Forward Racing||Suter||19 Laps|
|Yonny HERNANDEZ||COL||Avintia Blusens||BQR||21 Laps|
|Stefan BRADL||GER||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||25 Laps|
|Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||0 Lap|
|Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Ducati||0 Lap|
Source: MotoGP; Photo: HRC