With a strong victory at the Assen circuit – never one of his favourite tracks – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner drew level with his main rival for the 2012 championship, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
While Stoner’s win over team-mate Dani Pedrosa was impressive (especially considering he was hurting from a massive high-side in practice) he was greatly helped by Gresini Honda rider Alvaro Bautista, who pulled the dumbest move of the season by crashing in the first corner after the start, taking out Lorenzo and erasing the 2010 champ’s 25-point lead.
A justifiably furious Lorenzo said, “Today was a complete disaster, Alvaro’s move was crazy. I met him after the incident, he apologized and we shook hands but in my opinion this is not enough to justify the accident.”
Bautista has been slapped on the wrist by being put to the back of the grid for the race in Germany next weekend.
The incident also ruined Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow’s race. Riding with an ankle broken and dislocated only a week ago, Crutchlow in fourth was forced off the track to miss the incident and, just as at his home race in England, ended up at the back of the pack when he rejoined. Another gutsy ride landed him a sparkling fifth at the end.
Third should have gone to Yamaha rider Ben Spies, but his rear tire started literally disintegrating in the last few laps, with hand-size chunks missing on the right side. It was so bad the Texan later said, “I was hoping Dovi would get past me as I was worried the tyre would explode and I didn’t want to fall right in front of him.”
The beneficiary of Spies’ problem was Andrea Dovizioso, who’d been close to the factory rider all race and got by on the last lap to grab his second podium of the year.
Behind Crutchlow in sixth was the top Ducati, again ridden by Nicky Hayden with Hector Barbera’s Pramac satellite bike just behind. Valentino Rossi was initially in the group but had to leave the track to replace a rear tire; he rejoined to come in 13th and collect a couple of points.
The top 10 was rounded out by CRT bikes, Aspar Aprilia’s Randy de Puniet claiming a new CRT high with eighth place, albeit on a day when only 14 of the 20 riders finished. Gresini’s Michel Pirro, who had trouble starting his CRT bike on the grid, came close to defeating de Puniet in what was also his best ride of the year, with Mattia Pasini completing the top 10 for Speed Master.
In a Moto 2 race that provided drama from the start at the Assen TT, it was Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez who took a hard-fought victory ahead of Andrea Iannone and Brit Scott Redding. Marquez and Iannone were banging fairings on the last lap, Marquez getting ahead with an outside pass in the last corner.
Top contenders Tom Luthi and Pol Espargaro both crashed out uninjured. The win gives Marquez some breathing room in the title chase ahead of Iannone and Espargaro.
In one of the most hotly contested Moto 3 races this season, positions changed frantically in the final corners. Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales, the series leader, stormed to a narrow victory ahead of Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent. Second through fourth required a photo analysis to determine the positions!
Vinales, Cortese, and fourth-place Luis Salom lead the series.
There was as much action in the gossip as in the racing, as the 2013 rider Silly Season kicked into high gear after Casey Stoner’s surprise retirement. Repsol Honda is almost certain to pick up Marc Marquez now that the “rookie rule” has been canned. Cal Crutchlow is a man in demand; he’s keen on taking Spies’ spot in the Yamaha factory team but it seems Ducati has offered him a spot as well.
Valentino Rossi hasn’t decided what he’s doing; if the Ducati continues to be the turd of the factory bikes expect him to leave, most likely to set up his own team with a satellite Honda. Pol Espargaro is another rider Ducati is interested in, putting Nicky Hayden in a bit of a hot spot. He’s the best Ducati rider this year, is immensely popular with the team and is a critical part of their American sales strategy, but Ducati’s option on his services for 2013 expired this weekend without being taken up.
The game of musical chairs is likely to continue for some time yet.
Moto GP Championship Standings after 7 of 18 Races
1. TIE, Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing / Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 140 points
3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 121
4. Cal Crutchlow, U.K. Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 77
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 76
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Malboro Ducati, 61
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 59
8. Alvao Bautista, Spain, Gresini San Carlo Honda, 58,
9. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 51
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 48
Next race, Sachsenring in Germany, July 8.