It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for racing in the Netherlands as the Assen TT began, but you’d think the conditions were less than ideal as the first of several crashes took place in the first lap of the race.
To the shock of the audience, Jorge Lorenzo (#99) and Alvaro Bautista (#19) crashed out in a smoky pile at the beginning of the first lap. A palpable sigh of disgust was heard through the crowd as it become clear from the replay that Bautista had caused the accident. The view from Ben Spies’ (#11) on-board camera clearly captured Bautista missing the first turn and taking out Lorenzo.
Bautista, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head, had no words for the dumbfounded Lorenzo.
Attention then focused back on the race with Dani Pedrosa (#26) and Casey Stoner (#1) leading the pack into the second lap, with Spies and Andrea Dovizioso (#4) nipping at their heels coming into Lap 3.
But it wasn’t long before Stefan Bradl (#6) missed a turn and rode across the grass, crashing out just before starting his second lap.
It was clearly a Honda race for first as Stoner and Pedrosa vied for the lead in the fourth lap. Spies and Dovizioso fell more than 1.5 seconds behind the Repsol pair.
Further back, Valentino Rossi (#46) gained traction and moved to fifth place coming into Lap 4, but was still several seconds behind Spies and Dovizioso. There’s no doubt that the Hondas are outperforming the rest of the teams here at the Assen TT Circuit.
Crash outs continued in Lap 5 with Yonny Hernandez (#68) leaving the track.
The race for first continued in Lap 6 as the crowd focused its attention on the middle pack with Rossi, Hector Barbera (#8), Nicky Hayden (#69) and Cal Crutchlow (#35) riding together, hoping for a place on the podium.
Pedrosa, Stoner, Spies and Dovizioso dominated the track in Lap 7, with the Hondas remaining firmly in the lead.
Colin Edwards (#35), plagued with problems this season, entered the pit in Lap 7, and would not return to the race.
Dovizioso edged out Spies in Lap 8 to take third place, while further back, Hayden beat out Rossi for fifth.
Hayden, Rossi, Barbera and Crutchlow continued to fight for the lead of the middle pack. Pedrosa was still out in front, but Stoner was a mere .007 seconds behind — the win was still up for grabs.
Aleix Espargo (#41) climbed to ninth in Lap 11 and Spies moved into third, narrowly beating out Dovizioso. There was no doubt, however, coming into Lap 13, that one of the Hondas would take the prize today; both a comfortable seven seconds ahead of Spies and Dovizioso.
Lap 14 moved Hayden and Crutchlow to fifth and sixth place, respectively, but Rossi fell to eighth.
Esparago crashed out in Lap 15 allowing Randy De Punet (#14), Michele Pirro (#51), Mattia Pasini (#54) and Ivan Silva (#22) to move up. Crutchlow edged Hayden out of fifth but the Repsoll team continued to dominate the track. Spies was a full one second ahead of Dovizioso — could the American take a spot on the podium here in the Netherlands?
In Lap 16, Rossi headed into the pits, but quickly returned to the track. Unfortunately, he never regained his position and was lapped by the top four racers in the next lap.
Stoner edged out Pedrosa coming into Lap 17, while Barbara moved into sixth place, Hayden fell to seventh.
With seven laps to go and the Repsol team anxiously looking on, Stoner continued in first with a .951 second lead over Pedrosa.
Coming into Lap 20, Stoner held a commanding lead, gaining more than a second on Pedrosa. Despite problems earlier in the week, Stoner rode at his best today with a top speed of 288.2 KPH and lap time of 1’35.399.
Narrowly escaping yet another crash, Barbera lost grip and pushed Hayden into the grass. At the same time, Pedrosa rode his best lap — but could he catch Stoner?
Spies remained in third, with Dovizioso hot on his heels, only .5 seconds separating them in Lap 22.
With three laps remaining, the competition between Spies and Dovizioso got even more intense — a mere .06 separated third and fourth place. It was anyone’s guess who would capture the coveted podium spot.
Just one lap to go, and the race for points was furious. Far out in front, Stoner appeared to have clinched the win with Pedrosa coming in second; Spies and Dovizioso swapped positions at every turn.
Speeding into the straight, Casey Stoner raced, literally, into first at a speed of 298 KPH, to become Championship co-leader with Jorge Lorenzo. Dani Pedrosa took a hard-fought second.
But it was Dovizioso who took third, while Spies lost more than three seconds in the last lap. This was Dovizioso’s second time on the podium this season.
Next weekend, we’re off to Germany and Sachsenring!