Photography by Gold & Goose
Valentino Rossi has done it, the nine-time World Champion ending a two and a half year winless streak to win a classic Dutch MotoGP at the historic Circuit van Drenthe. It was Rossi’s 80th Grand Prix victory in the premiere class and his 106th GP win and this one may have been one of his finest.
If the win alone wasn’t enough, the circumstances surrounding it made it even more impressive – especially if you’re Yamaha. With Jorge Lorenzo suffering a broken collarbone on Thursday, things were looking dismal for the team. Rossi was on form, but Lorenzo looked to be out of the race. Then things changed. Lorenzo had surgery in Spain on Thursday night, flew back to Holland on Friday and took part in morning warm-up today after being declared fit to race. Then the World Champion went out and battled near the front, finishing an amazing fifth just some 36 hours after undergoing surgery.
Lorenzo and Yamaha were helped even more with Rossi winning and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow doing his part in beating championship leader Dani Pedrosa and keeping the Repsol Honda off the podium at the same time.
When the dust had cleared, broken collarbone and all, Lorenzo only lost two points to Pedrosa. Remarkable. He leaves Assen nine points behind his Spanish rival, 136-127.
A better script couldn’t have been written for this one with the drama surrounding Lorenzo and then the classic victory by the sport’s most popular rider. It was Rossi’s first victory since Sepang in 2010, after which the legend went to Ducati for two dismal seasons. With 79 GP victories going into this year after re-signing with Yamaha, even Rossi had doubts that this day would ever come again.
“I’m happy, but I cannot believe,” Rossi said. “It is a great feeling to be back on the first position. It was a long, long time from Sepang in 2010 and in these years I make it to me this question: I can come back on the first position or not? It was tough, but I never give up and I always work because it’s my passion. I love riding and racing motorcycle and I have to thank Yamaha for giving me another chance in the factory team. At the beginning I was not confident in the bike and I have to find the right balance. But from this race I have the better potential because I can ride the bike in a better way and today I have to try to win because this is my day.”
And his day it was.
Rossi took over at the front from fast-starter Pedrosa on the sixth lap and from there he was never headed, the Italian inching away to ultimately beat Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez to the line by 2.170 seconds as the young Spaniard’s hands were full with keeping Crutchlow at bay in the closing stages. Marquez was also riding injured after crashing yesterday and suffering a broken pinkie finger on his right hand and broken big toe on his right foot.
“Today the race, especially in the beginning, was faster than what I expect. I tried to follow Dani [Pedrosa] but he was strong and then Valentino [Rossi] passed me and he was also faster than me. Then I tried to do my best… when I pass Dani I try to catch Valentino but there was too much risk and also I have some pain on the arm. There was too much stress and I didn’t have power in the fingers. Even like that, I’m very happy.”
Crutchlow, who got a bad start from pole position, found himself in the precarious position of being stuck behind Lorenzo for several laps as he tried to push toward the front. With 12 laps to go, however, the Brit was able to safely pass the World Champion and he then set off after Pedrosa. With six laps to go, Crutchlow made the move on Pedrosa to take over third place. He then went after Marquez, getting close enough to hit the Repsol Honda’s rear wheel on the final lap, a move that put Crutchlow wide and off the track and gave the spot to Marquez.
The Brit recovered to finish third with Pedrosa crossing the line some seven seconds clear of Lorenzo, Yamaha’s “man of steel” another 12 seconds ahead of Stefan Bradl, the German having spent the race mostly alone in sixth.
“I think we touched,” Crutchlow said of his last-lap battle with Marquez. “I said to Marc I wanted him to see after the race what Dani sees on TV. It was a difficult race and it was too little too late. I felt we had the potential to challenge Valentino in the front today, but I started too slow again - the first five laps I was wide in all the corners. I am very happy. We have three podiums this early on in the season and it’s good for the championship and we’re making good steps this year. I’m pleased and I’m pleased for the Monster Energy Tech 3 team. We’ve arrived on the podium after my first pole position this weekend.”
Fun & Go Honda’s Alvaro Bautista ended up seventh after holding off the advances of top CRT man Aleix Espargaro.
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith closed in on the two factory Ducatis in the final laps and beat both of them for ninth. Andrea Dovizisio was 10th with his Marlboro Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden 11th.
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Marc Marquez (Honda)
3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
6. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
8. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)