MOTOGP: Ben Spies takes maiden win in Assen

Ben Spies looked the class of the field from the green flag and duly went on to a jubilant win. The question is why the race itself didn’t manage to come to life in the same way.

Ben Spies got the best start of anyone off the grid on Assen – on the highly unusual Saturday afternoon timing for the event as is traditional for the “Dutch TT” race rather than this new-fangled MotoGP schedule.

Jorge Lorenzo slotted into second and seemed set to surge into the lead, but then appeared to have to check up through the first corners which gave Spies an opportunity to suddenly break away by a couple of bike lengths.

It also gave Marco Simoncelli – the polesitter who had dropped to third – the hint of a chink in Lorenzo’s armour and the possibility of an opening down the inside line into the first left hander. Simoncelli needs no second invitation at such times and duly made the dive through; he pulled it off, but seemed to have forgotten the problem that everyone had been experiencing throughout the weekend with cold tyres through left-hander early in the race.

The Gresini Honda immediately reacted as badly as we had come to expected, and bucked Simoncelli off. Unfortunately it also collected Lorenzo as well, and the two drivers went crashing out; Lorenzo was able to pick himself up and his Yamaha seemed relatively unscathed, so he was able to get right back into the race albeit at the back of the field; Simoncelli’s ride was a bit more worse for wear and was shedding bodywork as it went, and also took an agonising age to bump start again, but he too was finally able to rejoin the race.

Eventually Lorenzo would fight his way back up to sixth – impressive work in the circumstances – while Simoncelli made his way back up to ninth. But the anger between the two was burning bright, with Lorenzo calling for Simoncelli to receive a race ban after this incident, while Marco himself protested his innocence once more.

“I tried to overtake Lorenzo in the second turn, and my feeling was I didn’t take too high a risk, but I lost the rear – I think through a cold tyre – without throttle, in the middle of the corner,” Simoncelli told the official MotoGP website. “I crashed and I also involved Lorenzo in the crash. I’m sorry for that, and I’m sorry for him,” added Simoncelli.

“If I were in the safety commission I’d take away his licence for several races … It seems he doesn’t think too much. I thought he had learned from all the controversies he has created in the past but obviously he didn’t,” said a living Jorge. “He is still as reckless as always and the good thing is that I didn’t get injured, that I’m fine and that I managed to score a few points. But I honestly think that if he doesn’t change his attitude he will injure more riders in the future.”

Dani Pedrosa is still not back racing after breaking his collarbone following a crash with Simoncelli at Le Mans in May. However, despite Lorenzo’s wishes, no further action was taken against Simoncelli he spoke with the race stewards officials.

Lorenzo and Simoncelli’s recover rides were helped by the retirements of Randy de Puniet and Karel Abraham after accidents in the first two laps, with Abraham breaking his little finger in the process.

Cal Crutchlow was also cost two laps by having to come into the pits with technical problems putting him two laps down. a particular shame for the British driver after he battled to return to active duty after only a single week off with his own broken collarbone injury. He had been locked in a fascinating battle for fourth with Valentino Rossi, as the former world champion tried out a daring hybrid of 2011 and 2012 Ducati bike technologies in an effort to lift them out of their recent slump following the departure of Casey Stoner to Honda.

Talking of Stoner, he had inherited second place after the Lorenzo/Simoncelli clash on the first lap, but the accident had cost him and his Honda team mate Andrea Dovizioso vital seconds and allowed Spied an immediate big cushion out on front. As a result, the Hondas were oddly subdued and seemed unable to carry the battle to the American, who duly picked up his first MotoGP win by almost eight seconds by the end of the 26 lap race.

Unfortunately, the Lorenzo/Simoncelli accident had rather robbed the race of its colour and potential for an exciting race, and while Spies celebrated a well-deserved victory, fans could be forgiven for being somewhat underwhelmed having been hoping for something so much more.

Race results

Pos  Rider             Team/Bike          Time/Gap
 1.  Ben Spies         Yamaha           41:44.659s
 2.  Casey Stoner      Honda           +    7.697s
 3.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda           +   27.506s
 4.  Valentino Rossi   Ducati          +   30.684s
 5.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati          +   43.172s
 6.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha          +   44.536s
 7.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha   + 1:08.112s
 8.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Honda           + 1:10.753s
 9.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda   + 1:24.925s
10.  Toni Elias        LCR Honda       + 1:26.216s
11.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki          + 1:38.466s
12.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati    +     1 lap
13.  Kousuke Akiyoshi  Gresini Honda   +     1 lap
14.  Cal Crutchlow     Tech 3 Yamaha   +    2 laps

Retirements:

     Karel Abraham     Cardion Ducati        1 lap
     Randy de Puniet   Pramac Ducati        0 laps

Championship standings

Pos Driver            Pts   Pos Constructor  Pts
1.  Casey Stoner      136   1. Honda        165
2.  Jorge Lorenzo     108   2. Yamaha       139
3.  Andrea Dovizioso   99   3. Ducati       89
4.  Valentino Rossi    81   4. Suzuki       33
5.  Nicky Hayden       71   
6.  Daniel Pedrosa     61   
7.  Ben Spies          61   
8.  Hiroshi Aoyama     51   
9.  Colin Edwards      46   
10. Marco Simoncelli   39   
11. Hector Barbera     35   
12. Toni Elias         34   
13. Karel Abraham      33   
14. Cal Crutchlow      32   
15. Alvaro Bautista    27
16. Loris Capirossi    22
17. Randy de Puniet    10
18. John Hopkins        6
19. Kousuke Akiyoshi    3
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