MotoGP: 2010 Assen Results

Lorenzo wins, Pedrosa places, and Stoner finally shows

Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo cut another notch into what will be his 2010 championship belt Saturday in the TT Assen, leading wire to wire and piling another 10 points onto his ballooning margin. He was joined on the podium by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and, for the first time this season, Ducati Marlboro star Casey Stoner. The 80th anniversary edition of the heralded Dutch Grand Prix started only 15 riders, marking a new low for the series. Thus is was that Interwetten Honda’s Kousouke Akiyoshi, subbing for the injured Hiroshi Aoyama, was able to increase his championship point total, from zero to one, while getting lapped. Lord have mercy.

Lorenzo, for his part, was regular as a piston as he put forth just enough effort to win comfortably. After Lap 1, his slowest lap was 1:35.9 and his quickest was 1:34.6. Once again, he wasted little motion, tended to his own business and remained steady and focused. Pedrosa, on the other hand, enjoyed his usual rocket start, this week from the seven-hole, and made a number of moves in the first six laps trying to overtake Lorenzo. Each time, Lorenzo closed him out, seeming at times to be teasing his miniature countryman. Stoner was rock-steady all day, starting third, finishing third, and appearing determined to podium or die trying, desperate to get his 2010 season untracked.

Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner took all three spots on the podium at Assen.

Today’s race accomplished a number of things for the riders. Lorenzo is running on a different level from the rest of the contenders; barring injury, he will easily win the 2010 championship. Either Pedrosa or teammate Andrea Dovizioso will finish second this season, as they continue to take turns beating one another silly. Today, Pedrosa stormed past Dovi into second place for the season. The Italian figures to be looking to return the favor next week in Barcelona. Stoner, after a baffling start to his season, appears to be back on track, and his confidence appears to have returned.

The Rest of the Best

American rookie Ben Spies enjoyed another highly successful day on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, starting and finishing fourth and securing another 13 championship points. He was all up in Lorenzo’s face for the first few laps, but got eaten up by the big dogs around Lap 4 and settled back into fifth. Later in the day he was able to work his way past Dovizioso into fourth, with Dovi then relegated to a dogfight for fifth place with Randy de Puniet that the Italian eventually won.

Ed: Randy de Puniet is still sixth in the standings, Bruce. Just sayin'.

A word here about de Puniet, on whom my editor at thinks I’m too rough. He is, at least for now, the top satellite rider out there, although I’d bet the ranch that Spies will steal that honor before season’s end. He’s a qualifying fool as he showed again this week, starting from the middle of the first row. My problems with de Puniet are two. First, he NEVER races as hard as he qualifies – today he advanced from second to sixth. Second, when positions are being hotly contested at the end of races, he consistently loses the race within the race. Today, he led Dovizioso with three laps left, and you just KNEW Dovi was going to beat him, because Dovi is a closer. It did appear that de Puniet was riding on his rims, his rear tire having completely disintegrated by then, and so this most recent defeat wasn’t due to a lack of, um, conviction.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was a non-factor today, joining compatriot Colin Edwards for a leisurely stroll through the middle of the pack. Edwards, who seemed quite happy about finishing ninth at Silverstone, will probably be ecstatic about coming in eighth today.

Nicky Hayden finished seventh in Assen, ceding his usual fourth-place position to fellow American Ben Spies.

Rookie Marco Simoncelli, the only San Carlo Honda rider out there today after teammate Marco Melandri tore up his shoulder Saturday in practice, enjoyed another satisfying outing, beating Pramac Racing’s Aleix Espargaro by a nose to take ninth, and moving into ninth place for the season. Espargaro’s teammate Mika Kallio, working himself out of a job this season, did manage to edge Hector Barbara at the wire in another epic battle for 11th place. Although Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi did manage to finish the race today, he and teammate Alvaro Bautista outworked only the aforementioned Akiyoshi in the futility department.

The Big Picture

A third of the way through the season, Lorenzo enjoys a stranglehold on the standings, with 140 points to second place Pedrosa’s 93. Dovizioso sits alone in third with 89. Ignoring the idled Rossi, Hayden and de Puniet round out the top six. Calling to mind George and Weezy Jefferson, Casey Stoner and Ben Spies are “movin’ on up”, currently residing in seventh and eighth places. Rookie Simoncelli enjoys a five point lead over Colin Edwards, currently tenth, upon whom the sun of a long and relatively successful career seems to be setting.

They’re Dropping Like Flies, and Coming Back as Old Japanese Guys

Kousouke Akiyoshi doesn't look to excited about the race, even though he knows all he needs to do to score a point is finish the race.The attrition in the premier class has now assumed alarming proportions. Melandri’s highside crash on Saturday reduced the number of bikes on the grid today to 15, meaning everyone that finished the race would score points. This, in turn, means that had the Interwetten team experienced a complete, catastrophic loss of judgment and named me as Aoyama’s replacement, I could have scored a MotoGP championship point today, despite not having set foot, er, um, butt on a motorcycle for well over thirty years. NOT at all what Dorna and FIM have in mind for their flagship series.

Joining Akiyoshi next week at Catalunya, wearing Fiat Yamaha livery, will be one Wataru Yoshikawa, a 41-year old Yamaha test rider. The domino effect engendered by a Spies/Toseland/Crutchlow nomination was clearly too much for the stolid Japanese powers that be. Thus, the compromise candidate, who is older, even, than Loris Capirossi, can be expected to give Akiyoshi a run for his money for the last championship point available in Spain.

Although it’s gotta be a dream come true for Yoshikawa, it’s a sign of a disturbing dilution of talent in the MotoGP premier class and a direct result of the success of Moto2. Lorenzo and Pedrosa may need to lighten up a little next week, lest they lap one of these guys twice and bring on a ritual suicide watch in the paddock.

The Latest from the Idle Speculation Department

The race announcers today were going on at length about the movement of riders and teams in store for next season, and speaking as though the changes were as good as done. Accordingly, next season we’ll supposedly see Casey Stoner joining both Pedrosa and Dovizioso in a three bike factory Honda team, with Dovi allegedly working out of a separate garage and sporting Red Bull livery. Rossi will join Hayden at Ducati. The factory Yamaha team will feature Jorge Lorenzo joined by Ben Spies. The Big Six will become The Big Seven.

Ben Spies put in another strong performance, qualifying and finishing in fourth.

Rather than borrowing trouble and contributing to this chatter, we will shut our piehole and quietly look forward to El Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya next week. But not until we remind readers that our prediction last week of Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner on the Assen podium was, ahem, right on the money.

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