MotoGP 2011 Assen Results

Spies! Spies! Spies!


On a Low Country Saturday that was kind of wet, not quite dry, dismally cloudy and mainly weird, American Ben Spies rode the factory Yamaha M1 to his first ever premier class win.

The win came on Yamaha’s 50th anniversary of MotoGP competition when, in a perfect world, teammate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo should have tasted victory. Lorenzo, however, was unseated early in Lap 1 by Marco Simoncelli who, attempting to go through on cold tires, crashed once again and had a material, and negative, effect on the race result.

The story of the 2011 Assen TT was largely told in the first two minutes of the race. First, there was the crash involving Simoncelli and Lorenzo. Spies, who was slightly ahead of the action, suddenly found himself 2.5 seconds in front of the field.

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Moments later, rookie Karel Abraham, who again was the top qualifying Ducati on the grid, crashed out, apparently suffering an injury to his hand. This was followed immediately by the customary and ignominious exit of Randy de Puniet who, for the fifth time in seven outings, was unable to coax his Pramac Ducati across the finish line. Stoner went through on Dovizioso on the second lap, and it was a procession from then on.

Today’s tilt did put a halt to Repsol Honda mullah Casey Stoner’s string of three straight wins and boosted Spies’ spirits in what had been a rather disappointing season for the Texan. It marked the first time he had ever finished in front of Lorenzo, and put him in a tie with the idled Dani Pedrosa in sixth place for the season. It marked the first win by a non-Alien since Andrea Dovizioso’s upset at Donington in 2009, and breathed some fresh air into what was becoming another predictable season. But, it was made possible only by Simoncelli, who again showed us he is the dumbest least spatially-aware rider on the grid. No need for further proof, Marco – we’re all convinced. Really.

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Most everyone knows how Simoncelli singlehandedly ruined the 2011 season for Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa with his reckless attempt to pass at Le Mans. Today’s crash occurred with the polesitting Italian attempting to pass Lorenzo on cold tires. It is due only to sheer luck that Lorenzo was able to continue racing, eventually roaring back from 15th place to finish a respectable sixth. Had he retired, he would now trail Stoner by 38 points, with any hope of repeating as world champion essentially gone. Simoncelli has now removed Pedrosa from the competition, and today came within a whisker of doing the same to Lorenzo. Andrea Dovizioso, sitting handsomely in third place for the year, needs to watch his back. As for the strategic-thinking Stoner, it’s probably no coincidence that you rarely see him anywhere near #58, either on the track or off it.

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I’d like to devote a little space here to the emerging dominance of the American riders in the premier class. (Unfortunately, such a claim would be fatuous, but I’d enjoy making it.) In addition to Spies’ fabulous ride, Ducati second fiddle Nicky Hayden managed another decent finish in 5th place, trailing teammate Valentino Rossi. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha pilot Colin Edwards, fresh off his own broken collarbone and ridiculous podium finish in Britain, managed 7th today, despite having what appeared to be serious tire problems that started mid-race and kept him from another top five finish.

Valentino Rossi’s 2011 Mid-Season Assen Test

Unlike the situations in the factory Yamaha and Repsol Honda garages, where things are looking up, the situation in the factory Ducati garage is unsettled at best. Rossi tried out his new GP11.1 this weekend, despite practice conditions that made such a change highly difficult. FP1 was run in the rain. FP2 was cancelled due to rain and oil on the track from a Moto2 crash. FP3, designated FP2, was run on a dry track, as was qualifying. The warm-up practice was wet, while the race itself was declared dry. Not the kind of conditions that make finding the optimal set-up on a new bike easy, or even possible.

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Rossi was quick in FP1 and respectable (5th) in FP2. But he qualified only 11th before running at the top of the sheet in the wet warm-up. His somewhat nondescript 4th place finish today would have likely been 6th or 7th, without the first lap crash and if Edwards’ tires had held up better. It’s too soon to say whether the GP11.1 is the answer, or even an answer. For Rossi, today became an in-season testing day that happened to have been attended by 100,000 fans. With only a week before his important home race at Mugello, his team has its work cut out for it.

My Favorite Statistic

The editors at Motorcycle.com, who are generally a kind and tolerant group, have taken issue in the past with my picking on Randy de Puniet. I observed at the start of last season that he generally qualified higher than he finished, and he came through for me in all but two races. I was going to track his results again this year, but have been frustrated by the fact that he crashes pretty much every week, rendering the point moot.

Good news. RDP has now been supplanted in this unsavory competition by none other than Marco Simoncelli, whose season to date looks like this:

Marco Simoncelli's Year So Far
Event Qualified Finished
Qatar 4th 5th
Jerez 5th DNF
Estoril 2nd DNF
Le Mans 2nd 5th
Catalunya 1st 6th
Silverstone 2nd DNF
Assen 1st 9th

Elsewhere on the Grid

Andrea Dovizioso now has six top-four finishes and three podiums in seven races this season. Mr. Consistency gets less respect than any of the other factory riders … Hiroshi Aoyama’s week as a factory Repsol Honda rider was, well, pretty much like his weeks as a San Carlo satellite rider. He qualified 12th and finished 8th, par for the course for the sole Japanese pilot in the premier class, although, in 8th position, he was the highest ranked satellite rider for the season.

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At the end of today’s race there were 11 bikes on the lead lap, as Hector Barbera and Kousuke Akiyoshi were a lap down. Cal Crutchlow, riding with a cobbled-together collarbone, was running as high as 4th today before tire problems caused him to have to pit, and he eventually finished two laps down to Spies. Blimey … Loris Capirossi may have run his last race for Pramac Ducati, as he injured himself again in qualifying and could not answer the bell. his best days are so far behind him, it’s rumored he may retire in the next week … In the least surprising announcement of the year, rookie Karel Abraham, Jr. signed a new contract for 2012. Team owner Karel Abraham, Sr., was said to be delighted to secure the services of such a brilliant, charming and handsome rider as MotoGP re-enters the exciting 1000cc era blah blah blah.

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