Jorge Lorenzo arrived in Holland with a 25-point lead in the MotoGP Championship, but left with a badly sprained ankle, a battered Yamaha, dented morale and a share of the lead as Casey Stoner capitalized on the Spaniard’s crash to take a crucial victory at Assen.
Lorenzo was battling with the usual suspects into the first right hander at the Dutch circuit, and while Dani Pedrosa and Stoner got through cleanly, as did Yamaha team mate Ben Spies, Lorenzo was left helpless as Alvaro Bautista made a dash up the inside of seemingly the whole grid, missed his braking point, lost the front end of his San Carlo Gresini Honda and slid into Lorenzo, taking both into the gravel trap and out of the race before the pair had the chance to exit the first corner. The blow was made worse for Lorenzo as a diagnosis revealed that he had suffered a heavy sprain to his right ankle and heavy bruising to his lower leg and he left the circuit on crutches.
Bautista was punished by race officials for “unsafe riding” with a last-place grid penalty for this weekend’s German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, which was upheld by the stewards after an appeal from Gresini.
So, out of the race, on crutches, what could have gone worse for Lorenzo now? Well, Stoner winning would’ve been the answer to that question, and that was exactly what happened. Having spent the first half of the race sitting behind Pedrosa, seemingly biding his time to make a move, Stoner launched up the inside as his Spanish team mate rode deep onto the apex and never looked back.
Pedrosa was left for second and Andrea Dovizioso came home in third having avoided the melee in the first corner, unlike team mate Cal Crutchlow who was forced off track to avoid colliding with the Spanish pair and ended up down in 17th before fighting back for a position in the top six when a podium seemed inevitable despite his broken ankle from a crash at Silverstone.
Nicky Hayden continued his good run of form on the (slowly) improving Ducati, but it wasn’t a similar tale for Valentino Rossi who, having battled for seventh with Hayden, Stefan Bradl, Hector Barbera and co in the middle of the pack for so long, eventually got passed by all three and was forced to pit as his rear tyre degraded rapidly. Having changed the tyre and gone back out, Rossi came home 13th out of the 14 finishers, with Brit James Ellison behind him.
This weekend’s race at the Sachsenring will be the perfect opportunity for Lorenzo to bounce back immediately from his Dutch disappointment, and to try and regain his Championship lead. It won’t be easy, however, as the Repsol Honda’s have done very well at the German circuit historically, with Dani Pedrosa taking last year’s victory. Although, Valentino Rossi has finished on the podium in some capacity nine times in Germany – likely in 2012? If only!