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GP Week : Issue 52
>>Moto GPASSEN I N the wake of the Catalunya thriller, predictions for the classic Assen race were rife. It was, said many pundits, set to be the most exciting Dutch TT of all time. The prediction was correct, with a massive six-bike battle that ran all the way to the final chicane to thrill the 96,000-strong crowd. Unfortunately, it was for sixth place. Up front, Valentino Rossi claimed his 100th GP win by running away from his upstart young Fiat Yamaha team-mate and Catalunya rival Jorge Lorenzo, teaching him a good lesson. Both of them also left trailing a hitherto optimistic Casey Stoner’s Marlboro Ducati, by almost 20 seconds at the end. The 2007 champion was again close to collapse after the race. For Rossi, it was a demonstration to silence anyone who thought he might be on the skids, in his 15th year of GP racing and under the hammer from Lorenzo. Quite the opposite, he seemed to say, after taking the lead from Stoner on the second lap, and riding away. Lorenzo, up to third on lap five, chased him as hard as he could, with the gap fluctuating between 1.6 and 1.9 seconds for the first 16 laps. But Rossi was taking everything that Lorenzo gained on the slow corners right back on the fast section, and when the gap stretched beyond two seconds on lap 17 any hopes that Jorge might hunt him down were firmly over. By the end, Rossi was better than five seconds clear. “I am so happy. This is a very special day in my life,”he said, before thanking everyone from his team to his family and friends, and after unfurling an enormous trackside banner recording in photographs his previous 99 wins. Later he joked about why he had been keen to avoid another pitched battle: “It would not be good for the heart, especially older people, like my grandmother.” Lorenzo got into the spirit of it, saying: “To tell the truth, for the sake of Vale’s grandmother, I closed the throttle.” Then he explained how he had chased as hard as he could, but “when I though the front tyre was about to lose grip, I remember (falling off at) Jerez, and thought that second was good enough. Stoner was never part of the battle after Lorenzo came past, and again after the race he was close to collapse in parc ferme, showing that the mystery bug that left him “destroyed” in Spain was still exacting its toll. Before the race he had pronounced himself fit; after it he was not available for comment. The factory Repsol Hondas had been up at the sharp end, but not for long. Dani Pedrosa led away, and was third when he lost the front at the first very sharp corner, sliding harmlessly into the gravel on lap four. Six laps later team- mate Andrea Dovizioso did exactly the same, lying fourth at the time. This gifted the place to a lonely Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha), after he had passed and gradually dropped Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki), for whom fifth was the best result of the year. The battle for sixth was a thriller, narrowly won after an all-action last lap by James Toseland (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha). Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) had caught this group and made his way to front, only to fall on the final lap; Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda) had also caught up and charged in among them … but he too took to the dirt on the final chicane. They crossed the line with Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) ahead of Elias, then Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki). Soon afterwards Elias was hit with a 20- second penalty, dropping him from eighth to 12th, and promoting his companions. Championship parity was ended, with Rossi taking a five point lead over Lorenzo, 131 to 126. Stoner has 122, then no-scorers Dovizioso (69) and Pedrosa (67), the last-named caught up on equal points by Edwards. 29