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GP Week : Issue 185
A crowd of 90,000 rose as one at the fairy-tale ending to a grand prix of extraordinarily changing fortunes at Assen on saturday, as Valentino Rossi used all his old style and forcefulness to steer his Yamaha to a two-second victory ... his first in more than two years. Valentino credited a development step for the return of his confident style, and said “to win at Assen was one of my most special victories, at one of the most fascinating tracks.” He had a bit of help from his team-mate. Jorge Lorenzo was an unaccustomed fifth, after a truly heroic weekend (see separate news story), and played no role in the battle up front. And he had a bit of help from his Yamaha, able once again to use the tyres better in cool conditions than the Hondas. Marc Marquez secured second only narrowly, under severe pressure from Cal Crutchlow’s Monster Yamaha, but his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa had a dire weekend. He led the early laps, but faded to fourth after the tyres wore. “For another race we had no grip, and we don’t know why. Once I lost the rostrum chance, I was just cruising at the end.” Knowing his title rival was only one place ahead compounded an emotional race for Lorenzo, who rode magnificently considering his condition. Starting from 12th on the grid, he moved directly to fifth and matched the leaders’ pace in the early stages. Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) was sixth; GP&FUN Honda rider Alvaro Bautista seventh, riding cautiously after two successive first-lap crashes, but troubled all race long by Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics ART), once again the top CRT bike by miles. It was a dire weekend for the Marlboro Ducatis, with Dovizioso not even making the top 12 for the final Q2 qualifying. Nicky had led Dovi all race long, with Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha – riding less than two weeks after wrist surgery and a skin graft to his hand) closing on the pair at the end. In the final chicane, Dovi attacked and managed to get ahead of Hayden; but pushed both of them wide – allowing Smith past to claim ninth in the run to the line. With neither Pedrosa nor Lorenzo scoring high, the points situation closed up again: Pedrosa still ahead on 136 and Lorenzo on 127; with Marquez third on 113 and then Crutchlow (87). And Rossi? He’s sixth now, on 85. MOTOGP >>> nEWs ROssI's bACK A weekend of heroics ... FRONT SUSPENSION TWEAK MADE THE DIFFERENCE A subtle but crucial front suspension tweak took the credit for turning round hero Valentino Rossi’s fortunes, after a series of downbeat results followed a promising second in his first return ride on a Yamaha at the opening round at Qatar. All season Rossi has complained of not finding the comfortable feeling with the front that “allows me to ride as I want”; and one consequence was a series of costly third -row starts, putting him out of touch with the leaders even before the green light. At Assen Rossi topped the qualifying time sheets until the closing flurry, finally placing fourth for only his second row-two start of the season. The breakthrough came at private Yamaha / Honda tests at Aragon in the week after the Catalunyan GP. Rossi’s long -term crew chief Jerry Burgess explained what had been done. Valentino’s trouble, he said, was because of the new softer- construction Bridgestone introduced last year. Weight transfer under his style of hard braking causes the tyre to collapse. This is costly in a race, but particularly so when going for a fast qualifying lap. The change had been subtle but significant, said Burgess, and discovered after a finally fruitful brainstorming session with Ohlins suspension technicians. “It’s an internal change that gives more support in initial braking,” s aid Burgess, thus slowing the squidging of the front tyre carcase. “It slows up the initial fork response without having to use harder springs or more preload,” he said. Rossi described it as “a step, that makes me feel confident. Now I want to make another step.” 14 GPWEEK.com // 14 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: