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Monday, June 30, 2014

MotoGP 2014 – Assen: Round Up

Marc Marquez swims across the finish line as the weather brings drama at the Assen GP

This year’s Assen GP had everything and a few surprises. While Marc Marquez’s pole streak was ended at Catalunya, it was still a safe bet that the current world champion would occupy the front spot on the grid again. However, it wasn’t to be. And none other than NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro recorded the best possible time in the given conditions to snatch the pole position from all factories and satellite riders. Yes, for the first time ever, and unexpectedly so, an Open Class rider would lead all riders on the starting grid.

Riders were met with mixed conditions on Friday for their qualifying and that greatly affected grid position for many riders. While Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were fast enough to be on the front row at 2nd and 3rd positions respectively, Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi could only manage 9th and 12th positions respectively. Factory Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow was on 5th and Andrea Dovizioso started the race in 7th.

Given all conditions, it was going to be an interesting race and it was.

On the race day, the weather continued to be unstable as the rain fell inconsistently at different parts of the track while some other areas were comparatively dry. The race was declared wet and this led the officials to delay the race by 5 minutes. Following that, riders were given two sighting laps to judge the conditions and decide on their final tyre choices for the race. While almost all riders chose wet tyres to start the race with, Valentino Rossi remained on slicks and only decided to change to the wet setup at the very last minute. As if Rossi’s qualifying position wasn’t bad enough, this last minute change forced him to start the race from pits putting him behind all the riders at the start.

As the lights went off, Andrea Dovizioso led the pack into turn 1 followed by Marz Marquez. Riders went through first few turns safely while aggression could still be seen in the front runners even in wet conditions. Though the conditions made riders careful in general, they still swapped positions trying to take advantage of the situation.

With 5 laps down the race, the rain weakened and the track started to dry up with more and more dry lines starting to appear. The teams started to prepare the bikes with slick tyres. Riders started to come in and Ducati’s Dovizioso and Repsol Honda’s Marquez were among the first ones to enter the pits and change their bikes. Other riders came in as well including Rossi who had earlier made the last minute change from slick to wet tyres.

However, Rossi’s team mate Lorenzo and few other riders decided to continue on wet tyres for one more lap and this gave the number 99 bearer a chance to lead the race for a short while. He had to change bikes in the next lap and this didn’t prove to be a good gamble as he rejoined the race much farther back.

Once all riders had changed the tyres to slick, the race went dry from thereon while the dark clouds never left and stayed as an audience!

While the eventual outcome of the race was same in Marc Marquez winning his 8th consecutive race of the year, it was a battle at almost all levels. At the front, Dovizioso and Marquez battled for a long time for the lead. This also led Marquez to spin and run off track slightly losing couple of positions and handing the lead to the Ducati rider temporarily. Marquez was quick to come back to hunt down Dovizioso for the win.

Behind them, the battle for the 3rd step on the podium was hard fought and very interesting between Pedrosa and the pole sitter Aleix Espargaro. In the given conditions, Espargaro gave a great fight to the Repsol Honda rider and they both swapped position many times with aggressive but clean passes and it was just a treat seeing an Open Class rider giving such a tough fight to probably the best factory bike on the grid.

All this time, Rossi was riding a great race after rejoining the race in the 10th position following the tyre change. While the battle for the win and the podium finish continued at the front, Rossi battled riders making his way up as the race progressed. The Italian managed to catch the group of Pol Espergaro, Cal Crutchlow, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl and indulge in a good battle with them. Lap by lap, Rossi bested each one of them to arrive on 5th and started closing his gap on Aleix Espargaro. Though Rossi was running a good pace, the gap to the 4th proved to be a bit too much for Rossi to pose any serious threat for a better finish. Overall, Rossi did a great race starting from the pit lane and eventually finishing the race in 5th position. Lorenzo finished the race at a very disappointing 13th position.

At front, Marquez went past Dovizioso as the track became more and more dry creating a solid gap for a safe win. This is Marquez’s 8th straight win this season. The weather played the master director and provided a condition for an enjoyable race though with the same winner.

The Ducati performed well in these conditions and Dovizioso managed his second podium finish of this season while Pedrosa finished 3rd eventually. However, Aleix Espargaro did a great race to finish in 4th and gave a great spectacle to the crowd fighting with Dani Pedrosa for the most part of the race.

Marc Marquez continues to lead the championship and now sits at 200 points. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are now tied for the 2nd spot in the championship currently with both at 128 points.

Below are the Assen GP race results and championship standings:

MotoGP Assen TT Results 2014
1. Marc Marquez (Honda)
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Aleix Espargaro (Forward-Yamaha)
5. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
6. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
8. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
9. Cal Crutchlow (Ducati)
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
11. Broc Parkes (PBM)
12. Scott Redding (Honda)
13. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
14. Karel Abraham (Honda)
15. Danilo Petrucci (ART)
16. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
17. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
18. Hector Barbera (Avintia)
19. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati)
20. Mike Di Meglio (Avintia)
21. Michael Laverty (PBM)
22. Colin Edwards (Forward-Yamaha)

MotoGP Championship Points 2014
1. Marc Marquez, 200
2. Valentino Rossi, 128
3. Dani Pedrosa, 128
4. Andrea Dovizioso, 91
5. Jorge Lorenzo, 81
6. Aleix Espargaro, 67
7. Pol Espargaro, 58
8. Stefan Bradl, 56
9. Andrea Iannone, 51
10. Bradley Smith, 48

Text by: Sachin Sen
Image courtesy: www.motogp.com
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Item Reviewed: MotoGP 2014 – Assen: Round Up Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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