It was a historic occasion -- the 75th running of TT Assen, the Dutch round of the MotoGP championship -- and Valentino Rossi made some history of his own, taking a fifth consecutive MotoGP victory, the most ever by a Yamaha rider. The win was...
It was a historic occasion -- the 75th running of TT Assen, the Dutch round of the MotoGP championship -- and Valentino Rossi made some history of his own, taking a fifth consecutive MotoGP victory, the most ever by a Yamaha rider.
The win was not only Rossi's sixth in seven races this season, it was also his third MotoGP win at TT Assen, and fifth if one includes his 125cc and 250cc victories in 1997 and 1998.
Rossi started from pole position, having bested Sete Giberneau by just over three tenths of a second in qualifying, but it was no flag-to-flag parade. Rossi's start was far from spectacular, and he fell back to fifth position, a lap down on Marco Melandri (Movistar Honda).
Rossi wasn't able to work his way to the front until past the midway point of the 19-lap race around the classic 6-kilometre circuit, when he finally passed Melandri in a hard-fought battle.
"Today was a very hard battle," the Yamaha ace confirmed after the victory. "Marco was very fast. This was the first time he's been so strong. I lost time in the first laps because I wasn't aggressive enough, and then it was difficult to find a rhythm because the track had changed after the rain."
And it wasn't all over once Rossi put his Yamaha in front: Melandri stayed on Rossi's rear wheel turn after turn, the duo pulling away from Colin Edwards on the second Yamaha and Nicky Hayden on a Repsol Honda.
"I tried to follow Valentino but I made a mistake mid-race," Melandri recounted. "After that it took me some laps to regain my confidence. I attacked again but I was spinning a lot, so I had to give up."
It wasn't exactly a total surrender, though: Rossi managed to take the checkered flag 1.583 seconds ahead of Melandri, but that was only after pulling out all the stops at the end, and setting the race's fastest lap on that final tour around the circuit.
"I rode some good laps but Marco attacked again," the winner explained. "I had to concentrate very much to ride a perfect final few laps!"
Edwards took the final podium position for Yamaha, six seconds behind Melandri. The American was closer to the Rossi-Melandri battle for a number of laps, but had to ease off to make sure he stayed on track until the flag.
"I felt good today. We made a breakthrough with set-up," Edwards explained. "I pushed really hard, but with a few laps to go I was at the limit and lost the front really badly at turn two. After I did the same the next lap, I thought I better keep it on two wheels and make the podium!"
Giberneau was not able to stay with the leaders, though, and finished the race 15 seconds behind Rossi, and more than 13 seconds off the pace of his teammate Melandri.
Rossi now leads the championship with 170 points to Melandri's 107, with Max Biaggi -- sixth in today's race -- in third place with 87.
It's now on to another anniversary celebration: Yamaha Motor Company is throwing a massive 50th birthday bash in two weeks' time at Laguna Seca, as MotoGP returns to the United States after an absence of ten years. Surely Rossi intends to make this occasion just as memorable -- but will everyone else be willing to go along with that?