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Ben Spies bolts to first MotoGP victory at Assen
25 June 2011
Ben Spies has taken his first ever MotoGP victory with a dominant performance in Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen.
The Texan became the first former World Superbike rider to win a MotoGP race since Troy Bayliss in 2006, by converting his first front-row start of the year into the lead at turn one, then bolting away from the field.
Spies' cause was helped when pole sitter Marco Simoncelli's nightmare run of race-day incidents continued as he highsided after just a few corners - while passing Jorge Lorenzo for second place at the hairpin - taking a furious Lorenzo down with him.
That incident put clear air between Spies and world championship leader Casey Stoner, one of many riders to struggle with a lack of heat in the rear tyre this weekend.
While the Repsol Honda rider was still building up grip in the cool (but dry) conditions, Spies was flat out - and held a 3.5sec lead after just three laps.
Stoner later began matching Spies, but by then the Factory Yamaha rider - in his second season of grand prix - could afford to measure his advantage over the Australian.
Former WSBK champion Spies, who had only taken one podium from the first six rounds of the year, guided his special red-and-white M1 to victory by 7.697sec over Stoner at the end of the 26 laps.
Stoner's Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso quickly dropped away from Stoner, but his third place was never under serious threat.
Valentino Rossi's first race on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1 - which combines this year's 800cc engine with next year's (1000cc) chassis and a new seamless transmission gearbox - saw the Italian megastar rise from eleventh on the grid to fifth at the end of lap one.
The seven-time MotoGP champion then passed Cal Crutchlow for fourth, a position he held for the rest of the race, finishing three-seconds behind countryman Dovizioso - but over 30sec from victory.
Rookie Crutchlow, riding in his first race since breaking his collarbone two weeks' ago at Silverstone, was forced to pit from fifth with a front tyre problem. The Englishman rejoined to finish 14th and last.
After the first lap incident, reigning world champion Lorenzo mounted a charge through the field, reaching sixth by the flag - but he has dropped from 18 to 28 points behind Stoner.
Simoncelli was slower to restart, but eventually fired his RC212V back into life and was credited with ninth place.
Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden, riding on the standard GP11 but with a new chassis, finished between Rossi and Lorenzo, with Colin Edwards in seventh for Tech 3.
With Dani Pedrosa absent for a third race in a row, HRC promoted Hiroshi Aoyama to the Repsol squad this weekend, with factory test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi filling in for Aoyama at Gresini. Aoyama claimed eighth place, with Akiyoshi 13th.
Pramac Ducati's Loris Capirossi missed the race after dislocating his right shoulder in qualifying. Team-mate Randy de Puniet crashed out in the early stages of the race, as did rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati).
The Dutch TT has taken place every year since 1925, with the exception of 1940-1945 because of the Second World War.
The race - always held on the last Saturday in June - formed part of the original 1949 FIM Road Racing World Championships and Assen has continued to host the Dutch round ever since. Assen is the only circuit to have remained on the calendar since 1949.
Lorenzo and Spies were both using a special livery to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yamaha's involvement in grand prix racing.
The Italian Grand Prix at Mugello - the home race for Valentino Rossi and Ducati - takes place next weekend.
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