Barros win tops a wild day at Assen
24 June 2000
Alex Barros came through to win a two part Dutch TT, his first win since 1993.
The 75th running of the Dutch TT got underway in dry conditions with but a few damp patches still scattered around the track making things slightly difficult.
Kenny Roberts catapulted out of the blocks from third on the grid to take an early lead over Alex Barros, Tadayuki Okada and polesitter Loris Capirossi. Sadly Kenny's lead was to last but half a lap for as the field came round to negotiate 'De Puniet' corner the back wheel of the Suzuki lost grip and Roberts was thrown high into the air and into the gravel. Although the crash looked horrific, Kenny walked away.
Barros led for three turns until Capirossi, broken bones in his left hand and all, came charging through to lead just before the chicane.
On lap three the dark clouds which had been threatening all day, deposited yet more rain over Assen and the race was stopped as it had previously been declared a dry event. Capirossi still led and he would be on pole position for the re-started race, now be based on aggregate times from both legs.
During the break the rain stopped and the riders were left with an immensely difficult decision over what tyre to use. Some chose full slicks (Carlos Checa), others chose full intermediates (Valentino Rossi) while others had a combination (Capirossi, Barros and Alex Criville).
When the lights went green again it was Sete Gibernau and Regis Laconi who took up the cudgels whilst the time keepers tried frantically to work out who was where on the road. Capirossi led for a few laps but as he dropped down the order on the road, he did likewise overall.
After Barros and Criville had caught and passed both Laconi and Gibernau, they pulled clear of the pack making it a clean fight for the win. It wasn't all that simple however as Criville had to beat Barros by 2.3 seconds on the road to take overall honours. However the Emerson Honda Pons rider lost a possible victory at Barcelona last weekend and was not about to let another potential win slip through his fingers. On several occasions Criville was able to squeeze his Repsol Honda ahead although Barros made sure that he did not pull away, re-taking the lead whenever possible in an attempt to break the Spaniards rhythm.
Eventually Criville forced his way to the front but Barros was not to be denied and tail-gated the Spaniard out of the last chicane to take only his second ever Grand Prix victory. Criville was happy with second especially as Roberts failed to finish but also because of the spirit and confidence that the reigning World Champion displayed, a rare sight this year. Rounding out the podium was the brave Capirossi came through to take third place after fighting off the attentions of Max Biaggi, Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa.
Biaggi recovered well in the second segment to finish fourth on the road and pip his Yamaha team-mate Checa for that same place in the overall standings. Checa finished third on the road but was unable to utilise his slick tyres to their full potential until late in the race.
Rossi clung on for sixth overall after a great scrap with local hero Jurgen Van De Goorbergh. Van De Goorbergh led the re-started race on the road in the early laps, making up several places overall in the opening laps of the second segment, but had to settle for ninth overall behind part two pacesetters Gibernau and Laconi.
Norick Abe faded in the closing stages with atrocious handling on his Antena 3 Yamaha and struggled home in tenth place overall, just ahead of Tadayuki Okada who made the wrong choice of tyres.
Sadly there was no joy for the two British representatives in the field. Jeremy McWilliams struck mechanical problems on the grid and completed a single lap before pulling off the course while Phil Giles on the Sabre Sport Honda V-Twin ran well at the back of the field until he ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap.
Tohru Ukawa emerged triumphant from a gloomy Assen to take 250cc glory but only after a titanic struggle with his Honda team-mate Anthony West.
The rain had abated between the 125 and 250cc races which forced the assembling 250 riders into a difficult decision. Do I go out on wets or intermediates? The race was declared wet and therefore if the track dried out the race wouldn't be stopped.
Perhaps with that piece of information in mind, Ralf Waldmann and Marco Melandri who sat 1st and 2nd on the grid, chose to put intermediates on their Aprilia's. Further down the field Jay Vincent, Klaus Nohles, Franco Battaini, Johan Stigefelt and Luca Boscoscuro all gambled on taking a wet front and an intermediate rear. It was the wrong decision.
By the end of the first lap Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque had burst through from 3rd and 4th on the grid to take the top two positions while Tohru Ukawa and Anthony West, who qualified 22nd, had emerged in third and fourth places. Waldmann meanwhile was 18th and Melandri 27th.
West then made light work of the leading trio and moved through to take top spot where he was followed by his team-mate Ukawa. For lap after lap these two thrilled the damp Assen crowd but eventually Ukawa was able to pull away.
West then came under pressure from the two Tech 3 Yamaha's and on lap 14 Jacque was through. West held on for al he was worth but with a dry line emerging around half of the track Nakano was able to use his experience in mixed conditions to good effect and snatched the final podium place on the penultimate tour.
The top four were in a race of their own although there was an equally exciting battle going on behind them for fifth place which was eventually won by Naoki Matsudo who fended off Jamie Robinson and Sebastian Porto.
Robinson again showed his supreme skill despite having never raced a 250cc machine in the wet before! The Englishman made the best use of his second row starting spot and had climbed to fifth place by the end of the first lap. The QUB Team OPTIMUM Aprilia was working well in the wet and Robinson fended off the far more experienced Matsudo for many laps.
Daijiro Katoh was a lacklustre eighth, almost exactly a minute behind Ukawa at the flag. The Honda Gresini rider gave too much respect to Assen and its tricky surface. The changing conditions also meant that he erred on the side of caution whereas riders who have visited the track before were able to push harder, knowing what the surface was like.
Rounding out the top ten were Roberto Rolfo, guesting on Tino Vila's Honda and Vincent Philippe in what was his best result of the year so far.
Other than Robinson, British success was fairly thin on the ground with Vincent ruing his wrong tyre choice, sliding home a lap down in 19th and Adrian Coates retiring twelve laps from home.
Youichi Ui took a dominant flag to flag victory at Assen on Saturday for his third win of the season while Noboru Ueda snatched second two corners from home.
Japan's Youichi Ui took Derbi's first win at Assen since 1988 with a crushing flag to flag victory in highly treacherous conditions at the Dutch TT. Ui led away from pole position and was never headed once during the 17 lap race.
Manuel Poggiali provided the main opposition to Ui, the San Marino native charging from 24th on the grid to 4th on the opening lap and then proceeding to chase Ui for all he was worth. Gradually though, the 17 year old fell back and was eventually passed by a flying Noboru Ueda for second just two corners from home.
Ueda had been in inspired form after making a poor start from second on the grid. However he carved his way through the chasing pack, passing Emilio Alzamora, Steve Jenkner, Simone Sanna, Roberto Locatelli and Lucio Cecchinello before setting off after Poggiali.
Cecchinello eventually finished fourth, after starting 24th while Sanna came home fifth after holding down third in the early stages.
Alzamora was one of many riders to get caught out by the slippery conditions and retired on the penultimate lap when a points finish was out of the question. Others who fell included Randy De Puniet who had ridden a superb race up to third place before he lost it and was forced to retire. The right hander where De Puniet fell also claimed Kenny Roberts, Alzamora, William De Angelis, Franco Battaini and Toni Elias during the course of the meeting.
Locatelli faded to sixth in the closing stages as the tyres on his Vasco Rossi Aprilia began to fade while Jenkner came home in seventh, less than a second behind the Italian.
Further down the order Ivan Goi, Masao Azuma and Angel Nieto Jr completed the top ten while Leon Haslam brought the Italjet home in a safe 18th place. The young Haslam being rightly cautious in the changeable conditions. Jaroslav Hules sadly retired after ten laps on the sister Italjet after qualifying an astounding fifth.