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250: Bautista takes victory at Assen
28 June 2008
Alvaro Bautista has finally taken his second victory of the 2008 season, during unpredictable weather conditions in Saturday's 250cc Dutch TT at Assen.
Light rain, which had interrupted the 125cc race, briefly returned five minutes before the start of the 250cc event - prompting the race to be declared 'wet', meaning it would not be stopped if rain fell again during the race.
Nevertheless, the track was too dry for anything other than slick tyres to be fitted, and it was those tyres that guided Alex Debon into an early lead from fourth on the grid.
Just behind the Lotus Aprilia rider, title contender Marco Simoncelli was bumped wide by Thomas Luthi - dropping the Italian back to twelfth - while the Swiss wasted no time in passing Debon and rocketing into an early lead.
Donington winner and world championship leader Mika Kallio, who began the race just eleventh on the grid, initially made good early progress - taking third by the end of lap two - with pole sitter Bautista just behind as he fought back from a poor start.
Bautista overtook Kallio at the end of lap three, and then set off in pursuit of Debon, whom he caught and passed on lap six. By then, Luthi was over three seconds clear, but Bautista pulled chunks out of the Café Latte rider's lead and was ready to pass by lap 12 of 24.
Bautista took the lead for the first time later in the same lap and the pre-season title favourite, dogged by mistakes and bad luck, looked assured of victory there and then - until rain spots returned with ten laps to go, washing away Bautista's speed advantage and allowing a determined Luthi back ahead.
Luthi excelled in the tricky conditions, but when the rain stopped Bautista went back on the attack and took the lead for the second and final time with six laps to go, leaving Luthi to comfortably collect a career-best second position.
Kallio had been unable to match the pace up front and - having narrowly survived a close pass by Hector Barbera - was soon forced into a defensive ride as KTM team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama and a recovering Simoncelli queued up behind him.
Both had overtaken the Finn by lap 9, but Kallio temporarily regained two positions when Debon and Barbera ran off track - Barbera narrowly avoiding a collision with Kallio as he rejoined.
Nevertheless Kallio couldn't hold them off and had slipped back to seventh at the chequered flag, whilst title rival Simoncelli climbed up to third place and is now just one point behind Kallio in the world championship standings.
Dutch TT - Assen:
1. Bautista (Aprilia)
2. Luthi (Aprilia) +4.597secs
3. Simoncelli (Gilera) +6.003secs
4. Debon (Aprilia) +9.034secs
5. Barbera (Aprilia) +9.079secs
6. Aoyama (KTM) +11.515secs
7. Kallio (KTM) +12.874secs
8. Takahashi (Honda) +13.622secs
9. Locatelli (Gilera) +21.168secs
10. Simon (KTM) +28.789secs
16. Laverty (Aprilia) +54.171secs
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