24 June 2006
Hayden wins after last turn Assen showdown!
Nicky Hayden has won the Dutch TT at Assen after he and fellow American Colin Edwards went into the last turn side-by-side - and both went off the track.
Edwards, chasing his first ever MotoGP victory, had led almost the entire race - converting his third on the grid into first at turn one, then holding command until the penultimate lap.
At that point Hayden - who had worked his way into second after passing a fast starting Marco Melandri, then Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano and Rizla Suzuki's pole sitter John Hopkins – finally dived inside the Texan, under braking for the back chicane.
Edwards tried to keep his Camel Yamaha alongside, but was forced to lift and straight-line down an escape road - rejoining just over one second from the Repsol Honda rider. That mistake looked likely to settle the race, but the double World Superbike champion dug deep and amazingly recaught Hayden with just half a lap to go.
Both Americans were now on the absolute limit, but Edwards got better drive heading into the fast kinks that precede the final chicane - and sensationally retook the lead with just a few corners to go. Assen veteran Edwards then allowed his M1 to run wide through the fast left hander that caught out team-mate Valentino Rossi in practice, giving the #5 a defensive inside line for the final chicane.
But, championship lead or not, Nicky wasn't giving up and his only option was to try and brave it out around the outside. The pair were literally side-by-side as they arrived at the first apex, but Hayden couldn't make the turn (possibly after selecting neutral) and ran wide across the gravel.
That should have handed victory to Edwards, but he was also slightly off line - and was heartbreakingly thrown from his Camel Yamaha after missing the next apex and running over the slick grass behind, just as he seemed to have his very first MotoGP victory in the bag.
While Edwards high-sided, Hayden rejoined the track to take his second ever MotoGP victory - and, most significantly, his first win outside America. Colin later remounted his battered machine to finish an unjust 13th and a round of applause greeted the Texan as he returned to the pits, but it was a bitter, bitter blow.
By contrast, Hayden was naturally jubilant at breaking his almost year long win drought - and also carved his name into Honda history by sealing the Japanese giant's 200th premier-class grand prix victory. As if that wasn't enough, he has also more than doubled his world championship lead, from 20 to 42 points.
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