24 June 2006
Hayden wins after last turn Assen showdown!
Joining Nicky on the podium were Nakano and Dani Pedrosa. In what was probably Kawasaki's most competitive dry weather race, second on the grid Nakano had held fourth place during the early laps, before passing Hopkins - then just two seconds behind the leaders - for third place at the halfway stage of the 26 laps.
Although unable to threaten Edwards and Hayden ahead, Nakano kept his pace up to drop the pursing pack for what looked like being a safe third - before Colin's last turn tumble. Second place is Nakano's best ever MotoGP result and equals Kawasaki's best MotoGP finish, by Olivier Jacque in the wet 2005 Chinese Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, after being passed by Nakano, Hopkins had continued to fade - and was caught by the three man dice of Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Kenny Roberts with ten laps to go. All three eventually forced their way ahead of Hopper by the finish, with Pedrosa gifted an unexpected podium by the last turn drama.
The Repsol Honda rider has now also moved into second in the world championship standings, having jumped ahead of injured Italians Melandri, Rossi and Capirossi.
All three bravely started the race, but were far from certain to finish it due to their physical conditions. After what must have been 26 tortuous laps, it was Melandri - who, like Capirossi, sustained numerous upper body injuries in last weekend's turn one accident in Catalunya - that salvaged the most points; the Fortuna Honda rider benefiting from a strong start to take seventh at the flag.
Six seconds and one place behind him was world champion Rossi - who fractured his hand and ankle in the Thursday fall. The seven times champion exceeded most expectations by climbing from 18th and last on the grid to take eight world championship points. However, all the ground gained by his previous two victories in a row has now been lost and he is, ironically, 46 points behind Hayden.
Meanwhile, Capirossi finished 15th to take what must have been his hardest ever world championship point and is now third in the point standings, just two in front of Rossi and two behind Pedrosa - but 44 points from Hayden.
Unfortunately for all of those riding injured, round nine of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship takes pace at Donington Park next weekend - with Laguna Seca the weekend after.
14. de Puniet
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