The 75th Dutch TT at Assen, the last MotoGP event to held at the legendary circuit before much of its northern loop is removed, has been won by world champion Valentino Rossi - who took his sixth victory of the season from seven events after fighting his way back from a poor start and withstanding intense late race pressure from Marco Melandri.

As many had suspected, the heat wave which had baked the Assen circuit for the past two days was replaced by rain on race day morning - resulting in a wet warm-up session led by Marco Melandri and Shinya Nakano.

However, by the time the 21-rider MotoGP grid assembled for the race several hours later - with a top six of Rossi, Gibernau, Melandri, Nakano, Hayden and Edwards - the sun was starting to break back through the overcast sky and shine onto the now totally dry, if breezy, 5.997km circuit.

When the red lights went out, Gibernau rocketed away from the middle of the front row to lead Movistar team-mate Melandri, Repsol rider Hayden, Nakano's Kawasaki and then Rossi into the fast flick that is turn one.

As they emerged on the other side, Nakano slotted into third while Melandri would waste no time in barging past Gibernau for the lead. Meanwhile, Rossi was going in the opposite direction, having lost a further place to Ducati's Capirossi and facing pressure from team-mate Edwards.

By the end of the first of 19 laps, Melandri had pulled a 0.5secs lead over new second placed man Hayden with Gibernau, Nakano and Capirossi still ahead of Rossi. However, after several unsuccessful attempts, the #46 finally put a definitive move on the Ducati into the final chicane at the end of lap two - then immediately launched ahead of Nakano's ZX-RR to take fourth by turn one of lap 3.

But Rossi wasn't the only factory Yamaha on the move, with Edwards demoting Capirossi down to seventh on the same lap, and then making short work of Nakano, before setting his sights on the recently established lead group of Melandri, Hayden, Gibernau and Rossi ahead of him.

Hayden, having benefited from a good start, was looking at his most competitive since the Jerez season opener; the American riding aggressively to keep well in touch with Melandri up front, but would find himself forced off the racing line - at the banked 'horseshoe' left hander - when Gibernau steered his RCV underneath him.

That move marked the end of Hayden's podium hopes, since Rossi also slotted ahead while Nicky was recovering his line, and by lap 7 the #69 would lose yet another position as countryman Edwards dropped him to fifth.

It's worth noting that, of the lead group, only Gibernau and Hayden had chosen the softer Michelin rear tyre option and that choice may have been starting to punish them. Indeed, Rossi would using his superior speed through the tail end of the lap to grab second from Sete under braking for the final chicane on lap 8, with Edwards also now lining up the #15.

Rossi then wasted no time in putting a pass on race leader Melandri, outbraking the #33 into the horseshoe left hander at the halfway mark of the race - at a time when just 2.2secs covered the top five (Rossi, Melandri, Gibernau, Edwards and Hayden), who in turn held a six-second lead over the sixth placed battle involving Barros, Capirossi, Nakano, Hofmann, Biaggi and Hopkins.

Gibernau would drop from a podium position when Edwards attacked a lap later, while Rossi was coming under renewed pressure from Melandri - who had set the fastest laps of the race to close back onto the leading M1's rear wheel.

Rossi responded, but was starting to slide and it looked as if he would struggle to contain his charging young countryman - however, he was given vital breathing room on lap 13 when Melandri, who would later explain he had been riding right on the limit, dropped almost a second after a scare.

But he'd far from settled for second and, after taking several laps to rebuild his confidence, pulled the lead back to less than one-second on lap 15 - then continued his relentless charge, trimming a further tenth from Rossi with every circulation that passed. That pace proved too much for Edwards, who began to quickly drop away into a safe third ahead of Hayden and Gibernau.

With two laps to go Melandri had set yet another fastest lap and would sit just 0.545secs from Rossi's rear wheel as the last lap began. Both were now sliding their machines at almost every turn, with Melandri edging forwards through the first section of the lap, then losing most of the time gained in the run towards the final chicane.

That pattern continued on the last lap, when Rossi would underline just why he has won six world championships by delivering the fastest lap of the race - exactly when it was most needed.

That kept Melandri just out of reach, allowing Rossi to claim his sixth victory of the season and extend his already enormous championship lead to 63-points over the #33 - but, as at so many races this year, Rossi had really been forced to earn it.

Edwards completed a great day for Yamaha with his second podium of the season, a further six-seconds back, with Hayden and Gibernau a safe - if unsatisfying - fourth and fifth.

Max Biaggi, who had been fined for his on track antics yesterday, crossed the line sixth after slipping outside of the top ten in the early stages before winning a tough battle with Camel Honda's Alex Barros.

Nakano faded from his early heroics to an eventual eighth, as the top Bridgestone rider, on a day when the Japanese tyres were again unable to keep race long pace with the Michelins. The factory Ducatis of Carlos Checa and Loris Capirossi would complete the top ten after also lacking grip.

Dutch TT

1. Rossi
2. Melandri
3. Edwards
4. Hayden
5. Gibernau
6. Biaggi
7. Barros
8. Nakano
9. Checa
10. Capirossi
11. Bayliss
12. Xaus
13. Hopkins
14. Tamada
15. Checa
16. Roberts
17. Byrne
18. Rolfo
19. Ellison
20. Battaini



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