Miller walks on water for miraculous first win
A red flagged race put the MotoGP™ riders through their paces, Jack Miller mastering the wet to take his maiden premier class win.
The Moto2™ World Championship race was red flagged due to rain, a torrential downpour following and ensuring that at least the start of the MotoGP™ World Championship race would be wet. With the track soaked, the rain eased and riders headed out onto the grid with wets fitted. Conditions were far from ideal, Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) falling on his sighting lap. The lights went out with riders knowing a flag-to-flag race was likely, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) grabbing the lead out of the first corner as they tiptoed around the first corners.
Once he had the lead Rossi didn’t look back, opening up almost a second advantage on everyone but Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) on the first lap. But soon the wild Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) was past him; with a championship to consider ‘The Doctor’ and Dovizioso chose not to risk anything.
Riders looked set to consider a change to intermediate or dry tyres but then the rain returned with a vengeance. Dovizioso was able to catch up to Rossi once again. The rain only got heavier and allowed Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) to join the battle for victory, Yonny Hernandez’s fall turning their battle into one for victory. But then with 12 laps to go the rain was ruled to be too severe and the red flag was brought out due to the weather conditions.
Not long after the race was restarted, run over 12 laps. The grid was based on the finishing positions on lap 14 and the quick restart rule made its first appearance in the premier class. As such Dovizioso lined up on pole with Petrucci and Rossi completing the front row. Redding led the Repsol Honda Team pairing of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa on the second row, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lined up in 19th after a disastrous start in the first 14-lap race.
Andrea Dovizioso, who had led the restart, lost the front end as he attempted to stay with Rossi. He took a heavy roll through the gravel but sustained no serious injuries. This granted Rossi a comfortable lead until he crashed out at Turn 10 a lap later. Disaster for ‘The Doctor’ in a race which could have saw him right with Marquez in the championship.
Known for his ability in the wet, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) made steady progress off the line and soon found himself in second behind Marquez. After an injury hit start to the season Miller seized his chance and took the lead of the race at the final chicane on lap four. Marquez tried to close down the Australian but Miller kept his cool. Miller’s victory is the first MotoGP™ win by an Australian since Casey Stoner’s final victory in Phillip Island. He also becomes the first rider on a non-factory bike to win a race since Toni Elias won the infamous Portuguese GP in 2006.
Marquez was aggressive off the line, leading into the entry of Turn 1 but dropping back as he ran wide and sliding to third. But the Spaniard soon found himself in first as Dovizioso and Rossi fell. He had an important decision to make when Miller went past him, risk it for victory or settle for 20 points with his main rivals having disastrous weekends? Championship ambition won out and Marquez settled for second place, extending his championship lead over both Lorenzo and Rossi by a significant margin.
The battle for third was one of the closest on track, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Redding finding themselves in podium contention due to the falls ahead. Espargaro could smell his first podium but Redding had a point to prove. Redding muscled his way past his former Moto2™ rival to return to the podium for the first time since Misano in 2015.
The wet gave Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) the perfect chance to show his skill; with nothing to lose the Colombian took the lead of the race on the third lap. He’d extend his lead out the front until he fell on lap 12; his dreams of a miraculous first win gone as he retired before the red flag.
Dani Pedrosa’s weekend went from bad to worse as he crashed at Turn 9 on lap one of the restart. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) followed soon after at Turn 12.
What had been a dream Sunday for Petrucci ended in disaster as the Italian’s Ducati died on the second lap, his hopes of a Silverstone repeat over.
Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) also fell from the race, conditions proving trickier than before.
Michele Pirro (Avintia Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) all suffering falls. Several were able to remount, solid points on offer due to all the crashes.
Miller: “It is hard to describe the sensation of winning”
Against all the odds Jack Miller came out on top in Assen, beating the best riders in the world in treacherous conditions.
Since he first joined the World Championship midway through the 2011 season, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) has been known for his ability in the wet. When the heavens opened before the MotoGP™ World Championship race in Assen, Miller knew he was in with a chance of a strong result. The race went from wet to dry to wet again, torrential rain hitting the TT Circuit Assen with 12 laps to go and bringing out the red flag. The grid formed for the restart, Miller lining up in eighth position thanks to his efforts in the first stage. Once more he shot forward, soon finding himself behind Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and in a battle for the lead after a number of falls ahead.
Fans around the world were pulled to the edge of their seats as the colourful Australian slipped past Marquez at the end of lap three. With nothing to lose, Miller pushed to open up a gap which he maintained till the end. The rain on track couldn’t stop Miller from hoisting his front wheel into the air as he celebrated a sensational first victory in the premier class. An emotional victory speech followed, the Australian fighting back the tears, thanking Honda and Marc VDS for their support after a tough start to the year.
For the first time since Stoner’s last win at Phillip Island in 2012, the Australian national anthem played after a MotoGP™ race. Miller not only returned Australia to the top step of the podium but also became the first satellite rider to win a race since Toni Elias in Portgual in 2006. His victory was capped off with a ‘shoey’ on the podium, the Australia tradition of celebrating by drinking from one’s own shoe.
Jack Miller: “I don’t often say this but I’m lost for words. I feel incredibly emotional right now and it is hard to describe the sensation of winning for the first time in MotoGP. I felt confident and fast in the first part of the race but it was the right call to red flag it because the conditions were getting pretty dangerous. The track was really slippery for part two as well but I immediately felt comfortable. I could see a few riders making mistakes but I just kept my focus and concentrated on being fast and consistent without taking any silly risks.
“Once I passed Marc I just tried to block out the fact that I was heading for my first win and keep a clear mind. Coming out of the final chicane and seeing the chequered flag was just an unbelievable feeling. My family and I have made a lot of sacrifices to make today happen and it feels amazing. I can’t thank Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS enough. They have given me incredible support and never stopped believing in me. I must also thank Honda and their management for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to show what I can do at this level. It might take a while to sink in but I am going to enjoy tonight that’s for sure!”
Marquez: “It was very dangerous out there”
The Motul TT Assen presented Marc Marquez with a hard choice in even more difficult conditions.
For the first time in its history, the TT Circuit Assen hosted the MotoGP™ World Championship race on a Sunday, and it proved to be a dramatic day. The 250th MotoGP™ race began on a wet track, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) making a cautious start to the race as he knew a mistake could be disastrous for his championship challenge. Once he settled in and the track began to dry, he picked up the pace and was battling with his teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) for the top five. Then the rain returned with torrential force, forcing Race Direction to pull out the red flag.
For the 12-lap restart Marquez lined up in fourth, his position decided based on where he finished the last fully completed lap before the red flag. He chose to run the soft rear Michelin rain tyre and was inside the top three as they exited the first corner. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) both sprinted off into the distance, but fell shortly after. This handed Marquez the lead, which he held until a determined Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) blasted pass. With Rossi out and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) floundering, Marquez chose to settle for second and extend his championship lead. He retains top position in the championship table and is now 24 points ahead of Lorenzo and a significant 42 points ahead of Rossi. Given the conditions on track, this is the best result Marquez could have hoped for. The next stop of the championship is Sachsenring, a track Marquez has won three straight races at.
Marc Marquez: “Today’s race was one of those in which you can either lose many points or gain them, and you can face it with two mentalities: either you take a risk to gain a bigger advantage, or you focus on finishing the race in order to lose the fewest points possible. The latter is the mentality that the team repeated to me about forty times between this morning and today, and it is exactly what I did. I tried to stay in the top five so as not to drop many points to Valentino [Rossi] and attempted to not make mistakes in order to finish the race. At the beginning of the first race I didn’t feel comfortable and lost touch, but then I was able to recover. I think that stopping the race was a good decision, because it was very dangerous out there.
“In the second race I started off thinking about pushing a bit more, but everyone was very fast and I decided not to follow Rossi and Dovizioso because they were going too quickly. However, both of them crashed later on. When I saw Jack [Miller] stalking behind me, I knew that he would be going for his first win so I preferred to let him pass and keep a couple of seconds gap between us, as well as a cushion to third place. I did that because with Jorge [Lorenzo] so far back and Rossi out of the race, second place was as good as a victory. In the end, we leave Assen with a bigger lead.”
Redding: “I made the move and risked it”
A return to the podium for Scott Redding after a dramatic Sunday in Assen, weather reducing the race to just 12 laps.
The Motul TT Assen began on a wet track, rain having stopped falling just before the race. All the MotoGP™ World Championship riders lined up with wets fitted, but if it didn’t rain they would almost certainly be forced to change bikes. From third on the grid Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) had a great run into, but not out of, the first corner and ended the first lap in ninth. He floated outside the top five as the track dried, but as soon as the rain returned he shot forward. The Brit soon found himself dicing for victory, until the red flag was brought out due to the rain.
This saw the race restarted and run over 12 laps, Redding again making a decent start. The leaders vanished into the distance, the Brit settling in behind Independent Team rival Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). A number of high profile crashes ahead soon saw their battle become one for third, Redding grabbing his chance to pass Espargaro after multiple laps of trying. He would eventually cross the line almost four seconds ahead of Espargaro, returning to the podium for the first time since Misano in 2015. The GP15 may not be the newest Ducati machine, but Redding proved it is still more than capable in the wet.
Scott Redding: “I struggled more in the beginning. I was sliding more at the end but I had the feeling. I said OK, two laps I’ve been here but it was hard to pass him because he was fast in half and I was fastt in half. Then I made the move and risked it. It paid off, I’m happy to be here in the podium after the crazy race out there. I came back but I was a little frustrated. In the end so happy to be here.”
Rossi: “I pushed too much”
For the third time in 2016, Valentino Rossi walks away from a MotoGP™ round without any points after a mistake costs him dearly.
As a result of having ridden in the premier class since 2000, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) has raced in almost ever condition that Mother Nature can think of. When the rain came before the start of the Motul TT Assen, ‘The Doctor’ was unconcerned having seen it all before. He made a great start to the race and immediately took the lead, only conceding a place to Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) who had far less to lose than Rossi and was more willing to push. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) would soon slip past as well, Rossi then deciding it was time to push. But just as he was picking up his pace the red flag was waved due to monsoon-like conditions.
This meant the race was restarted as a 12-lap dash, Rossi making another good start and opening up a two second lead before long. On lap three of the restart Rossi fell victim to the conditions, coming off and ending his race in the gravel. Try as he might, his M1 was in no condition to restart the race and he walked away. Rossi leaves Assen 42 points back on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and 18 points behind his teammate Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). This is Rossi’s first season with three DNFs since 2011 when he failed to finish the final three races while on the Ducati. Rossi has never finished higher than second in the championship in a reason with three DNFs.
Valentino Rossi: “It’s a great shame considering our great level of speed and competitiveness this weekend with our bike at this track. We could have gotten some important points for the championship after a difficult weekend and we could have taken second place in the championship over Lorenzo, but unfortunately I made a mistake. In the second half I pushed too much while I already had a good advantage. On that lap I was trying to push to understand my level. In the second part of the race we started with a soft rear, which provides very good grip, but unfortunately I entered turn ten too fast. I think we had a good chance today, but with my mistake I threw away a lot of points. The distance, especially to Marquez, is quite big, but we need to continue working hard like this and try to be competitive also next time.”
Lorenzo: “I was even thinking about stopping”
Six points for Jorge Lorenzo after a terrible Sunday in Assen, rain ruining any chance of a podium.
The combination of Assen, the wet and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is not one that has often produced great results. Lorenzo’s fortunes didn’t change as the 250th MotoGP™ World Championship race began on a wet track. Off the line he made a great start, aggressively working his way up to fifth from tenth on the grid within just a few corners. But then he found himself struggling as the conditions changed, the track drying out, and before long he was down in 19th position with no hope of a finish in the points. With 12 laps to go the red flag was brought out as torrential rain hit Assen, offering Lorenzo at least a chance of redemption in a 12-lap restart.
From the back of the grid, Lorenzo rode a safe race in the restart, the conditions catching out a huge number of riders including Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) out the front. Progress was slow but the reigning World Champion was eventually able to pick his way up to tenth place and salvage six points. He now heads to the Sachsenring in second overall, 24 points behind Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and 18 points clear of Valentino Rossi in third.
Jorge Lorenzo: “In the first race I was in 19th place and the last rider. I was even thinking about stopping because the conditions on the track were terrible, but I kept riding and they stopped the race. We restarted the race with less water on the track and a soft rear tyre and, though I was one of the last ones and there were many crashers, I gained more confidence than I had in the first race. These are important points for the championship, in the first race I would not have scored any. Marquez also scored a lot of points today, but Rossi, who could have recovered points, lost a lot. Ultimately we were able to save a difficult weekend. Before Le Mans we were also around 24 points behind and now we are more or less in the same situation, after two difficult races, so we have to think positive and keep in mind that we still have a lot of races to recover the gap to Marquez.”