Spies seals first win in difficult Assen MotoGP conditions
Slight residual dampness on the Assen track made the start of MotoGP’s round seven race vital, as several riders fell foul of conditions, but it was not enough to prevent Ben Spies taking his first MotoGP victory, controlling the race from the front to romp to an eventual 7.7-second lead over second-placed Casey Stoner and his Repsol Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Bridgestone Motorsport manager Hiroshi Yamada congratulated Spies on becoming the tenth rider to claim a premier class MotoGP victory on the manufacturer’s tyres.
“This is a fantastic win for Ben, especially during Yamaha’s 50th anniversary celebrations, so I’d like to congratulate his team and Yamaha for their performance today… It is good to have a new race winner in MotoGP. It was a very tricky weekend for riders but also for our tyres. All season the temperature at races seems to be significantly lower than last year, and with the effect of rain over the last three days the track condition was very slippery and off-line it was still damp so today many riders used the softer slicks for improved warm-up.”
Hirohide Hamashima, assistant to director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division assessed the conditions’ impact on tyre choices: “The conditions today were cold and damp in places which meant that almost all riders used the softer option front and rear slicks. The soft compound front was used for its improved warm-up performance and grip with the low temperature, but the compromise of this means that tyre wear was therefore higher.
“Some riders experienced some graining of the front tyre, including Cal who opted to return to the pits for a fresh soft front slick. Generally, as Ben showed, rear tyre performance was ok today, even on the left side, although a few riders got caught out on the first lap. Andrea reported a vibration from the rear of his bike but investigation shows that this didn’t have anything to do with the rear tyre but may have been the effect he felt of graining on the right side of the front tyre.”
The Assen weather had been overcast all day and rain meant that the 125cc and Moto2 races were both wet, but by the start of the MotoGP race the conditions had become sufficiently dry for slick tyres, although the skies remained overcast. In the cool and slippery conditions, every rider on the grid opted for the softer specification front and rear slicks apart from Marco Simoncelli and Karel Abraham who used the harder option front. Both these riders experienced difficulties, with Abraham retiring and Simoncelli getting caught out exiting turn five and taking Jorge Lorenzo into the gravel.
Spies said his uncharacteristic use of the softer front tyre was a reaction to the cool, damp conditions: “We used the softer front tyre, which I never do, because of the conditions but we had to be cautious. It was damp off-line but we just had to be smart about it. We were able to get into the rhythm quickly this time, and it was a fun race.”