Crutchlow returns to podium in Assen thriller
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow made a stunning return to the podium in a classic Dutch TT encounter this afternoon.
The 26-lap battle was a nail-biting affair from start to finish and a fantastic charge in the second half of the race secured British rider Crutchlow a third rostrum in the last four races and ensured once again that he was unmatched as the outstanding non-factory rider.
Starting from pole position for the first time in his premier class career after a sensational qualifying performance yesterday, Crutchlow found himself down in fifth place in a frenetic opening to the 65th running of the historic Dutch TT.
With 90,000 fans gripped by the exciting action, Crutchlow’s podium challenge commenced when he seized fourth from heroic reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, who just 48 hours after breaking his left collarbone in practice was producing a superhuman effort to keep the podium in his sights early on.
Crutchlow disposed of Lorenzo’s threat at the final chicane on lap 15 and he then moved into the rostrum places with an identical move to get by World Championship leader Dani Pedrosa on lap 21.
The former World Supersport’s blistering speed then saw him brilliantly hunt down Marc Marquez for second as the race reached an enthralling climax. Eager to equal the career best second place he scored in Le Mans last month, Crutchlow came close to pulling off a thrilling overtake at the first corner on the final lap.
Marquez though was not to be outdone and after coming close to contact, Crutchlow momentarily ran off track before recovering to claim a richly deserved fifth MotoGP podium that keeps him in fourth position in the World Championship standings
Bradley Smith produced yet another hugely encouraging display, the British rookie finishing inside the top 10 for the fifth race in a row.
Starting alongside eventual winner Valentino Rossi and Pedrosa on the second row after a career best qualifying performance, Smith did his best to keep himself in the hunt for the top six in the early stages to try and gain vital experience from the fastest riders in the world.
Struggling in the hard braking zones with discomfort from a recovery left wrist injury, Smith slipped outside of the top 10 but refused to settle for an 11th position he held from the fifth to the last lap.
Locked in a battle with Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, Smith produced a stunning last lap attack to finish ahead of both to claim ninth for the third time in the last four races.
Cal Crutchlow 3rd – 87 points:
“I am really happy to be back on the podium after the disappointment of Barcelona. It was a great battle right to the end and once again I showed my speed and I was close to finishing second and that would have matched my best result in MotoGP. But obviously after starting from pole position I wanted to win the race and had it not been for me struggling with the full fuel tank in the first five laps, I think I had a chance to fight with Valentino. I can’t turn the bike on a full fuel load and then Jorge passed me and he was riding amazing considering his physical condition. It took me a while to get back by him but then I chased down Dani and Marc but it was a case of too little, too late. It was close with Marc on the last lap and I think we touched, so we were lucky he got back on the throttle when he did otherwise both of us could have been in the grandstand! Being back on the podium is great for Monster, Tech 3 and Yamaha and it is another positive result for the Championship. Before the start of the season, if somebody had said I would have been on the podium three times in seven races and been so consistently fast with the best riders in the world, then I would have been happy. Now we go to Germany in a positive frame of mind and hoping to get back on the rostrum again.”
Bradley Smith 9th – 41 points:
“With my wrist injury continuing to cause me a problem, today was probably my hardest race of the year. After the operation immediately after Catalunya I expected it to be better than the last two races but to be honest I have a few more problems now. So it was a good race and to be able to get ninth on the last lap is a good situation. The distance to Bradl was quite similar to Barcelona and truthfully this ninth feels better than the sixth I got in Barcelona because today I really had to battle and nobody crashed. The gap to the front is quite similar to Barcelona and obviously the big positive of the weekend was starting on the second row. I knew finishing seventh was going to be a best case scenario because I knew Jorge was going to be coming through. I stayed consistent and my pace in the second half of the race was strong. I still need to work on the set-up for the early laps but I can go to Germany with a lot of confidence. I’ve scored another top 10 and beaten two very experienced riders on the final lap. And hopefully the wrist will be less of a problem at Germany and I can be in a bit less discomfort than here.”
Herve Poncharal – Team Manager:
“That was a fantastic race but truthfully we might have expected a little bit more after Cal scored his first pole position in qualifying. It was the first pole for us since Ben Spies in 2010 and had Cal been able to be a bit faster in the early part of the race I’ve no doubt he could have challenged Valentino for the win. So while we got pole position and a podium, which is a truly magnificent effort, we were hoping Cal would have been closer to the win. Take nothing away from him though because once again he was the outstanding non-factory rider, he beat the World Championship leader in normal conditions and almost passed Marc right at the end. Today Cal showed once again what a great job he is doing and we are confident he can battle for the podium in Germany. Bradley also had a very positive weekend. Unfortunately the wrist he damaged in Mugello is still causing him some considerable pain, so to qualify sixth and finish inside the top 10 again was a fantastic effort. He never gave up and he remained very consistent and to get a top 10 on the last lap from two riders with incredible experience like Nicky and Andrea will give him some confidence for the future. Finally congratulations to Valentino and Jorge. It is great for Yamaha and MotoGP to see Valentino winning again and I am lost for words to describe Jorge’s performance. He showed why he is World Champion today and I am sure he was pleased to see Cal finishing ahead of Dani for the standings.”
Source: Tech3 Communications