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Last year at Assen

Last year at Assen

Last year at Assen

An intense race at the Gauloises TT Assen saw Valentino Rossi emerge victorious from a last lap battle with Sete Gibernau to wrestle the MotoGP World Championship lead from the Spaniard with six rounds gone. Carlos Checa took an early lead but was sucked into the field after less than a lap, with the leading two riders in the championship then going head-to-head before a brief cameo from Alex Barros, who snatched second place from Rossi on the eleventh lap but crashed out just seconds later at the end of the straight.

It helped Gibernau open up a gap over Rossi which he sustained until the final lap, when the Italian made a brave overtaking manoeuvre in the Stekkenwal corner and then momentarily losing the front end in the tight Mandeveen right-hander, snapping Gibernau's front mudguard as the Honda ran into the rear wheel of the Yamaha. Ironically, Rossi's problem proved to be the decisive moment of the race as he opened up a crucial advantage in the final charge for the line.

Marco Melandri put in a hugely impressive performance to seal third place, his second podium in successive races coming just ten days after an operation to relieve compartmental syndrome in his right arm. The Italian youngster fought bravely to outpace experienced compatriot Max Biaggi over the final two laps after making a mistake and crossing the chicane when pushing desperately to catch Gibernau and Rossi in the final stages of the race.

With Biaggi in fourth place, Nicky Hayden came through to clinch fifth after a superb charge from 16th on the grid which saw him pressure the Italian pair for the final podium spot in the closing stages. Hayden's American compatriot and Honda colleague Colin Edwards followed less than a second behind, whilst Ducati rider Ruben Xaus continued his impressive form with seventh place.

Checa's lightening start faded drastically as he struggled with a rear grip problem, Rossi's Yamaha team-mate dropping four places on the final six laps to cross the line in ninth behind Loris Capirossi on the Ducati. Neil Hodgson, who clinched the World Superbike title at this circuit the previous year, used his intimate knowledge of the circuit to good effect, clinching his first top ten finish of the season.


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