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21 days ago

The young shine while the experienced despair

Wet races always throw up surprises, often allowing young riders to show their true talent and testing the established order to the limit.

A wet race can often bring an excited smile to a MotoGP™ fan’s face, eager to see what the unpredictable conditions could produce. Some riders share that excited smile; Anthony West, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Chris Vermeulen all have a reputation for flying when it’s wet. Other riders, such as Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), have the exact opposite reaction, the wet adding in an extra challenge they didn’t need.

Miller finds redemption in Assen

These contrasting emotions burned clear on Sunday at the Motul TT Assen, a number of young riders rubbing their hands with glee as the sky erupted after the Moto2™ World Championship race. None were happier than Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), the Australian having proven his incredible skill in the wet on a number of occasions before. Unlike at the 2015 British GP, his charge through the field ended in glory as he overtook Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) for the lead, going on to take his first premier class win and becoming just the fourth Australian to do so in the MotoGP™ era.

Miller: "It still feels surreal"

The race brought fans to their feet and his post-race interview brought a tear to their eye. His voice already hoarse from celebrating on the cool down lap, Miller spoke of the sacrifices he and his family had made to get here. When the Australian made the unprecedented jump from the Moto3™ World Championship straight to MotoGP™ there were a number of doubters and critics, his crash ridden rookie year causing more and more people to doubt him and HRC. But in Assen ‘JackAss’ proved he wasn’t an idiot and that Honda’s faith in him was correct, holding back the tears as he did.

Rain offered Miller a chance to show his raw talent and it offered Marquez the chance to prove he’s not only fast enough, but also smart enough to take a third MotoGP™ World Championship crown. With both Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) having disastrous days, the Spaniard was in prime position to open up a huge lead in the World Championship. But then Miller came past and Marquez had to make a very important decision, to chase Miller and risk it for glory or to settle for second?

Marquez, unlike in many years previous, chose the mature option and settled for second. Miller’s reputation from Silverstone the year before played a part in Marquez’s decision. Miller himself thought Marquez’s choice was the right one, admitting he would have made a similar call had someone blasted past him.

Rossi crashes out of lead in restarted race

On the other side of the coin was Valentino Rossi who crashed out of the lead, walking away with zero points for the third time in 2016. Rossi had been strong all weekend and looked set to close down the gap in the championship when the rain hit, neither Marquez nor Lorenzo having a particular great track record in the wet. Then his experience failed him and he entered Mandeveen too fast, losing the front and potentially his tenth title. Rossi has never finished higher than second in a premier class championship with three or more DNFs, the level in MotoGP™ so high that even a single DNF can spell disaster.

Lorenzo happy with damage limitation mission

Lorenzo’s weekend was by no means a good one, but it was at least better than Rossi’s. The reigning MotoGP™ champion has never had the best results in Assen and rain has only made it worse. As in 2014, Lorenzo struggled to get to grips with the conditions and dropped further and further down the order as the race went on. It was so bad that Lorenzo even considered pulling in during the first part of the race, the restart offering a slither of hope. He’d get tenth, six points limiting the damage and putting him 24 points behind Marquez.

“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.” Jorge Lorenzo

Few riders had a tougher weekend than Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). After returning to the podium at his home GP, Pedrosa felt he and Honda had turned a corner with the RC213V. Instead of battling for the top five again, he found himself in Q1, qualifying in 16th place before struggling in both parts of the MotoGP™ race. He crashed during the restarted race, picking up his bike to limp home for 12th place.

Assen is a historically important place for the MotoGP™ World Championship as the oldest track on the calendar. On the last Sunday of June in 2016 it produced another historic day, but for three of the premier class’ most experienced riders it goes down as one they’d rather forget. Experience helps, but sometimes you have to grab the chances life throws you and just hope you come out of it pulling a big stand up wheelie.