Ben Spies gave Yamaha the perfect gift on the weekend they celebrated their 50th year in Grand Prix racing by taking his first MotoGP victory. The American had started on the front row and quickly took the lead, and cruised to a comfortable win.
The race was effectively won on the very first lap after a series of incidents left him with a substantial lead. First the two Factory Yamahas dived up the inside of polesitter Marco Simoncelli into turn one before Spies muscled his way past his teammate on the run towards the Ossebroeken curve. Simoncelli wasn't finished though an attempted a move on the inside of Lorenzo at the Strubben hairpin, but only succeeded in high siding his Honda, taking the World Champion with him. Both eventually rejoined but had fallen to the back of the field.
Spies was ahead of the mayhem and gratefully opened up a 2.5s lead at the end of the first lap with Andrea Dovizioso second ahead of teammate Casey Stoner. Cal Crutchlow was running an excellent fourth ahead of Valentino Rossi who had gone from 11th to fifth.
Stoner quickly moved into second at the start of lap two but the championship leader didn't seem to have an answer to the pace of Spies who was the best part of a second quicker on each of the next two laps, opening up a four second lead.
Meanwhile, Crutchlow was involved in a fascinating duel with Rossi over fourth. The Ducati rider gained the advantage on lap four and started to pull away, but the Briton was still comfortably clear of his teammate Colin Edwards.
Unfortunately, Crutchlow began to hit tyre trouble and was forced to pit on lap 11 with severe graining on the front Bridgestone. Less than a fortnight after breaking his collarbone, Crutchlow didn't want to risk another accident and chose to fit a new front slick, dropping him two laps behind the leader.
After being the innocent victim of Simoncelli's error on lap one, Lorenzo was fighting his way back through the field. On lap six, he made short work of Gresini Honda substitute Kousuke Akiyoshi and the equally struggling Hector Barbera.
He quickly started to reel in the Rizla Suzuki of Alvaro Bautista, at times lapping five seconds quicker and on lap 11 he eased past his fellow Spaniard to move into the top ten, which quickly became ninth with Crutchlow's demise.
His rapid progress continued and two laps later he was on the tail of the battle for seventh between Hiroshi Aoyama and Toni Elias. The LCR Honda didn't put up much of a fight as Lorenzo took eighth at the corner he'd fallen earlier, while Aoyama relinquished seventh a lap later.
With four laps to go, Lorenzo climbed into the top six as Colin Edwards hit the same tyre problems that damaged his teammate's race. The Tech3 Yamaha was lapping six seconds off the pace and was easy prey for the factory rider.
The field was spread out at the front and Spies cruised home to an unchallenged victory by over seven seconds, and the Texan admitted it was the most special moment of his career given the importance of the weekend for Yamaha.
“It's a special win – this is the biggest win for me and as good as it gets. This track is a track I grew up watching my heroes race on, and with this one being the 50th anniversary of Yamaha and with the special colours and all the legends watching, it all came together. The race went extremely well for us. It was tough in some ways but easy in others as it was good to be in a good rhythm where I could set my pace. 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.”
Repsol Honda duo Stoner and Dovizioso completed the podium positions as the Australian extended his championship lead. The two factory Ducatis were next up with Rossi's GP11.1 finishing ahead of Nicky Hayden's GP11. The American was very nearly chased down by the recovering Lorenzo but the Yamaha man had to settle for sixth.
Despite his tyre woes, Colin Edwards hung on to seventh ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama while Marco Simoncelli battled his way back up to ninth after his early accident, sneaking ahead of Toni Elias in the closing stages.
Alvaro Bautista narrowly avoided the ignominy of being lapped in 11th place but Hector Barbera and Kousuke Akiyoshi weren't so lucky in 12th and 13th. Cal Crutchlow was the last classified finisher in 14th after his unscheduled tyre change.
Karel Abraham's race came to early and painful end after crashing on the opening lap while Randy de Puniet completed a miserable weekend for the Pramac Ducati team with a crash of his own shortly afterwards.
Race Result (26 Laps):
|1||Ben Spies||USA||Yamaha Factory Racing||41:44.659||25|
|2||Casey Stoner||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||+7.697||20|
|3||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||Repsol Honda Team||+27.506||16|
|4||Valentino Rossi||ITA||Ducati Team||+30.684||13|
|5||Nicky Hayden||USA||Ducati Team||+43.172||11|
|6||Jorge Lorenzo||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||+44.536||10|
|7||Colin Edwards||USA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+1:08.112||9|
|8||Hiroshi Aoyama||JAP||Repsol Honda Team||+1:10.753||8|
|9||Marco Simoncelli||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+1:24.925||7|
|10||Toni Elias||SPA||LCR Honda MotoGP||+1:26.216||6|
|11||Alvaro Bautista||SPA||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||+1:38.466||5|
|12||Hector Barbera||SPA||Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP||+1 Lap||4|
|13||Kousuke Akiyoshi||JAP||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+1 Lap||3|
|14||Cal Crutchlow||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+2 Laps||2|
|Karel Abraham||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||+25 Laps|
|Randy de Puniet||FRA||Pramac Racing Team||+25 Laps|
|Loris Capirossi||ITA||Pramac Racing Team||Non Starter|
Riders Championship (After Round 7: Netherlands)
|1||Casey Stoner||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||4||136|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||1||108|
|3||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||Repsol Honda Team||99|
|4||Valentino Rossi||ITA||Ducati Team||81|
|5||Nicky Hayden||USA||Ducati Team||71|
|6||Dani Pedrosa||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||1||61|
|7||Ben Spies||USA||Yamaha Factory Racing||1||61|
|8||Hiroshi Aoyama||JAP||San Carlo Honda Gresini||51|
|9||Colin Edwards||USA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||46|
|10||Marco Simoncelli||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||39|
|11||Hector Barbera||SPA||Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP||35|
|12||Toni Elias||SPA||LCR Honda MotoGP||34|
|13||Karel Abraham||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||33|
|14||Cal Crutchlow||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||32|
|15||Alvaro Bautista||SPA||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||27|
|16||Loris Capirossi||ITA||Pramac Racing Team||22|
|17||Randy de Puniet||FRA||Pramac Racing Team||10|
|18||John Hopkins||USA||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||6|
|19||Kousuke Akiyoshi||JAP||San Carlo Honda Gresini||3|