Crutchlow Grabs First MotoGP Pole At Assen

by Louis Suddaby

Cal Crutchlow finally ended his wait for a pole position in MotoGP with a stunning lap in the dying seconds of qualifying at Assen. In the absence of Jorge Lorenzo, the Briton ensured Yamaha remained on top by denying Marc Marquez with the final lap of the session. Marquez, who broke a finger in final practice, will start second with Stefan Bradl a career-best third for LCR Honda.

Marquez’s high side in FP3 was the headline of the morning until news broke before qualifying that Jorge Lorenzo would be returning to the Netherlands despite undergoing collarbone surgery overnight. The world champion will still have to be passed fit at the circuit and take part in warm-up before starting but his pace in practice ensures he will line up in twelfth, should he do so.

In a thrilling second session, Dani Pedrosa moved to the top of the timesheets with a 1:35.006 but seconds later, the championship leader slid off at turn nine. By the time he returned to the garage on board a scooter, too much time had elapsed and he was powerless to defend his pole position.

His time still stood heading into the last minute but Valentino Rossi sent the crowd into raptures with a 1:34.974, taking top spot from the Spaniard. The dream of a first pole for over two years didn’t last for long though as Bradl followed him over the line seconds later to go a tenth faster, triggering celebrations in the LCR Honda garage.

After being held up by Bradley Smith at the beginning of his second run, Marquez found enough clear track to set a 1:34.755 on his final lap but the final word would come from Crutchlow whose 1:34.398 put him three tenths clear of the Repsol Honda. Even with Lorenzo’s absence, Cal had conclusively been the dominant force.

Rossi was pushed back to fourth although that will still be his best grid slot of the season while the same can be said for Bradley Smith who took an excellent sixth, ensuring Pedrosa will be surrounded by Yamahas on the second row. Aleix Espargaro will start seventh ahead of Alvaro Bautista after another heroic effort on the Aspar CRT machine with Randy de Puniet also shining to take ninth on the sister bike.

The Ducatis had a miserable afternoon with Nicky Hayden the best of the lot in tenth after scraping through Q1. Michele Pirro had an automatic path through to Q2 and finished eleventh but Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso were surprisingly knocked out. The pair will start thirteenth and fifteenth although Dovizioso could be in hot water with race direction after aiming a kick at Hector Barbera on his slow down lap, feeling the Spaniard had hindered him moments earlier.

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