Assen was once more a happy hunting ground for Shaun but the 2016 edition of the Grand Prix of the Netherlands was a bittersweet experience for the British Champion…
On one hand was a confident and striding first moto victory of the season…on the other a second moto crash and bike problem that meant a charge from the back of the pack and the chance of an overall triumph fading to sixth position overall.
Signs were good already on Saturday when Simpson had to plough back from last position to reach ninth with some of the fastest speed of the MXGP field. A better and incident-free set of starts on Sunday were the requirement and the Scot made it happen in the first moto that was run on a sodden and tricky sandy terrain due to torrential rain showers and thunderstorms Saturday evening and part of race-day morning.
A top ten launch and a shrewd move to second by the third turn converted into the lead along the subsequent waves section and from that point Shaun set the pace, watched by 32,000 spectators. Clement Desalle cut down the margin to the Scot and at one point was almost within touching distance as ‘24’ settled into his race pace but in the final ten minutes Simpson cut through the backmarkers and extended the gap to comfortably pick up his very first moto victory of the season and the first since the same meeting last summer.
A drying track was in place for the second moto and Shaun’s proactive approach to obtaining the lead didn’t work out for the next start. An early crash on the waves led to his bike being struck by another rider and he had to stop to ‘right’ the damage and also entered the pits for more assistance. ‘24’ restarted more than ten seconds behind the last running rider and buried the 450SX-F into the Dutch surface to reach sixteenth and pass fourteen other runners.
“There were far too many positives about this weekend to get bummed out by the second moto or missing out on the overall,” the 28 year old said. “I was by-far the fastest guy this weekend in the races and I managed to show it in the first one and that the speed was there in the second one. The key to it was in the starts and to be honest I was lucky in the opening moto to get into the lead as quick as I did past Tony. If I didn’t have to come into the pits or didn’t crash for a second time then I still could have been in time for the podium because I was that much faster than everyone else; it is all ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ though.”
“Today was testament to the testing we have been doing and the suspension we have now,” he continued. “It is a bit annoying that we have reached this point of the year again when I am happy with my bike. But I pleased that I showed something today and that I am a force to be reckoned with when the conditions suit me.”
307 points means the British No.1 is tenth in the MXGP standings. Shaun now has only a few days and a matter of hours before heading over to the United States for almost two weeks and the final back-to-back Grands Prix of the season at Charlotte (North Carolina) and Glen Helen (California). “Charlotte next weekend and maybe redemption over there or perhaps Glen Helen,” he said. “I’m looking forward to both rounds.”
Photo by Ray Archer