Eugene Laverty overcame adversity to finish an excellent seventh in Sunday’s drama-filled Dutch TT at Assen.
The Aspar Ducati rider has now broken back into the top ten in the MotoGP World Championship and is only one point behind factory Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro in ninth and four points behind official Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, who holds eighth place in the standings after the first eight races.
The race was stopped on lap 15 due to torrential rain and re-started over 12 laps, with Laverty making steady progress on his Desmosedici GP14.2 in the treacherous conditions and gaining several places when many riders were caught out.
The 30-year-old, who is mulling over his plans for 2017 and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a return to the World Superbike Championship, endured misfortune himself when he came off on the sighting lap before the original race and was forced to start from pit lane.
He was cut adrift from the main pack but was granted a second chance when the race was halted, fighting his way through to claim nine valuable points.
“I rode so slowly on the sighting lap because I didn’t want to be the idiot that crashed... but I did! The tyre just felt like ice, it was so slippery,” Laverty said.
“I had to run back for the other bike but I didn’t think it was too bad because starting from the back of the grid was not too far from where we qualified.
“Then when I arrived at the end of pit lane I could feel there was a problem with the front brake, which was stuck. That was why I struggled so much at the start of the race and dropped so far back,” he added.
“The second part of the race was good, I made a really good start and made up a lot of positions but from lap two to around lap six I kept losing the front: I almost crashed so many times and with so many other riders crashing out around me I had to be really careful.
“Over the last five laps the front tyre started to come better again and I was able to go really fast –we just ran out of time to catch the guys in front. Seventh place after so much drama is a good result.”
Australia’s Jack Miller became the first satellite rider to win a MotoGP race in 10 years as the Aussie wrapped up a sensational victory against all expectations on the Marc VDS Honda.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez secured a safe second place to extend his lead at the top of the championship after title rival Valentino Rossi slid out of the lead on the Movistar Yamaha, while team-mate Jorge Lorenzo struggled in the conditions, eventually crossing the line in 10th place to score six points.
Miller, who made his MotoGP debut last season after progressing straight from the Moto3 class, is the first satellite winner of a MotoGP race since Toni Elias clinched victory in Portugal in 2006.
Britain’s Scott Redding reeled in and passed Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro on the penultimate lap to snatch a brilliant third place on the Pramac Ducati, putting two satellite machines onto the podium.
A host of riders were caught out by the conditions, including Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Aleix Espargaro (Ecstar Suzuki) and Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Aprilia).
Italian rider Dovizioso had led the first race and was right in the frame for victory, but a crash on lap two of the restarted race ended his hopes, while Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who was ahead when the first race was halted on lap 15, retired with a problem in Race 2.
There was also massive disappointment for Laverty’s Aspar Ducati team-mate Yonny Hernandez, who sensationally led the first race until he crashed at turn one after nine laps.
The Colombian returned to the pits to switch to his second machine, but Hernandez crashed again and was unable to take part in the restart.
Marquez now leads the championship by 24 points from Lorenzo after eight rounds, with Rossi 42 points behind the Honda rider in third.