Magic in the air at Assen
World famous TT Circuit Assen was the host for the fourth round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, and all eyes were on Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) as he looked to securing his first podium finish with the Japanese factory. Always providing stunning battles and tense racing, the Dutch circuit is one which all riders enjoy and was bound to throw up some surprises for the WorldSBK riders.
Before the lights went out for race one on Saturday drama hit the series, as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) clashed in Superpole Two. Following the disagreement, Rea saw his pole position revoked and he started the race from fourth position on the grid opposed to pole. British rider Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was boosted to pole position ahead of Davies and Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia).
Getting a stunning start off the line, Davies led for the majority of the race but Rea was on the hunt for his tenth victory in The Netherlands. Taking the lead on the penultimate lap from Davies, the Welshman was then dealt with heartbreak as his Panigale suffered mechanical issues coming out of the famous Gert-Timmer Chicane and Davies was forced to retire. Rea was joined by Sykes – who was still fighting off a mystery illness – and Melandri on the podium. Van der Mark suffered home heartbreak as a first lap collision with team-mate Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in the first corner meant he found himself mid-pack before crashing out on only the second lap.
Race two saw Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) once again start from pole position ahead of Savadori and Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), whilst the usual front runners had to fight through the pack. But it didn’t take Rea long to make it to the front, taking the lead from early pace setter Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia). As Rea got into a rhythm, his team-mate was hunting him down but the efforts were to no avail as Rea narrowly took the victory by 0.025s – marking his 200th WorldSBK race. Van der Mark was able to give the Dutch fans something to shout about as he put in a valiant effort to fight through from 11th on the grid and take fourth position at the line, unable to catch Davies in third.
Heading into an intense month for the WorldSBK riders, Rea led the championship by 64 points ahead of Sykes, with Davies 84 behind but with 50 points on the table in each round anything can happen to flip the title on its head.