The venerable Assen circuit has seen many moments of drama but the latest 4.542km version delivered two Superbike World Championship races today that were right up there with the very best. The local fans enjoyed two partial home wins as well, as Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider Jonathan Rea was victorious in each 22-lap race, riding for a squad based in the Netherlands. He had to work hard on a sunny afternoon in Holland to make sure he headed up two podiums ceremonies that featured British riders in each and every place for the first time since 2003.
RACE ONE: Rea won a close opening race at Assen with two strong laps right at the end, finishing one second ahead of fellow Britons James Toseland (Yamaha Sterilgarda) and Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia). This was Camier’s first SBK podium finish, and it was memorable one. Slow-starting Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati) was a good fourth, with the BMW of Troy Corser fifth, having led for much of the race. Leon Haslam (Alstare Suzuki), the championship leader, struggled to 11th with a partial puncture. Suzuki, Ducati, Aprilia and now Honda machines have all won races in WSB so far this year.
RACE TWO: The last double win for Honda happened in the UK in 2008 but today Jonathan Rea took a double on his CBR1000RR in the Netherlands, by winning race two by 1.942 seconds. The extent of his final victory did not do justice to the second combative race of the day, with the top six or seven riders frequently riding and fighting as one. Haslam overcame his race one troubles to go second. Third was James Toseland to give the second all British podium of the day. Max Biaggi was a strong fourth, Troy Corser fifth, after another classic race at the classic circuit of Assen. Sixth came Phillip Island race winner Carlos Checa on his Althea Ducati, only just ahead of another Ducati privateer, Pata B&G racing rider Jakub Smrz.
Jonathan Rea: “It has been great and I could not have done this without my team. They gave me a fantastic bike. We changed the balance of the bike for this weekend and made it more comfortable. Both races are probably the smartest races I have ever ridden. I never got frustrated in traffic and when it was time to pull the pin I did. I am really happy with the double. It was a clean sweep, so I am proud as punch and I cannot wait to take this result on. I will savour the moment.”
James Toseland: “To come from tenth on the grid to take a second and a third was a great result for the team and myself. It has been coming slowly but it was nice to get two consistent podium results. I said before the season started there could be some British 1-2-3 results, and there are a lot of British riders out there. But we are all running up the front and doing a fantastic job, so we deserve to be there. It is great for the fans in the UK and I am sure we are all looking forward to Silverstone.”
Leon Camier: “It was a bit hotter today than the previous days so we were moving around a bit, but it was awesome to get a result for Aprilia. They have put a lot of effort into me, and good faith. It is gradually coming together, and now we are getting some good results.”
Leon Haslam: “Race one was definitely the hardest race I have ever had, battling against a puncture, bit it is just one of those things. To get back on the podium in race two was great. I had a really great battle with Johnny and it was really good. There was a bit of argy-bargy out there and it was disappointing not to challenge in the last couple of laps. But, my second place extended my championship lead again, so it’s all good.”
HASLAM EXTENDS ADVANTAGE AS REA MOVES UP: In the points table Haslam now has 148, Biaggi 128, Rea 110 and Carlos Checa 103. Rea doubled his career win total to four today, and in going third overall renewed a championship challenge that was waning after some recent disappointing results. Rea left Assen with the Superpole win, the new lap record of 1’36.312 (set in race two) and two wins. He now has his sights firmly set on Monza for the next round, on May 9.
BMW JOIN THE PARTY FOR REAL: Troy Corser could not quite get to the fourth place he scored in Valencia at the previous round but this weekend’s two fifth places were even more impressive rides, particularly when added to the fact that Corser topped combined qualifying, and was third fastest in Superpole on Saturday. Corser is now overall seventh, on 68 points. Ruben Xaus fell in race one but got a top ten in race two on the other factory BMW.
HAGA AND FABRIZIO TOIL IN THE SUN: A troubled time for the official Ducati team continued at Assen, as Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) retired in race two, and was only 11th in race one. His team-mate Michel Fabrizio scored in each race, 13th and 12th respectively. Checa was the highest placed Ducati rider today, fourth in the opener.