ASSEN, The Netherlands – The eni FIM Superbike World Championship put in another great show at Assen on Sunday as riders from four of the five classes battled out for the best positioning in the respective races in front of an enthusiastic crowd (that reached a total of 52.000 spectators over the whole weekend).
Blue skies characterized the last day on track to the joy of all riders, starting with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), who was able to set a new lap record for the Superbike class in race one and win ahead of Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) – previous lap record holder from 2010 – and Eugene Laverty.
The Irishman, together with his Aprilia Racing Team crew, found the right set-up adjustments to match Sykes’ pace in race two and thanks to a last-lap manoeuvre was able to snatch victory from Sykes.
Sykes got the sixth race win of his career, and the first of 2013, after a lonely race at the front, thanks to an incredible pace that allowed him to pull away from the chasing pack in the early laps. The 27-year-old gave Kawasaki its first victory on the iconic Dutch circuit after seven long years: last time out was Chris Walker, in 2006.
“The bike was working well and was very consistent today,” Sykes said. “Race one was great for us and we did all we could. To be honest I surprised myself a little but the Ninja ZX-10R is working great. That first race was nice and believe me, to see that pit board gap get bigger every lap is magical for a rider.
“When Eugene came past me in race two I realized it was much easier to follow than to lead round here and it was just unfortunate that exiting the final chicane on the last lap I hit the kerb on the inside when I was trying to pass him, and I was out of the seat.
Rea finished race one with a solid second place after a successful overtaking manoeuvre on Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) at turn 13. Second works Aprilia rider Laverty was part of the three-way battle for second place but had some hard times in the last part of the race.
Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) was fifth at the chequered flag ahead of Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Aprilia), who was very competitive in the early laps but couldn’t keep the pace of the leaders as the race progressed.
BMW’s unlucky race saw Chaz Davies lining-up on the last row of the grid after a warm-up crash that forced his crew to a quick rebuild of his BMW S 1000 RR. The Welshman made his way up to a seventh place finish after a good start.
An unfortunate Marco Melandri suffered a technical problem on his bike during the warm-up lap and was forced to pull in before the start of the race.
The second race featured a close battle between Sykes and Laverty, who pulled away at the front in the early laps. Sykes stayed in the lead until lap 19, when Laverty decided to take the plunge and made a move on the Brit at turn six. Sykes managed to stay with the Irishman until the end and tried his final shot at the win at turn 16, with the two riders crossing the line side by side. A 0.089-second margin allowed Laverty to score his fifth career win, the second this year.
“The little time we had with a dry track created a few problems in race one,” Laverty admitted1. “In fact, before the second race we made some changes to the RSV4, which we usually don’t do because of how risky that is. Actually the changes made worked really well.
“Despite feeling very comfortable on the bike I didn’t think I would have stayed with Sykes. But in the end I was able to keep up with his pace. Four laps from the end I overtook Tom, even pulling away a few metres, but then the wind kept me from being precise so he was able to cling back onto me.
“Winning today was important. We’re back in the fight for the championship and we were able to leave the troubles from Aragón behind us.”
Baz successfully defended third place over Rea, who ended on a positive note a difficult round for the Pata Honda Team. It was a below-par race for Davies and Guintoli, who were fifth and sixth respectively at the chequered flag.
Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) rode bravely from last place on the grid to a seventh place finish, while his team mate Jules Cluzel was forced to pull in during lap 16 due to a technical problem.
Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) had a perfect start of the race but struggled to keep the pace, eventually finishing eighth ahead of Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare).
An unfortunate Davide Giugliano crashed out at turn two during lap six, while he was in third place. The Italian rider was OK straight after the crash, unlike his Aprilia RSV4 that went on fire.
After the disappointment of the Aragon round, Sam Lowes (Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha) and reigning Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) were back at the front for a two-way fight for the World Supersport race win at TT Circuit of Assen.
The two riders shared the lead over the course of the 21 laps, but it wasn’t until the last lap that the final battle took place: Sofuoglu overpowered Lowes on the straight that leads to turn six, but couldn’t do much when Lowes got along the inside of him – entering the last chicane – to cross the line in first place.
Championship leader Fabien Foret (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) got an important third place finish despite the 7.2-second gap from the lead at the chequered flag. The Frenchman looked strong halfway through the race, closing the gap with the front runners before eventually falling back.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport) got a terrible start of the race from the 11th grid slot, but was able to make his way through the field to a final fourth.
Florian Marino (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki), substitute for injured David Salom, rode a great race to finish fifth ahead of Roberto Rolfo (ParkinGO MV Agusta Corse), who got his best finish so far in 2013, and Jack Kennedy (Rivamoto Honda), early protagonist of the race before losing a lot of ground.
A final lap thrilling battle in the Superstock 1000 race saw Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Ducati) get a close victory on the finish line by just 0.023 seconds over defending champion Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad GoldBet).
The two rode side by side to the chequered flag, followed by third place Niccolò Canepa (Barni Racing Ducati).
Local wildcard rider Bo Bendsneijder took a popular victory in the second round of the Pata European Junior Cup, powered by Honda.
The eni FIM Superbike World Championship will be back in action for Round 4 on May 10-12 at the iconic Monza Autodromo Nazionale.
World Superbike Results
1. Sykes (Kawasaki) 22 Laps/99.924 km in 35:35.042 average 168.487 km/h;
2. Rea (Honda) 8.786;
3. Guintoli (Aprilia) 8.792;
4. Laverty (Aprilia) 9.225;
5. Baz (Kawasaki) 14.231;
6. Giugliano (Aprilia) 16.150;
7. Davies (BMW) 22.570;
8. Cluzel (Suzuki) 24.751;
9. Camier (Suzuki) 30.311;
10. Checa (Ducati) 35.277;
11. Neukirchner (Ducati) 44.355;
12. Fabrizio (Aprilia) 52.580;
13. Badovini (Ducati) 59.736;
14. Clementi (BMW) 1:02.010;
15. Aitchison (Ducati) 1:21.861;
16. Sandi (Kawasaki) 1:25.717;
17. Iannuzzo (BMW) 1:42.710
1. Laverty (Aprilia) 22 Laps/99.924 km in 35:36.814 average 168.347 km/h;
2. Sykes (Kawasaki) 0.089;
3. Baz (Kawasaki) 5.848;
4. Rea (Honda) 5.890;
5. Davies (BMW) 7.359;
6. Guintoli (Aprilia) 7.404;
7. Camier (Suzuki) 21.095;
8. Melandri (BMW) 27.267;
9. Fabrizio (Aprilia) 30.233;
10. Checa (Ducati) 32.401;
11. Badovini (Ducati) 39.924;
12. Neukirchner (Ducati) 43.904;
13. Clementi (BMW) 1:00.169;
14. Sandi (Kawasaki) 1:01.853;
15. Aitchison (Ducati) 1:02.664
World Superbike Standings (round 3 of 15)
1. Guintoli 111;
2. Laverty 83;
3. Davies 83;
4. Sykes 83;
5. Rea 63;
6. Baz 58;
7. Fabrizio 53;
8. Melandri 51;
9. Cluzel 41;
10. Giugliano 33;
11. Camier 30;
12. Checa 29;
13. Haslam 29;
14. Neukirchner 29;
15. Badovini 20; etc.