Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes has converted excellent qualifying pace to a race win and second place overnight at the Dutch WSBK round.
After blitzing his rivals in race one, it was looking very much like Sykes would take his first double win in World Superbike with only Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) able to match the pace of Sykes’ Kawasaki in the second stanza. He did end up being the highest point scorer on the day, taking 45 points from a possible 50.
Sykes didn’t have it all his own way though – Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty made the right adjustments to his Aprilia to match the pace of the Kawasaki in the second race. Laverty rode with patience, tailing Sykes and making his move in the closing stages to snatch victory.
Sykes would comment later that it is easier to follow than lead at Assen, but during race one he opened up so much of a gap it didn’t matter.
Sykes led every single one of race one’s 22-laps, the English rider pulling away, setting a new lap record of 1’35.893 on lap two. He was over eight seconds clear at the end for a popular win and Kawasaki’s first victory at Assen since 2006.
With Leon Haslam Tweeting support from his hospital bed, it was up to Jonathon Rea to fly the flag for Honda and he looked in fine form, just edging out Sylvain Guintoli for second place. He managed to pull off a well executed move on Guintoli at the final chicane, highlighting the Northern Ireland riders close knowledge of the Assen circuit.
For Rea, it was his 30th World Superbike podium and his sixth at the 4.542km TT Circuit, having taken at lease one rostrum finish here in each of the last four years.
The result for Guintoli meant that he had not been off the podium all year, while the other Aprilia of Eugene Laverty also looked in contention until the final section of the race.
BMW’s unlucky race saw Chaz Davies lining-up on the last row of the grid after the 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 7th place finish after a good start. An unfortunate Marco Melandri – who was supported today by six-time World Motocross Champion and close friend Tony Cairoli – suffered a technical problem on his bike during the warm-up lap and was forced to pull in before the start of the race.
Suzuki rider Leon Camier finished a gallant 9th behind his younger team mate Jules Cluzel. Camier was riding with a seriously injured left knee and was in doubt to even ride this weekend. Camier was just happy to make the finish line, saying, “Overall I am happy, even though at the end of the race my leg and body felt as if they were in bits; I was just pleased to finish both races.”
Eugene Laverty, starting from the front row for the seventh consecutive time, triumphed in Race 2 after a nail biting duel with English rider Tom Sykes, earning Aprilia’s first win on the Dutch circuit in World Superbike. This win, combined with his fourth place finish in Race 1, takes the Irish rider to second place in the standings, just behind team mate Sylvain Guintoli.
Sykes led for 18 of the 22 laps, however a small mistake where he clipped the chicane sent the rear of his Kawasaki slightly sideways, which was enough to seal the victory for Laverty by 0.089 seconds.
Loris Baz had a better start in race two and found good pace, being able to push hard for his first podium of the year.
Rea finished fourth in race two, just four hundredths of a second from another podium finish, and moves up to fifth place in the overall standings. A below-par race for Chaz Davies and Sylvain Guintoli, 5th and 6th respectively at the chequered flag.
Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) rode bravely from last place on the grid to a 7th place finish, while his team mate Jules Cluzel was forced to pull in during lap 16 due to a technical problem. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) had a perfect start of the race but struggled to keep the pace, eventually finishing 8th ahead of Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare).
An unfortunate Davide Giugliano crashed out of Turn 2 during lap 6, while he was in 3rd place. The Italian rider was OK straight after the crash unlike his Aprilia RSV4 that went on fire.
Australia’s Mark Aitchison took 15th in both races aboard the Team Effenbert Liberty Ducati 1098R.
Tom Sykes – 1st and 2nd: “Almost the perfect race weekend for us after winning Superpole as well. We have made progress after a slow start to the season so we will build more momentum now to move it all forward again. When Eugene came past me in race two I realised 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. It would have been great to win race two as well but I am happy with the day and we had and the great support at Assen from all the Kawasaki fans and some Tom Sykes fans. Race one was great for us and we did all we could. We have had a very strong winter test programme, learned a lot and have a lot of information and data. Now we are finding where we need to be. Overall I am happy because we did a lot of hard work in free practice yesterday. That first race was nice and believe me, to see that pit board gap get bigger every lap is magical for a rider.”
Eugene Laverty – 4th and 1st: “The little time we had with a dry track created a few problems in Race 1. 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 they made worked really well. I had the right feeling even though I didn’t think I would be stay up with Sykes. But in the end I was able to keep up with his pace. In fact, his wash actually helped me out since there were some strong gusts of wind on the track. Four laps from the end I overtook Tom, even pulling away a few metres, but then the wind kept me from being too precise so he was able to cling back onto me. Winning today was important. We back in the fight for the championship and we were able to leave the troubles from Aragón behind us”.
Jonathan Rea – 2nd and 4th: “It was kind of typical Assen – we got on the podium, which was good! In race one I rode really good but just had nothing for Sykes. In race two I was feeling quite good in the beginning but it was a little bit my fault that we couldn’t be on the box. I lost too much ground in the early laps, making mistakes, and then got involved in a battle for third with two other guys. It was clear that I didn’t have the acceleration off the small corners and where I was really strong in race one, in the back section, in race two I had too much electronics interference. There was a little bit of inconsistency and we’d changed tyres, and it was clear that the tyre in race two was spinning more. I know we’ve got more power than this but it’s impossible to accelerate like the others so we need to find some kind of compromise in the early corner exit area to make the power more manageable. It’s lucky that we have a two-day test to do that on Wednesday and Thursday before we go on to Monza where speed’s very important. A two and a four this weekend is not a win like Assen should be for me, but we’ve got to be satisfied. We’ve come from a long way back and the championship position is looking a bit more healthy than it did after Aragon so I guess I’m satisfied with the weekend.”
WSBK Assen Results – Round 3
1 Tom Sykes 35m35.042s
2 Jonathan Rea 8.786
3 Sylvain Guintoli 8.792
4 Eugene Laverty 9.225
5 Loris Baz 14.231
6 Davide Giugliano 16.150
7 Chaz Davies 22.570
8 Jules Cluzel 24.751
9 Leon Camier 30.311
10 Carlos Checa
1 Eugene Laverty 35m36.814s
2 Tom Sykes 0.089
3 Loris Baz 5.848
4 Jonathan Rea 5.890
5 Chaz Davies 7.359
6 Sylvain Guintoli 7.404
7 Leon Camier 21.095
8 Marco Melandri 27.267
9 Michel Fabrizio 30.233
10 Carlos Checa 32.401
Championship Standings (after 3 rounds)
1 Sylvain Guintoli 111
2 Eugene Laverty 84
3 Tom Sykes 83
4 Chaz Davies 83
5 Jonathan Rea 63
6 Loris Baz 58
7 Michel Fabrizio 53
8 Marco Melandri 51
9 Jules Cluzel 41
10 Davide Giugliano 33