ASSEN CIRCUIT, Netherlands – With another double at the Dutch round of World Superbike, seven wins in eight races so far, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea is already looking like he’s heading for a third consecutive title. While Ducati’s Chaz Davies and Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes can equal his speed, the Irishman’s metronomic consistency, combined with aggression when required and some bad luck for his rivals, have put him nearly three race wins ahead in the points.
His double at Assen wasn’t easy, however. In race one, Davies was set for a last-lap passing attempt when his bike suddenly quit from an electrical failure, leaving Rea on his own. And in race two, Sykes had perhaps his best run of the year, nearly pipping his team-mate at the flag, losing out by only 0.025 second. Not bad for a guy who’s been desperately sick with an intestinal bug for three weeks, including two trips to the hospital.
After the second win, Rea said, “I wanted to keep in front of Tom because he’s really hard to pass. I just did enough and in the last lap I had the inside covered, probably not the fastest and most beautiful line but I got it over the line so I’m really happy!” It was the Irishman’s 200th WSBK start.
Ducati’s bad luck for the weekend was spread over both races: after Davies’ electrical problem on Saturday, his team-mate Marco Melandri crashed out on Sunday, although at least Davies managed to grab the third podium, matching Melandri’s result on Saturday.
While there’s no doubt the Kawasaki and Ducati teams have a hammer-lock on the front of the grid, other teams are still improving. That’s particularly true of Yamaha, with local hero Michael Van Der Mark and Alex Lowes looking strong and catching fourth and fifth on Sunday (best to forget Saturday, when they both crashed out).
The Aprilias are coming on, although they seem to fade toward the end of the races, perhaps an issue with tire management. Both Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori are able to run near the front early on, but are barely managing to hold onto top 10 spots by race end. Laverty said, “It looked like we had a shot for the top five and that’s where we need to be right now. But the front tire went off … Overall the feeling has been better, we’re definitely making positive steps, but we need to work out what’s wrong with that front tire as that could be the key to our race.”
Leon Camier continues to create miracles on the under-funded sole MV Agusta entry, with a 10th and a sixth on the two days. It’s astounding that one of top factory teams hasn’t scooped up the former British superbike champ.
The Hondas of Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl had another fairly miserable outing, Hayden saying, “It has not been an easy weekend!” He was only 14th on Saturday; the team later found a crack in the frame. “Today (Sunday) I was much happier, the team made a couple of small changes that settled the bike down a bit.” Bradl had a better time, with a sixth and a 10th in the team’s home race (the Ten Kate team is based just a few kilometres from the track).
Five-time World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu showed why he’s got all those titles – at the Dutch round he got the hole-shot and simply checked out, winning by nearly three seconds. He’s the fourth different winner in the four races held so far.
The battle behind him for the other podium spots was brutal, however, featuring multiple passes and near-misses on nearly every lap. In the event, the honours went to French riders Lucas Mahias – solidifying his series lead – and Jules Cluzel, finally getting his act together on his new Honda ride.
Behind them, P.J. Jacobsen and Sheridan Morais fought to the flag to keep their top five spots in the series, while the other top five riders had horrible days. Kyle Ryde and Roberto Rolfo only managed 12th and 15th, which says something about the depth of competition through the field.
World Supersport 300
The new feeder class is proving to be a dramatic success, with huge grids and competition that makes the insane Grand Prix Moto 3 class look positively sedate. Dutch rider Scott Deroue took his second win of the year, coming from as far back as 12th, while Kawasaki, Honda, and Yamaha again shared the podium.
There’s extra variety up front, with female rider Ana Carrasco fighting with the lead group the whole race, in fact leading several laps and looking comfortable while doing so. If she can maintain that pace, podiums and even a win are certainly within her reach.
World Superbike standings after seven of 26 races (four of 13 events)
- Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 195
- Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 131
- Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 111
- Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 97
- Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 76
- Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 62
- Xavi Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 60
- Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 57
- Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 54
- Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 46
World Supersport standings after four of 12 races
- Lucas Mahias, France, GRT Yamaha, 65 points
- Sheridan Morais, South Africa, Kallio Racing Yamaha, 45
- Roberto Rolfo, Italy, Team Vamag MV Agusta, 40
- P.J. Jacobsen, U.S.A., MV Agusta, 39
- Kyle Ryde, U.K., Pucetti Racing Kawasaki, 36
Next event Imola Circuit, Italy, May 14.