The Pata Honda World Superbike Team, run by the Dutch Ten Kate Honda group, had a good weekend at World Superbike’s third event of the season.
Local rider Michael van der Mark took the 600 cc Supersport race (his first win in the class) while Irish ace Jonathon Rea collected two podiums in the premier class – a third in Race 1 and a dramatic victory in a shortened and rain-soaked Race 2. In addition, Rea’s team-mate Leon Haslam also carded his best results of the season with a ninth and a fifth.
To top off the team’s day, team principal Ronald ten Kate’s son won a double victory in the Dutch 50 cc motocross series!
A delighted Rea said, “It’s been a really good weekend because we’ve been on the podium twice. To be honest, our dry pace was OK in race one but Sylvain [Guintoli] made such a fast start to the race, I struggled to go with him. When Tom [Sykes] went past I made a big mistake but, after that, my pace until the end was quite similar to theirs.
“For race two we were quite excited to see if we could go with them in the dry but [when the heavy rain came] we got going for a 10-lap race and to win that was really special. It’s a wet race win around Assen but I kept having flash-backs to Magny-Cours in 2012 when I had a 10-second lead and crashed! For the last laps I just tried to be as smart as I could, and they were long laps, because I had a bit of a gap.”
The series leaders, Tom Sykes and Sylvain Guintoli, had mixed fortunes, although they managed to retain their 1-2 position in the championship. The track was slightly damp in places in Race 1, and Sykes had a big moment when he hit one; he managed to save it but ran off, while out front Sylvain Guintoli simply motored away from everyone else. Sykes came close to catching back up, but a red flag for possible oil on the track ended the race five laps early.
The second race, after a long rain-delayed start in still-blinding rain, was followed by another red flag due to the weather conditions and a restart for a 10-lap sprint. Guintoli again started motoring away only to suffer a massive high-side crash, after which somehow both he and bike survived, and he restarted to fight back to an incredible ninth in still-atrocious conditions.
The British-domiciled French rider was furious at his mistake. “In Race 1 I took some risks in the first few laps to try and increase the gap – a dangerous strategy but one that worked in the end. Before the race was called I was keeping an eye on Tom Sykes’ comeback, trying to manage my advantage.
“It’s a real shame about Race 2. Despite a less than perfect start I was making up ground without any difficulty. The [crash] in the second lap had nothing to do with any specific mistake. On a track that wet it simply doesn’t take much at all. In spite of the blow to my back and damage to the footpeg and handlebar, I lapped fast and that really makes me angry because it’s clear that I could have won Race 2 as well.”
Series leader and defending WSB champ Sykes was philosophical about his day. “We had the bike to [win, but] I made a mistake, which is unlike me. With the rear tyre being a little bit wider it caught the wet and the rear came around and I had to go off the track. So there was a big gap to Sylvain and I had to re-pass the boys in front. In the last few laps we were taking three or four tenths a lap out of him, so I think I would have caught him, but passing him is another issue!.
“Race two was held in very greasy conditions and we had made a small alteration to the ZX-10R set-up and it probably wasn’t the best change. The good thing is that we are a lot closer than we used to be … For that reason I am happy and the guys closest to me in the championship had a bit of a bad race, so fourth was not too bad.”
Alex Lowes, new to the series (although hardly a rookie, being last year’s British WSB champ), has had a rough start, suffering injuries and crashes at the first races. But he was on fire in the wet at Assen, riding in spectacular fashion, especially in the wet 10-lap Race 2 final sprint. At times he had both feet off the pegs as he clawed his way through the field to a dramatic second behind winner Rea. “It’s fantastic, it was a great race for me and it’s really good for the team for me to finally get on the podium!
“It’s been a really difficult start to the year for me, and now I’ve got some good points on the board and a podium, I’m looking forward to hopefully improving both myself and the bike, and seeing if we can be a bit closer to the front in the dry!”
In Race 1 the top five was rounded out by pole-sitter Loris Baz and Spaniard Toni Elias on the red Devils Roma Aprilia, while in Race 2 it was Davide Giugliano on one of the factory Ducatis ahead of Sykes and Haslam.
The Supersport race wasn’t the usual dramatic fairing-bashing duel up front, but still its share of drama. The local crowd was of course delighted with Michael van der Mark’s maiden WSS victory. Behind him early leader and multiple former champ Kenan Sofuoglu retired with mechanical issues, and Florian Marino (Kawasaki) was the only rider able to stay anywhere near the young Dutchman. Following Marino was a dramatic three-rider dice for third over the last few laps between Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta), Kev Coghlan (Yamaha) and Lorenzo Zanetti (van der Mark’s Honda team-mate) to sort out the final place on the podium. They finally finished in that order after a wild passing duel among all three riders.
World Superbike Championship standings after six of 26 races (three of 13 events)
1. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 108 points
2. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Factory Aprilia Racing, 96
3. Loris Baz, France, Kawasaki Racing Team, 93
4. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Pata Honda World Superbike, 89
5. Marco Melandri, Italy, Factory Aprilia Racing, 69
6. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Ducati Superbike Team, 59
7. Chaz Davies, U.K., Ducati Superbike Team, 47
8. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, 46
9. Leon Haslam, U.K., Pata Honda World Superbike, 44
10. Alex Lowes, U.K., Voltcom Cresecent Suzuki, 36
Next race, May 4, Imola, Italy.