Round 4 – Assen
Jonathan Rea has long been the King of World Superbike and the ruler of Assen. His throne though is under a Spanish assault like never before. Few words can describe how incredibly Álvaro Bautista has adapted to the Ducati V4 R and the WorldSBK paddock.
Bautista’s average winning margin in the nine first races of 2019 has been 8.5-seconds, including the three shorter sprint races, and the times he has slowed down markedly to cruise to the chequered flag, and thus artificially reduce his winning margin… Still, overnight organisers have lopped 250rpm off the top end of the Ducati as part of the ‘Balancing and Concession’ regimen employd in WSBK. (New RPM Limits Here)
“Fortunately we don’t have a lot of time to rest between these races, and I prefer to get back on the bike again very soon after a weekend of wins like at Aragón. It will be a new track for us with this bike – like all the other circuits this season – but Assen is very different from the other tracks. Even though we don’t have much data, I know the place well because I’ve raced there in the past in other categories. The target is the same as always: work hard to get the best set-up in preparation for the races on Saturday and Sunday. The only unknown factor will be the weather conditions, but for sure we are extra-motivated for Assen.”
While in Australia, Thailand and Aragon, Ducati were already the dominant force last season, the red machines have not won a race at the Cathedral of Speed since Sylvain Guintoli in 2012.
A solitary podium was Chaz Davies’ (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) reward last season, although the Welshman also seems to be hitting form at the right time. Why have Ducati remained winless for so long at such an iconic venue?
“It was good to make progress at Aragón, so now I hope to be able to build on that next weekend and keep the momentum going. Assen is a different type of circuit from the others and requires a different riding style, but I’ve got more confidence now with the Panigale V4 R and me and the team have made a lot of progress with the set-up. It’ll be nice to try and get between Alvaro and the other guys, fight for the podium and demonstrate that the V4 R is strong with me on it as well.”
One man is mainly to blame. Eight out of the last nine races at Assen have been won – in consecutive fashion – by Jonathan Rea. The Netherlands is Kawasaki’s kingdom and Rea has ruled over it with an iron fist for the past five years; if there is a track on the calendar where the four-time champion sets the rules, it’s Assen.
Since joining the Provec squad, Rea has never come and gone from four consecutive circuits without at least one P1, a streak that coincidentally would be broken at the Dutch track if Bautista – or any other rider – monopolises the top step of the rostrum again. It’s not an accomplishment the four-time world champion is willing to give up on just yet – can he work his magic again in Assen?
“We are going to Assen next and we will keep working. It is a track that I have been good at before so but hopefully we can eat into that gap that has been there in the first three rounds. I used the harder front tyre at the previous round and we really need to evaluate if that is the way forward for my riding style or not. Riding with it on my own I felt good but maybe there could be a little bit more in that front tyre. We will re-evaluate that in Assen and see where we are.”
While Rea may be King of the Cathedral, the uncrowned hero dresses in blue. Michael van der Mark tested the champion’s limits last year and brought his home crowd into a frenzy with two podium positions. While the home hero is yet to taste rostrum glory this season, this homecoming is slightly different from the others: Van der Mark returns as a better and bolder rider, and perhaps most importantly, as a proven race-winner. The crowd’s enthusiasm will reach a fever pitch when his YZF-R1 hits the tarmac.
Michael van der Mark
“I can’t wait to get this weekend started. The home race brings some added pressure, as you can feel the expectations of the crowd, but I always enjoy racing in Assen. It’s a special race, always really busy with a lot of fans and I really appreciate their support. I head into the Assen round confident that I can fight for the podium and, hopefully, I can repay the fans for the support I always get at home by giving them something to cheer about in the three races this weekend.”
His companion in the other side of the garage may not enjoy the same fanfare around the province of Drenthe, but his determination this season will more than make up for it. Alex Lowes has finished inside the top five in every single race this year and his maiden WorldSBK podiums (second in 2012) and pole position (2018) both happened at the TT Circuit.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing at Assen, starting with when I was racing in the British Superbike Championship and we used to make the journey across the North Sea to race here. The Dutch fans are always fantastic; very knowledgeable and very passionate, so it’s a great atmosphere all weekend. I’m feeling really confident with my R1 after the first three rounds but, once again, we will need to stay focused and work hard on Friday if we are to ensure we have the bike and the set-up to challenge for the podium over the weekend. That’s my target and that’s what we’ll be working towards as always. It’s Michael’s home race and the support he gets here is massive, so all the best to him for the weekend ahead and, hopefully, I can feed off that positive energy too.”
Speaking of top-five finishes, Tom Sykes got his first two of the campaign in Spain and is looking more comfortable by the day on the S1000 RR. The 2013 World Champion’s last race win happened at the Cathedral last year, the sole shining light in a frustrating year for the Yorkshireman. He will, as always, be more than willing to throw his name into the fight again this season.
“We’re coming off the back of a strong race weekend and obviously for me I need to try and take every opportunity – and for me, Assen is perhaps one of those opportunities. I’m enjoying my racing, I’m certainly enjoying riding the BMW S 1000 RR and during the twisty sectors we’re proving to have a very competitive package. In Assen my only concern is the exit of T4 where you have a kind of first to sixth gear straight. Apart from that, I feel that we will be very competitive. The weather looks to be particularly cold and we had a very strong pace in the cold weather at Aragón, so it would just be nice to go there with great expectations and try to meet those. The rest is out of my hands. We are still developing during race weekends but the whole BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team is doing a great job and we will just continue doing what we are doing.”
Even though KRT’s latest signing Haslam has not ridden in WorldSBK at Assen for three seasons, he has been almost unbeatable there in British Superbike in recent times. He also has three career podium finishes in WorldSBK at the venerable Dutch circuit.
Runner up in the WorldSBK Championship in 2010, Haslam has a vast experiences of Assen on a number of types of WorldSBK bikes. He is particularly keen to get there after feeling he and his technical crew made a breakthrough in his machine setup at the previous round in Spain.
“At Assen I have taken podiums on pretty much every bike I have ridden. I have had some good battles with Johnny around there too. In BSB I think I have won five of the last six races there. I do like Assen and we will hopefully be much closer. There are fewer straights at Assen. I think some other bikes should work well there too so we could see six or seven riders battling. If I have the feeling with the bike set-up that I had on the final day at Motorland then hopefully I will be in that battle.”
The Aragon Round was the first time we have seen both factory Honda riders finish both full-length races inside the points this year. While the pairing of Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari will have higher aspirations for the season, the signs are becoming more positive by the day. Further steps will be taken at Assen.
“I really like Assen and have good memories of it as I scored my first ever WorldSBK podium there, back in 2010 (third place in Race 1). It’s very fast and flowing, has got a bit of everything and has always been a good one for me. The weather often plays a big part in the race weekend so it will be interesting to see how it goes there. We know we have a great deal of work ahead of us, but we’ll try to make some progress with the bike set-up and reduce the gap.”
The fight for the Independent Riders title also heated up exponentially at the Aragon Round. After two rounds led with authority by the GRT Yamaha pairing of Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese, two different riders stepped up to the plate in Spain: Eugene Laverty and Jordi Torres. The stakes will be raised even higher in the Netherlands.
The first World Superbike race of the weekend starts at 2200 (AEST) Saturday night ahead of Sunday’s Sprint Race at 1900 (AEST) Sunday evening. The third and final race of the weekend at 2200 Sunday (AEST) night.
WorldSBK weekend schedule
Times in AEST
|2315||WorldSSP300||Last Chance Race|
World Superbike standings heading to Assen
|1.||Bautista Alvaro||Aruba.it Racing–Ducati SBK Team||186|
|2.||Rea Jonathan||Kawasaki Racing Team||147|
|3.||Lowes Alex||Pata Yamaha Official WSBK Team||100|
|4.||van der Mark Michael||Pata Yamaha Official WSBK Team||79|
|5.||Haslam Leon||Kawasaki Racing Team||74|
|6.||Melandri Marco||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||63|
|7.||Davies Chaz||Aruba.it Racing–Ducati SBK Team||56|
|8.||Cortese Sandro||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||56|
|9.||Sykes Tom||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team||39|
|10.||Torres Jordi||Pedercini Racing Kawasaki||35|
|11.||Rinaldi Michael Ruben||Barni Racing Team||35|
|12.||Razgatlioglu Toprak||Turkish Puccetti Racing||32|
|13.||Laverty Eugene||Team Go Eleven||27|
|14.||Camier Leon||Moriwaki-Althea HONDA Racing Team||17|
|15.||Reiterberger Markus||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team||15|
|16.||Mercado Leandro||Orelac Racing VerdNatura||11|
|17.||Kiyonari Ryuichi||Moriwaki-Althea HONDA Racing Team||9|
|18.||Delbianco Alessandro||Althea MIE Racing Team||3|
The 2019 WorldSSP season has three rounds complete and they’ve been three thrilling, record-shattering opening encounters. In what has been a Yamaha-dominated top end of the championship, other manufacturers are starting to creep into the podium battle. With the TT Circuit Assen ready to host the fourth round of the championship, a circuit that continuously provides some of the best action in WorldSSP, we could be set for yet another fair-bashing, elbow-to-elbow contest!
Championship leader Randy Krummenacher took a stunning win at the MotorLand Aragon circuit during the Motocard Aragon Round. The Swiss veteran extended his championship lead and is looking to continue the form at a circuit which he put in a stunning performance at in 2018. Finishing second after dropping down to 18th from sixth on the grid, Krummenacher will be one of the favourites ahead of the Assen race. Will he become the first Swiss rider in WorldSSP history to achieve back-to-back wins?
It was a tricky Motocard Aragon Round for Jules Cluzel, who finished a race outside the top four for the first time since Phillip Island in Australia, 2018. The Frenchman will be looking to return to the podium in The Netherlands, having achieved a podium at the famed venue for the past two seasons; including one win at the track in 2018. 14 points separate the leading two in the championship. His teammate, Corentin Perolari, is growing in stature with each race, so be sure to watch out for him, too!
Three third-places has seen Federico Caricasulo confirm his front-running pace in the opening rounds. The Italian has been in the fight for the lead in the last two races and continues to edge a little bit closer to victory with each race completed. Always giving 100%, the 22-year-old failed to finish at Assen last season, whilst a best finish of sixth in 2017 is his main highlight at the circuit in the World Supersport class.
After his first podium of the 2019 WorldSSP season, Raffaele De Rosa took the challenge to the Yamahas that have dominated the championship so far. The Italian came from sixth on the grid to lead at the MotorLand Aragon circuit, before finishing a close second behind championship leader Krummenacher. With De Rosa comes years of experience at Assen, a circuit which he was third at in WorldSSP in 2018, for his first class podium, whilst being a winner in the FIM European Superstock 1000 class in 2016. Discount him at your peril.
|World Supersport Standings following Aragon|
- Randy Krummenacher 70 points
- Jules Cluzel 56
- Federico Caricasulo 48
- Raffaele De Rosa 31
- Hikari Okubo 28
- Thomas Gradinger 24
- Corentin Perolari 24
- Hector Barbera 22
- Lucas Mahias 21
- Isaac Vinales 19
World Supersport 300
After an action-packed start to the WorldSSP300 season, the championship now heads to The Netherlands and the famous TT Circuit Assen for the second round! The circuit, near the northern city of Groningen, has provided first-class motorcycle racing for decades; the area of Assen can actually be traced back to 1925 for motorcycle racing, and this year’s WorldSSP300 field promises to make more history at the legendary Dutch circuit!
Leading the field in the championship, Manuel Gonzalez took a brilliant first win at the MotorLand Aragon circuit, as he took victory on the final corner. The young Spaniard heads to the TT Circuit Assen, where he came from 16th on the grid to finish ninth in 2018, in hope of increasing his championship lead.
Hugo De Cancellis made a welcome step on the Aragon podium for the first top-three of his career. The Frenchman looked on course for a win but ended up finishing just 0.058s behind winner, Gonzalez. Last season, he was 0.352s from the point-scoring positions and will be looking to back up the podium achieved in Spain. Should he podium again, then he will be the first French rider in the WorldSSP300 class’ short but illustrious history to achieve back-to-back podiums.
Scott Deroue was the winner of the first ever Dutch round in the WorldSSP300 class, and he placed third at the circuit last season from tenth on the grid. Starting his season with a fine podium at MotorLand Aragon, he will hope to make it back-to-back podiums for a third season running. Can the Dutch rider be a hero at home for a third year?
Jan-Ole Jahnig will be looking to achieve a podium he narrowly missed out in MotorLand Aragon. The 18-year-old heads to Assen, a circuit which he was eighth at in 2018, having started from 20th on the grid. Always racing better than his Tissot Superpole result, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this exciting young German prospect on Sunday!
Completing the top five in the championship is French rider, Andy Verdoia. Having achieved a career-best of fifth place at MotorLand Aragon from fifth on the grid, the result highlighted his ability to maintain a consistent pace throughout the weekend. However, he hasn’t been to Assen with the WorldSSP300 championship, so the weekend promises to be a big learning curve for him. Will he deliver once again?
Riders looking to make up on a poor opening round will be defending champion, Ana Carrasco, after she crashed out of Aragon, whilst Dorren Loureiro will also want to get his first points scored of the year. Fellow championship contender Galang Hendra Pratama will be eager to make up for his crash in Spain, whilst 2017 champion Marc Garcia will be hungry for a better result after finishing just 25th in the season opener.
The top performing Australian at the previous round was Tom Edwards (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) in 19th, while Tom Bramich (Carl Cox-RT Motorsports by SKM-Kawasaki) claimed 24th. Jack Hyde didn’t make the cut into the main race, finishing ninth in the Last Chance Race and will be hoping to graduate through to the main this weekend.
|World Supersport 300 standings following Aragon|
- Manuel Gonzalez 25 points
- Hugo De Cancellis 20
- Scott Deroue 16
- Jan-Ole Jahnig 13
- Andy Verdoïa 11
- Victor Steeman 10
- Omar Bonoli 9
- Bruno Ieraci 8
- Koen Meuffels 7
- Maximilian Kappler 6