Kawasaki Racing Team world superbike riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes left the Netherlands with a win apiece at Assen this weekend, allowing Northern Irishman Rea an opportunity to extend his championship lead to 30 points after four rounds.
In a weekend of contrasting races, defending champ Rea won Saturday’s thrilling outing to take his eighth consecutive win around the classic Dutch circuit, equalling Carl Fogarty’s record of 12 world superbike victories at the same venue.
Saturday’s race had been a barnstormer with Rea duking it out with local hero Michael van der Mark and chief title rival Chaz Davies, before showing his outstanding race craft to pull away in the final laps for the win.
Behind the top three, fastest man on the track was Sykes, whose fourth place put him on pole position for Sunday’s ‘reverse grid’ race. The 2013 world champion was to give his best performance of the 2018 campaign in race two, checking out from the front while Rea battled through from ninth on the grid. By contrast to Saturday’s cut and thrust race (not to mention the two supersport support races) it was to prove a fairly uneventful outing for the fans, who still had plenty to cheer with another podium finish for Van der Mark on the improving Yamaha YZF-R1.
With a win and a second to his credit, Carole Nash backed Jonathan extended his championship lead to 30 points and left the Netherlands in high spirits. He said: “My track position did not help in the beginning and I wasted a lot of tyre life and energy coming from ninth. When I had free track I could see that the gap remained constant. I also ran into some issues with vibration, backing in and the bike becoming a bit unstable. I managed my own race then and totally accepted that today was not going to be my day. Tom was stronger but my race was compromised by my ninth place start. You cannot give a guy like Tom pole position after his pace yesterday. Kudos to him and his team they did a great job, and I can take my points and march on to Imola pretty happy. I have a 30-point lead. It was target achieved at this round and I am feeling better with the bike each week.”
Sykes added: “The (Kawasaki) Ninja ZX-10RR today was great on a clear track. I was disappointed with yesterday’s race, for a number a reasons. But what can I say about the win today? Big thanks to my family, friends and ultimately the crew. I have not had an easy time in the last 18 months or so, but the good thing is that Marcel is not just my crew chief, but also such an amazing friend. He has helped me and gently reminded me of where we have come from in the past, and how we got to where we are now. I knew that the results have not justified the efforts we have put in until now. I also knew last night that a little bit of magic and the Sykes’ spark was there. I think there is no doubt in my speed and today we converted that into all 21 laps. I am very, very happy for this and it was quite emotional to win today.”
Davies’ fifth in race two means that he remains second in the championship, 14 points ahead of team-mate Marco Melandri, while Van der Mark’s 36 point haul moves him up to fourth in the standings.
Britain’s Alex Lowes had two disappointing races after setting the pace with pole position in Saturday’s qualifying. The Yamaha rider finished the races 12thand 14thafter suffering front end grip problems over race distance. The two other regular British riders in the championship, Leon Camier and Eugene Laverty, were both absent through injury.
Photos courtesy of Yamaha