Assen, Holland was once more a home from home for WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea as the Kawasaki Racing Team rider ran to his third shut-out of the season in what was round four of thirteen in the FIM series. The northern Irishman was supreme once more at the twisty, flat and iconic circuit in the north of the Netherlands to win both races split across Saturday and Sunday and is becoming a super-charged force of statistics.
In what was his 199th and 200th WorldSBK appearances and after a tense altercation in qualification with main title rival Chaz Davies (Rea was actually penalised by three grid positions on Saturday for allegedly holding up the line in the first part of the Assen layout) Rea was still unstoppable to take his numbers to seven wins from eight in 2017 and eleven in total at the Dutch course.
Rea defeated teammate Tom Sykes in both sprints, watched by a crowd over 53,000 for the weekend. The throng also saw Davies suffer a mechanical problem on Saturday and take the lower stop of the podium on Sunday. The second race in particular could not have been closer between the Kawasakis with Sykes losing out on his first victory of the term by 0.025 of a second. Rea now has 45 career triumphs and is nearing 100 trophies in total (he has walked the box in Superbike 96 times).
“It has been an incredible weekend of racing,” Rea understandably enthused on what was his third ‘double’ at Assen. “I have been especially happy with Superpole yesterday because the lap I made then was maybe the best I have ever made on a bike. I am really proud of that. Of course the race wins were really nice to take away.”
Rea has a dwarfing 64 point lead over Sykes in the standings (more than two races with eighteen remaining) with Davies 111 points adrift. Former champion Sykes has accumulated six podiums from eight this season and has been battling a stomach infection that blunted his potential in Holland.
“Yesterday we had an acceptable race but today we never stopped pushing to find an ideal set-up, right up until 30 minutes before the race started,” the Englishman recounted. “Physically, I was obviously not fully comfortable with the bike set-up from yesterday but today I felt we had a package capable of winning. I just did not have the bike in the right place at the right time and did not get the win for that reason. I always kept trying and I am obviously disappointed not to take the win. But considering where I was even at the start of the race week, if anybody had have offered me two second places from Assen I would have thought it was never going to happen.”
Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes crashed out of proceedings on Saturday but posted another top five finish on Sunday. World SBK will be back in action in two weeks time with the Motul Italian round through the curves of Imola.