Jonathan Rea sealed a thrilling victory in a competitive opening race at Assen this afternoon, as his teammate Tom Sykes crashed out from within the points.
It was one up and one down for the Kawasaki Racing Team in windy conditions, as Rea who qualified outside the front row earlier in the day won the scrap for victory. Sykes stormed off pole position and led the pack into the first corner, however, a mistake soon let Rea through. An intense battle unraveled between Rea and Chaz Davies for victory. Michael van der Mark soon managed to slip through past Sykes before the Yorkshire man missed a gear and slipped out of the race uninjured.
Rea managed to put his misery of the previous round firmly behind him, to force a gap of 1.662 seconds before crossing the line and take his 4th victory of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship. He said: “It was great to win another Assen race. Our bike set-up was new because we changed the bike just for the race after warm-up. I put my head down with a few laps to go. It is really hard to lead, but I was so-so happy because I feel we have been a bit on the back foot now since Aragon and before, so to score 25 points here is great. I think the potential of this bike is huge but I have yet to get it into a really good window I am comfortable with. This race has given us a lot of information and to score 25 points when it really matters is incredible for me, for my strength inside, and for my championship. I want to thank all the Dutch fans because they give me a great reception every time we come here and thanks to my team for their hard work and keeping my spirits up. After Aragon I felt we were a bit deep in the sea and now I feel our heads are above water.”
Sykes became the second victim of the Gert Timmer chicane when he missed a gear and slid out of the race on lap 9. He said: “It was windy out there but I was able to enjoy some great speed in some areas of the track. On one corner I was missing some confidence and unfortunately that was on the run back to the pits. That was slowing me up into where I was good in the next part of the track. It was a difficult race like that, but I was just getting settled down and really understanding where everything was good. I was not necessarily thinking about the pass into the final chicane but unfortunately when I braked and went to backshift, I missed the initial backshift, which meant the engine was quite free. I just tried to get it stopped and get the gear selected. Any other day I would have been OK but unfortunately because we have had some bad track conditions it was really, really dirty and I lost the front. That was a small mistake on my behalf, but it was unfortunate that we had such a dirty track off line. That is the way racing goes and there are positives to take from it, as we were strong in some areas.”
Rea will be hoping that his luck will continue into tomorrows race where will have another opportunity to extend his championship lead.