Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) completed an impressive weekend of World Superbike competition at Assen with two podium finishes, third in race one and then second in race two, as he moved up to third in the championship rankings. He is now 26 points behind Ben Spies, who won race one and fell in race two, while Noriyuki Haga scored a win and a second place to extend his championship lead.
Front row qualifier Haslam set a new lap record on lap 11 of the first race and was looking like a strong candidate for the outright win until the very last lap, when eventual winner Ben Spies and he locked elbows for four high speed corners and Spies took the advantage. This allowed Spies to close on second place rider Noriyuki Haga, and sweep past to win, with Haslam only 0.779 seconds behind.
In race two Haslam was once more in the mix from the start, sitting in second place for much of the race, although he got held up in the early laps, which left him unable to make a challenge on the front-running Haga, who took the new lap record from Haslam as well.
For the other Honda riders in the championship Assen was a tough challenge. The next-best combined points score from this event came from Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda Racing CBR1000RR) 11th in qualifying, who went on to secure seventh in race one and a fighting fifth in race two, re-passing Tom Sykes near the end and holding on to the finish flag.
Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) played a clever game in Superpole qualifying seventh on the gird and starting each race from the second row. A fall in race one was followed by seventh in the second 22-lap contest, making him the last Honda points finisher home in that race.
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) took the last point in race one, one place higher than the 16th he posted in Superpole, but he retired in race two with a technical problem.
Tommy Hill (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) made it into Superpole and was 17th on the grid, but scored no points in the races, falling on lap one of race one then retiring with a minor technical problem in race two. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda CBR1000RR) had a double DNF, retiring on each occasion.
John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) was forced out of the Assen race after a first day practice crash dislocated his left hip, and also caused a hairline fracture close to the top of his femur. He flew back to the USA for more checks and therapy on Saturday night, hoping to return to race action soon.
Leon Haslam Speaks…
"It’s been a tough day but an exciting one. In the first race I thought I could have challenged for the lead but I just missed out, in the second race I got caught behind Fabrizio for one too many laps, but I can’t complain with two podium finishes. Our team is new but we have a really good relationship now. They have given me a bike I can ride hard and the confidence to ride it hard so it’s producing results. I’m looking forward to the next one."
Jonathan Rea Speaks…
"It’s no secret that we’ve had some problems, but we’ve done a lot of thinking in the last three weeks and I really want to thank everyone in the team who dug deep to find some solutions. We came here with a good setting and had a couple of unrelated issues in qualifying, which led to a difficult starting position, but the bike is really going in a direction now that I’m happy with. I got a really bad start in race one, which was followed by a bit of arm pump. That was much better in race two and I really started to enjoy riding the bike again. Unfortunately, by the time I got some clear track in front of me, the leading four had gone. But I’m really pumped for Monza – I feel like I’ve got a really good working relationship with the team now and we’re definitely going in the right direction."
Carlos Checa Speak…
"Not such a nice raceday for me. At the beginning of race two it felt like I could be there with them but then I started to get tired, particularly my right arm, a little bit like arm pump. At the same time the chattering started from the rear and at the end it was very hard. I was struggling to do the lap times and I lost some positions. I had a bad start in race one, then I was catching some other people and then I arrived in turn five and lost the front."