The 2015 FIM World Superbike Championship took no time off after the first European round in Aragon, and headed directly to the Netherlands for round four at the historic Assen TT Circuit. Though Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea doubled in Assen last week, there were plenty of other upsides to the race; there was also plenty of downsides.
2015 Assen World Superbike Commentary, Upside
Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja ZX-10-R: The juggernaut continues to build steam, with Rea scored his second double in four weekends. Ducati’s Chas Davies kept Rea more than honest both races, leading at times, but even with a tire swap for the afternoon battle, Rea still came out on top.
“I feel awesome to win two races here,” Rea said. “Today has been amazing and, like in Thailand, I need to sit down and savor this moment.” Rea had led 96 laps this year, and the rest of the field has only totaled 45 laps in front. He now has a weekend lead over his nearest challenger, Aprilia’s Leon Haslam. Oh, and the Race 2 win gave Rea 50 career podiums.
Chaz Davies – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team Panigale R: Davies is getting to be a regular on the podium now, having six podium in eight races, including two seconds at Assen. Thailand, didn’t treat him well, but Davies has looked strong everywhere else, and was the only legitimate challenger to Rea this weekend.
“I’m very happy with today’s results,” Davies said, “also because it’s the first time I’ve stepped up to the Assen podium in Superbike. I’m pleased because I know we did all we could today, Rea was just a little stronger.” Davies is now just 17 points out of 2nd place in the standings, having picked up 30 points on Haslam in two weekends. It’s only a matter of time before Davis puts the Panigale R on the top of the podium for the second time, and Davies is confident he will do so. “Now I can’t wait to head to Imola,” Davies enthused, “Ducati’s home circuit and a track where we were able to do well last year.”
Michael van der Mark – PATA Honda World Superbike Team CBR1000RR SP: Magical Michael fully lived up to his nickname at Assen, his home track. In both races, he made epic passes on Haslam in the final corner to twice earn his way on the podium.
“ I’m really happy with two podiums, which is better than I could have expected this weekend,” van der Mark said. “The bike was working really, really well.” This is a huge turnaround from the first three weekends, where he failed to score points in both races; van der Mark more than doubled his points in the standings as Assen with the pair of 3rds. van der Mark’s fastest lap in Race 2 was faster than Rea’s best, and his CBR1000RR SP’s 303.2 k/ph top speed beat all comers. This could be the start of something big.
Team Hero EBR: Despite the bankruptcy of Erik Buell Racing, Team Hero is apparently going to soldier on. “For Team Hero EBR, nothing has really changed,” Pegram explained. “We are going to be racing this weekend and we plan to continue for the season. All indications are that we are going to be able to do that.” At Assen, Niccolò Canepa picked up another point for the team in Race 1, tying him with teammate Larry Pegram in the season standings.
2015 Assen World Superbike Commentary, Downside
Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja ZX-10R: With teammate Rea nailing two wins at Assen, Sykes’ pair of fifths put him in a huge hole. He is now 102 points – more than four races – back of Rea after just four weekends.
“At the end of the day, Jonathan (Rea) and Chaz (Davies) did two really strong races,” Sykes observed. “We are getting closer to the front, but it was just frustrating to have one limitation which has cost us. It’s the same limitation that has affected us all year: Rear traction. We are suffering in general from the rear traction side. Of course, we need to change the balance of the bike but, slowly but surely, I’m confident we can get there. All we can do is to keep working.”
Leon Haslam – Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils RSV4 RF: Getting pipped at the end by a rookie in both races had to hurt, and it did. “I’m a bit cross because I felt like I could have battled at least for the podium,” Haslam said, “but instead I lost it on the last turn.” Two 4ths puts him two races back of leader Rea, but Haslam does retain 2nd place in the standing, though Davies is coming on strong. Haslam definitely felt like he could have done better: “I had good pace and was able to keep up with the leaders, but in the final laps I lost that feeling with the front tire that was wearing quite a bit on the right side. Even using the harder solution the situation didn’t change, maybe also because I had to push quite hard.”
Sylvain Guintoli – PATA Honda World Superbike Team CBR1000RR SP: It’s getting repetitive to keep listing Guintoli under Downside, but he is running the #1 plate and much more is expected. Discounting last week’s crash at Aragon, this was Guintoli’s worst result yet this year – a 7th and 8th. With teammate van der Mark on the podium twice, it’s not the bike. “It’s been a struggle this weekend,” Guintoli allowed, “but we have actually come away from both races with some positives. My feeling with the CBR is definitely getting better; it’s just taking more time than we thought.”
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki: In Race 1, Alex Lowes ran wide and then was taken out by Randy de Puniet’s body (not his GSX-R1000), when de Puniet crashed at high speed in the same corner. de Puniet also failed to finish Race 2 due to incompatibility with his back-up bike, and all Lowes could manage was a ninth.
Team Manager Paul Denning did not sugarcoat it: “We have made some limited progress with the new ECU system this weekend but we still face some fundamental issues, particularly with the engine brake control, that have made it very difficult for the riders to race rather than simply ride. We will be doing absolutely everything in our power to make sure that we use the next two weeks before Imola to arrive in Italy with a properly competitive GSX-R.”