Following a two-week break, the 2016 World Superbike Championship headed to the TT Circuit Assen – the “Cathedral of Speed” in the Netherlands – for round four of 14.The last time out at Motorland Aragon, Ducati Team’s Chaz Davies broke the Kawasaki Racing Team’s streak of four-consecutive race wins. Davies dominated Aragon, earning the double aboard the Ducati 1199 R; earning the final podium positions in both races were, unsurprisingly, the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja pilots Tom Sykes and the reigning WSBK Champion, Jonathan Rea.
Free practice began under wet conditions in Assen Friday, providing many challenges for the 25-rider grid. Sykes led the opening 45-minute session, and Pata Yamaha WorldSBK’s Alex Lowes was quickest during the second session.Rain continued to plague the Dutch circuit for Saturday’s third and final free practice, which was led by Ducati Team’s Davide Giugliano. But things changed for Superpole; though the ambient temps were only around 50 degrees (F), the track was dry.Sykes was able to earn the pole once again in Assen, the 2013 World SBK Champion earning four poles in Assen the past five years. He was joined on the front row by Pata Yamaha WorldSBK’s Sylvain Guintoli and Giugliano. As for Rea, he qualified fourth.The field was able to quickly adapt to the dry conditions, and get some additional tweaking in ahead of race one Saturday at the 2.8-mile circuit 18 corners. And one rider got it all right – Kawasaki’s Rea. But it wasn’t a runaway victory.The Northern Irishman continued his legacy as the most successful rider in Holland; he fought for the race-one win Saturday, his fourth victory of this season. This was also his eight race win at Assen, including doubles in 2010 (Honda) and last season.Joining Rea on the Assen SBK race-one podium were Davies and the sole American on the 2016 WSBK grid – Honda World Superbike’s Nicky Hayden. This was the 2006 MotoGP Champion’s debut SBK podium, and his first in five years since third at Jerez in 2011 MotoGP (Ducati).Following the race, Jonathan Rea 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.”The action was endless from the beginning. When the 21-lap race began, Sykes got off the line perfectly, taking the early lead ahead of Giugliano, Guintoli, Hayden’s teammate Michael Van der Mark, Davies and Hayden.Giugliano runs wide just ahead of lap two, losing four positions. The next one to make a mistake was Sykes; he ran wide at turn one of the start of lap three, letting Rea storm by for the lead. Sykes troubles would continue; with 13 laps to go, Sykes lost the front of his ZX-10R at turn 16, causing his first DNF of the season.Rea was able to lead the second and third laps, but Davies took over on lap four. Davies was able to hold off challenges from Rea and van der Mark until lap 18; there, Rea took over and was able to hold P1 for the win.The battle for second was just as aggressive. While challenging Davies for second, Van der Mark pushed too hard. He lost the front end of his CBR1000RR SP on turn two with two laps remaining, forcing him to retire.This allowed Davies to claim second, 1.662 seconds behind Rea, and Hayden to claim the final podium position – the Kentuckian’s first during his debut season in World SBK. Hayden finished 5.365 seconds behind Rea.Though MV Agusta Reparto Corse’s Leon Camier struggled in Superpole, starting from 13th on the grid, he finished fourth, followed by Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres and IodaRacing Team Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori. Six different manufacturers held the top-six positions.Rounding out the top 10 were Althea BMW’s Markus Reiterberger, Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes, Team GoEleven Kawasaki’s Roman Ramos and Pedrecini Racing Kawasaki’s Lucas MahiasOther notable DNFs arrived from Guintoli, who crashed out with 17 laps to go, and Giugliano, who was forced to retire with a technical problem aboard his Panigale R.Race two gets underway 1 p.m. local time Sunday at Assen, the “Cathedral of Speed.”
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!