2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Can Rea Do the Dutch Double?

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Can Rea Do the Dutch Double?
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea

2017 Assen World Superbike

After three of 13 rounds in the 2017 World Superbike Championship, Jonathan Rea proved the talent of not only himself, but the all-new Kawasaki ZX-10RR.

The 30-year-old Northern Irishman has won five out six races so far this season, only losing race two at Aragon WorldSBK four weeks ago (he finished second). Rea is the clear favorite heading into this weekend’s round 4 at the iconic TT Circuit Assen, also known as the “Cathedral of Speed.”

Rea is strong there, winning nine World Superbike races on Dutch soil since 2010. Rea joined Kawasaki in 2015, and never lost at the 2.82-mile Assen circuit, winning four of those nine on the Kawasaki Ninja. The question is–can Rea make it three consecutive Dutch doubles?

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Can Rea Do the Dutch Double?
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea

Due to his performances, Rea has 145 out of 150 points available so far in 2017 SBK. He leads Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Chaz Davies, who won race two at Aragon, by 50 points. In third is Rea’s teammate Tom Sykes, who trails by 55 points and has a race win at Assen during his World Superbike Championship year of 2013.

“I’m really excited to go to Assen as it’s a circuit that typically I’ve been very strong at in the past. I really enjoy the layout and nature of the track,” Jonathan Rea says. “Sunday at Assen will also mark my 200th career WorldSBK race start so that, in itself, is something I’m both proud and excited about. Since the Motorland Aragon race we had three days testing where we’ve worked hard to improve the set up of the ZX-10RR and also worked on some areas where we have been struggling, with positive results.

“The WorldSBK Assen weekend always falls around this time of the year and history has shown that the weather can play a part, so it’s important to be fast in both the wet and the dry. I’m excited for whatever condition arrives. It’s always a great feeling riding in front of the passionate Dutch fans, who always turn out in force.”

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Ducati's Chaz Davies
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Ducati’s Chaz Davies

Davies doesn’t have any wins in the Netherlands. Since joining Ducati in 2014, he has finished runner up five out of six times. In 2017 WorldSBK, Rea has finished second in four of six races, but suffered a DNF due to a crash at race one in Aragon.

“I’m looking forward to this weekend, especially as I think we’ve made some good improvements in the post-race tests at Aragon,” Chaz Davies says. “It’s going to be another opportunity to evaluate the parts that we’ve introduced and seemed to work really well in Spain. Assen is a completely different circuit so it will be a good test, but anyway I’m confident we’ve made another step forward.

“I’ve had pretty good results at Assen, in the past couple of years. We had a good pace in dry conditions but the weather is always a question mark and last year we made a strategic mistake in flag-to-flag conditions, but we learned from it so we’re keen to pick up from where we left off at Aragon.”

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki's Tom Sykes
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes

Sykes only has one race victory at Assen, but claimed pole there four times.

“I am really looking forward to going back to Assen as I am very excited and motivated to race there again,” Tom Sykes says. “I will just have to see how I feel, physically, after the problems I have been having. This has distracted me a little bit but I am ready to go back to the Netherlands to race.

“We have had a couple of tests since the last event. Even though I wasn’t at full capacity we definitely got some direction from those so I am looking forward to going back to the Assen layout. I really enjoy the place and I think every rider does. It was always an ambition to ride at Assen when I was young. We have some little set-up changes and developments that we tried in testing that we will be taking them to Assen.”

Besides these three leaders so far in 2017 WSBK, also keep an eye on home favorite Michael van der Mark on the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team YZF-R1. He has yet to finish on the podium, but did achieve one last year with third at race two in Assen.

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Yamaha's Michael van der Mark
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark

Van der Mark is sixth in points with 49, trailing teammate Alex Lowes (65 points) and the Italian in fourth place with 81 points, Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Marco Melandri.

Rounding out the top 10 in points ahead of 2017 Assen WorldSBK are BMW’s Jordi Torres (48), Ducati’s Xavi Fores (44), MV Agusta’s Leon Camier (38) and Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty (30).

The sole American in all of World Superbike, Nicky Hayden, is 11th in points with 27. The Red Bull Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR pilot won two MotoGP rounds at Assen, and claimed a SBK podium last season.

2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Honda's Nicky Hayden
2017 Assen World Superbike Preview: Honda’s Nicky Hayden

The action begins Friday with free practice, ahead of Saturday’s Superpole qualifying and race one. Race two will occur Sunday afternoon.