Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) put in the most dominant performance in the 2018 season of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship so far, recording fastest lap after fastest lap to score his first win of the campaign, ending Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)’s Assen winning streak in the process. Behind the KRT riders, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) recorded his second successive podium in front of his home crowd.
Since Sylvain Guintoli in Race 1 of 2014, nobody had managed to question Rea’s authority at the Cathedral. That streak, eight successive wins here including Race 1 yesterday, was finally closed by Rea’s teammate, the only other rider on the grid who had previously won here (2013, Race 1).
Yesterday Sykes stressed how fast his bike could be, with his issues only coming whenever he needed to overtake his rivals, particularly the Ducatis. This wasn’t a problem here: Sykes started from pole, didn’t allow Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) to squeeze forward at the start, and then pushed hard until opening a 5-6 gap with his closest pursuers, consistently riding two to three tenths of a second faster than Rea and van der Mark.
The pair held an exciting duel yesterday for the win, and from the start they were paired together again: eighth and ninth on the grid, third and fourth after Lap 1, and competing for second for the latter two thirds of the race. Eventually, Rea managed to open a gap with his Yamaha rival, completing the first KRT one-two since Laguna Seca/R2 2017. He now leads the championship by 30 points, and despite not beating Carl Fogarty’s historic 12 Assen wins, the reigning champion will be pleased to have opened a gap here in the Netherlands.
Van der Mark couldn’t fight for the win today, but pleased the home fans with a third place, his fifth Assen podium finish, and moves into fourth in the championship standings. The man he overtakes this weekend, Xavi Fores, came in just behind in fourth position, the first Ducati rider and, as in most races so far this season, the best independent rider.
The Ducatis, in fact, struggled under the Assen heat, with both Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) encountering trouble at the start and moving back to 8th and 10threspectively. Eventually, Davies fought back to fifth, but will be frustrated at not being able to get closer to the podium.
Melandri suffered more, however, falling back and never really escaping from the middle pack of five riders that closed the top-10 positions. He finishes seventh, behind the MV Agusta of Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) – best personal finish of the season – and only just ahead of Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW World Superbike Team) in eighth, his second successive top-ten finish. That group was closed by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in ninth, followed by Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) in tenth.
Some races are just made to be watched again and again. The fourth race of the FIM Supersport World Championship at Assen fits perfectly into that category, as the Dutch fans witnessed an epic contest with a fourth winner of the year, a breathtaking climb from the back, more passes than can be counted, heartbreak, and in the end, a championship that is as unpredictable as it is exciting.
When the dust settled, it was Jules Cluzel (NRT) who made it out on top. The Frenchman had spent a year and a half without a win in WorldSSP, and his season began with two disappointing races, but after a fantastic start here, where he moved from fourth to first inside the first lap, Cluzel never left the top of the field, battling off contender after contender.
However, the star of the field was inevitably Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team). The Swiss rider’s Sunday started in shock, as a problem with his Yamaha forced him to go back to the pits before the warm-up lap, starting eventually from the back. But this just set the stage for a memorable performance. By the first lap he was up to 18th; halfway through he was 7th, hunting down the leading pack.
Then came the final laps: he went past Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) on lap 12, took out both Federico Caricasulo and Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamah Official WorldSSP Team) shortly after as the teammates came together, battled with poleman Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) to climb onto the podium and, finally, with a lap to go, made it past Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) into second. Cluzel proved to be one man too many to beat, but Krummenacher should be elated by a performance, perhaps the best of the championship so far.
Behind him, De Rosa put his MV Agusta onto the podium for the first time this season, after clashing with Cluzel all race. It’s the first non-Yamaha bike in the top three this year. He made it in just ahead of championship leader Mahias, who sees his lead reduced to just one point.
Cortese, starting from first, couldn’t come back from a poor dash off the lights, as he did at MotorLand Aragon, and finally came in fifth, after Stapleford, who just made it in ahead, was sanctioned for a previous clash with Caricasulo. The Italian will be extremely disappointed, as he leaves Assen with no points and drifting away from the championship lead.
Behind Cortese, it was finally Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) in sixth, with Rob Hartog (Team Hartog – Against Cancer) in seventh and Thomas Gradinger (NRT) in eighth, all three separated by just half a second.
Luca Grunwald (Freudenberg KTM WorldSSP Team) grabbed his maiden FIM Supersport 300 World Championship win in only his second race in the category, after a notoriously chaotic last lap left three riders of the front group on the floor, including poleman Mika Pérez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team), MotorLand Aragon winner Koen Meuffels (KTM Fortron Junior Team) and 16-year-old Tom Edwards (Nutec – Benjan – Kawasaki).
In trademark WorldSSP300 fashion, the top ten riders were barely separated by a second, with the overtaking maneuvers coming fast and furious. Most of the laps, however, were led by local rider Koen Meuffels, first leader of the championship and who had been at the top most of the weekend. However, he slipped just reaching the last chicane, surrendering his championship lead to Scott Deroue (Motosport Kawasaki), who completed a second podium finish in third.
Ahead of Deroue, Glenn van Straalen (KTM Fortron Racing Team) repeated his second-place finish from last year. Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team), third on the grid, fought back from a poor start to finish the race in fourth, recording the race’s fastest lap in the process. She was just ahead of Walid Khan (Nutec Benjan – Kawasaki), fifth and the third Dutch rider in the top 5.
Behind them, and completing the top ten, were Mykyta Kalinin (GP Project Team), Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team), Jan Ole Jähnig (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team), Manuel Gonzalez (Pertamina Almeria BCD Junior Team by MS), and Maria Herrera (BCD Yamaha MS Racing), these last three with their first top-10 finishes in WorldSSP300.
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