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Rea continues Assen love affair

17 April 2011

Jonathan Rea has taken a third consecutive World Superbike victory at Assen after a calm and measured ride to keep Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa at bay.

Twelve months on from winning both races around the Dutch circuit, Rea shrugged off his fifth place starting position to push his way to the front on lap three before resisting the race-long attentions of Biaggi.

A strong start was crucial to Rea and Biaggi's victory bid, both riders slotting in behind pole sitter Carlos Checa, who got the getaway he needed to lead into the first corner funnel.

Though the pair shuffled one another in lap two, Rea would eventually emerge ahead of Biaggi into turn one on lap three before launching past Checa further around the lap to nose into the lead.

Biaggi gave chase by passing Checa himself on lap four before grabbing the lead on lap six as he utilised the strength of the Aprilia's speed down the back straight. Despite this, Rea stayed cool and merely snatched back the position in the ensuing corners.

It would prove to be the defining moment of the race, Rea never being headed again as Biaggi simply shadowed the Honda, rather than prepared a determined attack.

It meant Rea was able to edge his winning margin to seven tenths as they crossed the finish line for a victory that marks his third consecutive win at Assen, a seventh career WSBK victory and a first win for the iconic Castrol Honda moniker since its return to Superbike racing.

While Rea and Biaggi had it relatively easy as they pulled away from their rivals, it was a busier first race of the day for the large chasing pack.

Having been demoted to third position, Checa was shuffled back again on lap six by Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty, who hauled their way up to the lead group with an early charge seemingly indicative of their choosing a softer Pirelli tyre.

Indeed, while Sykes rallied on to set a new fastest lap – one that would stand to the end of the race -, the Kawasaki rider's pace would drop off dramatically at the mid-way mark. He would eventually finish down in 14th position and last, lapping more than four seconds off the pace.

It promoted Laverty to third, the Irishman recovering from a tardy start with a series of impressive passes at turn three. However, like Sykes, he would fade as the race wore on, conceding third to Checa on lap 12.

It meant the Spaniard – who dropped from first to sixth in the early laps – was able to stalk his way back up the order, Checa briefly pacing the field as he looked to get back into victory contention. He would eventually settle for what remains a fifth consecutive podium finish.

Marco Melandri's rise up the order was not as swift as it had been at Donington Park, but he still put in a measured ride to fourth to keep Checa honest in the standings, ahead of Michel Fabrizio, the Suzuki rider producing a fine performance to propel himself from 13th on the grid to an eventual fifth.

Troy Corser gave BMW something to smile about with a consistent ride to sixth, the Australian flying the flag after Leon Haslam fell on lap three in a crash that also forced Joan Lascorz and Jakub Smrz off the track in avoidance. Despite losing time, Haslam remounted and benefitted from retirements ahead to cross the line 12th.

Laverty held firm for seventh place, the Yamaha rider lucky not to have been demoted further after an extraordinary accident involving the two Effenbert-Liberty Ducati riders Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli late on. Recovering from his off, Smrz had just passed Guintoli when he high-sided into the final corner chicane. With nowhere to go, Guintoli ploughed into the sister 1098R and came off himself, the pair retiring from almost certain top ten finishes.

Their misfortune enabled Ruben Xaus to finish in eighth place, ahead of Ayrton Badovini and Mark Aitchison, the Australian producing an impressive ride to claim a maiden top ten WSBK result as the top Kawasaki representative.

A dismal race for the factory Kawasaki team, Lascorz could only manage 11th, ahead of Haslam, who snatched 12th on the line from BMW Italia debutant Barry Veneman, the Dutchman nonetheless scoring three points. Sykes was the last finisher in 14th.

Elsewhere, Leon Camier was wheeled off the starting grid before the lights went out, the Aprilia rider getting going again to run at the back before retiring on lap 17. Chris Vermeulen ran inside the points initially before pulling in, while Noriyuki Haga went off as he recovered from a poor front row getaway.


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