Rea braves it out for another Assen win
22 April 2012
Jonathan Rea has returned Ten Kate Honda to winning ways around its home circuit of Assen after battling through the pain barrier for a last gasp victory in race two.
The Ulsterman benefited from the inspired choice of starting on slick tyres around an initially damp circuit to come on strong in the closing stages, passing race one winner Sylvain Guintoli with three laps remaining and carrying on to a very satisfying triumph.
Indeed, Rea was not initially earmarked for a victory challenge having been required to have pain-killing injections to a finger he injured in his high-speed accident during the first race.
Furthermore, the unpredictable conditions made picking the correct tyre crucial, the track now fairly dry, but still with damp patches intermittently around the circuit.
As such, a variety of tyre strategies were being adopted across the grid, with Rea, Guintoli, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri and pole sitter Tom Sykes all opting for slick rubber, while Jakub Smrz and Leon Haslam picked for a dry rear tyre with an intermediate front.
Somewhat inexplicably, given what was being picked around him, championship leader Carlos Checa went on to begin the race with full wet tyres, a decision he immediately regretted as he was quickly shuffled back down the order at the start. Pitting on lap two, Checa wouldn't recover from being a lap adrift.
Instead, it was Smrz that burst into the lead, the Czech rider finding plenty of confidence from his intermediate-shod Effenbert Liberty Ducati to quickly establish a lead of almost five seconds after just three laps.
Haslam gave chase in second position, pushing to the front of his slick-shod rivals, but at no stage was he able to lap faster than the Czech rider a considerable distance in front of him.
As such, the race would only develop during the second-half as the slick tyre riders began to get up to speed on a circuit that while cool, was now almost completely dry on the racing line.
Leading this charge up the order was race one winner Guintoli and Rea, the pair quickly dispatching of Haslam and going off in search of Smrz, who was still lapping respectably despite his waning tyres.
Nonetheless, Smrz was inevitably easy prey as Guintoli advanced with just four laps remaining, the Frenchman nosing ahead in his quest to consolidate his maiden WSBK victory earlier in the day with a surprise double.
However, Rea's decision to choose a harder compound of slick tyre was paying dividends over Guintoli, as well as Smrz, and when he pounced on the Ducati rider at the start of lap 20, Rea was unleashed into a lead he wouldn't relinquish over the remaining two revolutions.
A superb win for Rea given he will now require stitches in his injured finger, the victory continues his superb record at Assen having now won four of the last six races held around the Dutch circuit.
Despite missing out on the double, Guintoli leaves Assen with a massive haul of 45 points to catapult him up the championship order, while the podium also completes a very successful day for the burgeoning Effenbert Liberty team.
However, it could have been even better for the Czech outfit had Smrz been able to hold onto third position. Indeed, the Czech racer – who is yet to win a WSBK race – still looked fairly comfortable for third when he was baulked whilst attempting to lap Mark Aitchison, the Australian unintentionally nudging him wide at the high-speed Dulkersloot and forcing him onto the wet grass. With no grip, Smrz duly fell into retirement, a cruel return on what had been an accomplished ride.
His demise meant the battle for the final rostrum spot would come down to an entertaining, and rather boisterous, battle between Aprilia's Eugene Laverty and the factory BMWs. In the end, despite some fevered changes of position right up until the last bends, Laverty would prevail to record his first Aprilia podium, while Melandri's robust move on team-mate Haslam at the final corner would see him edge fourth by 0.002secs.
Several seconds further back, Sykes ended a fairly unsatisfying day in sixth position, the Kawasaki rider at least content in the knowledge that nearest championship rivals Max Biaggi and Checa couldn't take full advantage either.
Indeed, despite finishing a distant eighth behind Ayrton Badovini, Biaggi's fourth and eighth place finishes actually see him overtake Checa in the overall the standings, the Spaniard's failure to score placing him one point in arrears of the 2010 champion, while Sykes is still only 13 points behind himself.
Following his surprise podium finish in race one, Davide Giugliano completed a strong day in ninth position, ahead of countryman Michel Fabrizio, while John Hopkins, David Salom, Hiroshi Aoyama, Leon Camier and Leandro Mercado were the final point scorers between 11th and 15th.
As well as Smrz's crash, Chaz Davies and Maxime Berger fell out of sixth and eighth respectively at the same corner on the same lap in separate incidents, while rookie Brett McCormick suffered a particularly nasty accident whilst running 11th.