Britain's Chris Walker on the PSG-1 Kawasaki took his maiden World Superbike win at round nine of the Corona Extra Superbike World Championship at Assen in Holland.
He battled his way from the back row of the grid, having decided to make last minute changes to his machine and not take up his grid slot. He had an excursion across the grass at the start of the race and had the entire field to get through in treacherous wet conditions to take a well earned and long awaited win.
Second place went to Andrew Pitt on the Yamaha Italia machine with Michel Fabrizio on the DFX Treme Honda in third place.
A jubilant Walker said after the race, “I think that is what Craig Jones would call 'Living the dream!' I had a miss fire at the end of warm up and we needed to make changes to the bike so I had to come into pit lane and then start from the back of the grid. My team were telling me 'Stay quiet and do what you do best. It is a long race.' When I went off track at the first corner I thought 'This is going to be a long race!' I just watched my pit board and stayed out of trouble, the bike worked really well.”
As well as celebrating his first race win Walker had some other more personal news to celebrate, “I asked Rachel my partner to marry me and she said 'yes' so it is a double celebration.” Walker has always had a big following with the race fans and he thanked everyone for their support, “Big thanks to everyone, I've had huge support. I've been trying to win for eight years and I've only been here officially for five. With the likes of Andrew Pitt and Michel Fabrizio coming through it has not been easy, but a big thanks to everyone.”
Due to the wet conditions there were numerous fallers as Pitt said, “All I saw was yellow flags, so I just concentrated on the road ahead of me. It was slippery and hard work. When I passed Michel I was P4 then P1, so I knew a few more people had gone down. At two thirds race distance the rain was really heavy so I decided it was better to be second. Congratulations to Chris for his win and I was happy just to bring it home.”
The first faller unfortunately was Craig Jones who crashed out at turn one on the very first lap. While he was falling Troy Bayliss took the lead but was being hounded by the Alstare Corona Extra Suzuki pairing of Troy Corser and Yukio Kagayama. Frankie Chili continued the crashing on lap three, sliding off into the gravel. By lap four Corser was into the lead however that didn't last as Haga was on the move and he took the top spot.
Lap five saw Kurtis Roberts crash out and Baylis barge back into the lead. The first high level faller was Corser who crashed out at turn two on lap six leaving Haga and Bayliss to scrap for the lead. Ruben Xaus who had been making good progress crashed on lap seven, but it was lap eight that saw a lot more action with Bayliss taking to the grass and Kagayama crashing out of third place. Bayliss saved it and rejoined to continue his fight with Haga. Further down the field James Toseland ran off track, he managed to rejoin and finish the race in tenth.
Haga now had a 6secs lead over Bayliss with Michel Fabrizio in third and Pitt up to fourth. Sebastien Gimbert bit the dust on lap nine and lap ten saw Bayliss on the grass again at the same place and then high side a few corners later. He did his utmost to restart but the bike had stalled so it was game over for the championship leader.
On lap eleven it was Muggeridge who was caught out by the weather sliding off but restarting. One lap later it was the turn of the race leader to crash, gifting the lead to Fabrizio. Pitt who was running second grabbed the lead but that was short lived as Walker was now on a charge and reeling both front runners in. Walker made his decisive move on lap fourteen and brought his race home from there. Out of twenty eight starters only fifteen finished the race.
WSBK race results (1) – Assen:
1. Chris Walker
2. Andrew Pitt
3. Michel Fabrizio
4. Fonsi Nieto
5. Norick Abe
6. Max Neukirchner
7. Lorenzo Lanzi
8. Roberto Rolfo
9. Karl Muggeridge
10. James Toseland