Bikes / 19 April 2015, 5:50pm / IOL Motoring Staff
Assen, Netherlands - Kawasaki hotshot Jonathan Rea bagged his second double of the season and the fourth of his World Superbike career in Round 4 of the 2015 series at the historic TT Circuit van Drenthe on Sunday.
After a 21-lap brawl with as many as six riders vying for the lead, Rea eased away from eventual second place finisher Chaz Davies on the works Ducati rider Chaz Davies with two laps to go – setting a new lap record of lm35.889s in the process – to take his fifth win of the season, his sixth at this circuit.
Davies came home little more than a second adrift to give Ducati its 500th World Superbike podium finish, while local hero Michael van der Mark (Honda) became the first Dutchman in the history of the World Superbike series to stand on the podium - as well as the first non-British rider to do so this year - in third after relegating factory Aprilia rider Leon Haslam to fourth with a ballsy move through the fast Ramshoek left-hander on the penultimate lap, which had the capacity crowd on its feet.
Rea’s works Kawasaki team mate Tom Sykes ran strongly in the early stages before fading to fifth, five seconds clear of Haslam’s team-mate Jordi Torres, who recovered from a mediocre start to overhaul the second factory Ducati of Xavier Fores (who ran as high as fifth in the early stages) in the final five laps.
Reigning champion Sylvain Guintoli (Honda) had a lonely ride to eighth, coming home five seconds ahead of Nico Terol (Ducati) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta) who crossed the line almost side by side to finish ninth and 10th respectively.
The second outing served up another nail-biting climax as the leading riders stayed locked together until the final lap, with Rea taking line honours by a less than half a second from Davies and Van der Mark – after the local boy literally nudged Haslam out of the way at the second-last corner!
It was Rea’s second double - and his seventh race win - at Assen, making him the second most successful World Superbike rider (after the legendary Carl Fogarty) at the circuit Dutch fans call ‘the Cathedral’. It also gave him a significant 50-point lead in the standings after only four of 13 rounds.
Sykes led in the early stages but again faded to fifth ahead of Torres (who’d made another mediocre start), Guintoli (one place better than he did in the Race 1), Fores, Alex Lowes (a much better result than in the first leg, when he was skittled by his Suzuki team-mate Randy de Puniet!) and Camier.
A last-corner decider went in the favour of Kawasaki stalwart Kenan Sofuoglu as he took back-to-back wins to extend his World Supersport championship.
After the disappointments of Thailand and Aragon, Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta) returned to the podium in second after narrowly missing out on a win as he and Sofuoglu banged fairings coming through the final chicane - but Cluzel had the consolation of a new lap record.
The final podium place was decided by another duel, this time between Kyle Smith (Honda) and PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki). Smith led the first two laps after pulling a superb start, and even being blitzed by Sofuoglu and Cluzel, held off the American for a hard-earned third.
Veteran Roberto Rolfo (35) who made his Grand Prix debut on an Aprilia in the 1996 Italian 250 GP at Mugello, came home fifth on a privateer Honda, ahead of Lorenzo Zanetti on the second MV Agusta.
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki) had a lonely race to seventh with Marco Faccani (Kawasaki), Alex Baldolini (MV Agusta) and Riccardo Russo (Honda) rounding out the top 10.
Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) won the shortened, nine-lap race to become the new series leader, with a 2.4s margin over Raffaele de Rosa’s Ducati, thanks to a great start from pole and superb racecraft.
The race was restarted after a crash on the main straight involving Aragon race winner Roberto Tamburini, who got his BMW back on the grid for the re-start but had to concede that it was too badly damaged to race, and sit out the race.
The Assen Superstock podium was completed by Ondrej Jezek (Ducati), ahead of Fabio Massei (Ducati), while Kevin Calia (Aprilia) edged out Yamaha team-mates Kevin Coghlan and Florian Marino for fifth.
Bryan Staring ( Kawasaki), Jeremy Guarnoni (Yamaha) and Jezek’s team-mate Marc Moser completed the top 10.