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Largely disappointing results for BMW at WSBK Assen

Posted By Wes Fleming, Thursday, May 4, 2017
Updated: Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jonathan Rea entered the Assen round having won five of this season’s six headline races. Chaz Davies won the second race in Aragon in the third round.

What used to be friendship between them seems to be turning into a bitter rivalry. After leaving the previous track lap record in the dust during qualification, Rae should have been on pole for the first race, but due to the two racers yelling and gesturing at each other during Superpole 2 - initiated when Davies reached out and grabbed Rea’s arm. FIM officials decided to penalize Rea to fourth position for the start, saying he precipitated the event with irresponsible riding.

WSBK commentator Steve English interviewed Chaz Davies about the incident. Davies accused Rea of staying in the middle of the track and blocking him from achieving his best qualifying lap speed, an accusation backed up by FIM’s decision to drop Rea back a row for the start of Race 1. Rea didn’t comment on the incident, instead choosing to discuss track conditions with English.


Jordi Torres, #81, from Spain. Torres is 29 years old and won the Spanish Moto2 championship twice; he also won the German Grand Prix Moto2 in 2013. He has been racing in WorldSBK since 2015.
 


Raffaele de Rosa, #35, from Italy. De Rosa is 30 years old and won the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup in 2016. He was Rookie of the Year for Moto2 in 2009.

 

All in all, it’s not much of a penalty, seeing as how Rea won three consecutive Race 2s from the ninth spot of the grid; he was 50 points ahead of Davies in the overall standings going into Race 1 as well. Thomas Sykes moved from second to pole, and the other riders on row one moved up as well.

The grid for Race 1 looked much like previous races, but with minor exceptions. Markus Reiterberger is out for the season, replaced on the Althea BMW Racing Team by Italian rider Raffaele de Rosa (#35). De Rosa has a good history with Althea, winning last season’s Superstock championship for them. Lorenzo Savadori was back on the grid, having missed the first three rounds of the season due to lingering issues from an injury.

RACE 1

The grid started with Sykes, Davies and Savadori; then Rea, Melandri and Laverty. Torres gridded 9th, De Rosa 18th in the next-to-last row. Savadori had a problem with his bike as the other riders took off on the sighting lap. It looked as if he was having trouble getting his bike into first gear; whatever the problem was, they got it figured out and Savadori started the race as expected.

Davies took the holeshot with Melandri right behind him. Hometown hero van der Mark ran wide on Turn 1, costing him precious positions (replay footage showed clear contact with another rider being the reason he ran wide). A quarter of the way through Lap 1, Rea was already in third place, right behind Sykes in second. Before the end of Lap 1, Rea overtook his teammate to take second position. Davies stood to benefit as Sykes and Rea swapped spots, and he even built a small gap os the riders turned Lap 1 into Lap 2.

Torres was in 10th through Lap 1, with de Rosa in 13th; de Rosa soon dropped to 16th, though. Van der Mark crashed out of Race 1 in Turn 5, snapping his handlebar off in the fall and no doubt disappointing the sellout crowd in the Netherlands. By Lap 3, Rea was securely in second place and Davies’ attempt to build a lead had failed. Trailing Rea in the front group of four were Sykes and Melandri. Torres remained in 10th, with de Rosa rising one slot to 15th. Xavi Forés, whose bike spectacularly caught on fire at Aragon, led the second pack into Lap 6.

By Lap 8, Melandri drifted to three seconds behind the front group, but he remained well ahead of the following pack, holding on to fourth position with little difficulty. Torres made a move in Lap 9, passing Bradl to take over ninth position and move up in the second pack. Bradl took his spot back in the following lap.

Rea maintained the pressure on Davies as the lap count grew, and clear differences in their riding styles became obvious. Davies throws his right leg out before many of the right turns, ostensibly to stabilize his Ducati. Rea took tighter lines through most turns, and broke out of Davies’ slipstream on the longer straights. Rea simply never let up, pressuring Davies at every point.

Lowes crashed out in Turn 10 of Lap 14, spraying pieces of his Yamaha super bike across the gravel trap. Torres, meanwhile, clawed his way up to 7th position, staying ahead of Bradl but having to work hard to do so. De Rosa continued to move between 15th and 16th positions. Irishman Eugene Laverty found himself being chased by Torres, who created a gap ahead of Stefan Bradl and pushed his BMW S 1000 RR to catch Laverty. Bradl’s Honda seemed to have a loose rear end; it’s possible his choice of tire failed him slightly in the last few laps of the race.

Torres caught and passed Laverty with just five laps to go, but faced a four-second gap to catch Forés. Rea finally made his move at the end of Lap 18, briefly passing Davies but giving up first place in the next turn. It looked more like a shot across Davies’ bow, letting the Ducati rider know that the guy on the Kawasaki was ready to challenge for the top of the podium.

At the end of the following lap, Davies bobbled a turn briefly, allowing Rea to slide past, but again, Davies retrieved his lead. With two laps to go, the two riders continued swapping first and second. Going into Turns 6 and 7, Rea commandingly took the lead and began to ride defensively to keep Davies behind him. Davies had a problem with his bike and dropped out of the race. Rea won easily after spending the vast majority of the race in second place.

Torres suffered a flat tire, dropping out of the race just before the last lap. De Rosa finished in 13th place, earning points in his seventh career WSBK race. Sykes finished second, Melandri third, and Forés fourth - which secured him the pole position for Race 2.

Torres (pictured above) said after the race, "We were very unlucky in the race. In the Superpole we set a good time, though we're still quite a way from the leaders, and our race pace seemed good through the practices. In the race, I made a good start but, not entirely sure about the tire, I held back a little to conserve it. Despite this I made good progress and was lying sixth, but then a few laps from the end the rear tire started to vibrate too much. The problem got worse and I realized I had a puncture, so I had to stop. A pity, because I had been lapping well and could have scored a good result today. We'll see whether to use a different tire for tomorrow's race."

De Rosa added, "Considering that this was my first race in several months, I started with the intention of completing as many miles as possible, or rather crossing the finish line. I'm pleased because I was a little more constant than I was in the practices. We've scored a few points, which is OK for my first race. The positive thing is that I've improved my feeling and my level of confidence in preparation for tomorrow's race. Step by step I hope to improve, starting from the very next race."

RACE 2

De Rosa (pictured above) gridded 18th again, with Torres getting the 12th spot despite dropping out at the end of Race 1. Forés gridded in the pole position, followed by Savadori, Bradl, Ramos, Laverty, Mercado and finally Rea, Sykes and Melandri. Davies gridded in 10th spot at the top of Row 4. Sunday’s race at Assen was Rea’s 200th WSBK race, quite an achievement; he reached the podium in 95 of his first 199 races and won 44 of them.

Sunday turned out to be warmer than Saturday, so the majority of the riders went with soft compound tires, a decision that bit a few of them during Race 1, which saw track temps several degrees cooler the day before. No such trouble expected during Race 2, but tire management is always a concern, especially in the last third of the race.

Forés took the hole shot with Laverty right behind him. It was the first time this season seeing the two Aprilias running in second and third, with Sykes gunning through in Turn 1. The first lap is almost always a scrum, but by the time the riders were halfway through it, Sykes and Rea were running third and fourth; Torres was in 14th and de Rosa in 17th.

Laverty went round Forés to take first, but the two Kawasakis stayed close in third and fourth. Davies was in fifth, right behind Rea, followed by Savadori, Melandri and American Nicky Hayden. Rea took over third from his teammate and started putting pressure on Forés, who was himself right behind Laverty. Rea overtook Forés before the end of Lap 2, which opened the window for Sykes to do the same, pushing Forés back to fourth. Rea quickly passed Laverty, and as Lap 3 started, Rea got on to building his customary gap ahead of everybody else.

Davies jumped up to fourth, pushing Forés further back. Laverty had his work cut out for him to stay ahead of Davies and his charging Ducati in Lap 5. De Rosa dropped to 18th. In Lap 6, Davies pushed passed Laverty and found himself facing a wide gap behind second place rider, Sykes. Rea held a comfortable (but not insurmountable) gap ahead of Sykes.

Van der Mark, possibly trying to redeem himself for the early crash in Race 1, gave his home country fans a lot to cheer over in Lap 8, passing Forés and Laverty to take over fourth place. Marco Melandri crashed out in Turn 5 of Lap 9. His bike wobbled briefly before a low side ended his day. It would be the first time this season he finished a race with no points.

Torres moved up to 12th and de Rosa to 16th. Van der Mark continued running faster laps than Davies, but Davies remained stubbornly ahead of him as they fought for third place. Van der Mark had a massive wobble in Lap 11, but kept his cool and recovered from the giant tank slapper. Not long after that, Torres passed Ramos to take up 11th position, subsequently passing Forés to get into 10th. Forés continued dropping back in Lap 12. Savadori crashed out in that lap, a disappointing finish to his first weekend back in WSBK after his neck injury.

Torres put immense pressure on Hayden, trying to take over eighth place from the American, but he looked as if he was constantly fighting to keep the front wheel of the S 1000 RR on the ground. He made a comment to reporters at the beginning of the day about feeling like he had to fight the bike more than the other riders; the numerous wheelies throughout the race would seem to bear that statement out.

With five laps left in the race, Rea found himself fending off his teammate Sykes, but both riders held a comfortable lead over third-place Davies. Lap times between the two Kawasaki riders varied from a tenth of a second to a hundredth of a second, making it clear that neither rider was willing to back off. This sensibility no doubt helped create the 3.7-second lead over Davies.

Going into the second-to-last lap, Rea maintained the lead but was closely followed by Sykes. Davies held third, van der Mark fourth, and Torres moved up to 8th. De Rosa was in 17th, ahead of just one rider. Sykes made an attempt to capture the lead coming out of the final turn of the race, but he didn’t quite have enough time to do it; Rea won his 7th race of this year’s championship. Torres took seventh place away from Laverty, and de Rosa finished in 17th place - out of the points.

Commenting on Race 2, Torres said, "I struggled at the start with the fresh tire, but after four or five laps I started to gain in confidence, managing to pass several riders and make a fairly good recovery. With quite strong pace right until the end, I was also able to edge past Laverty just before the line to finish seventh. Not bad, but I hope to be able to do more at Imola, the first of the team's 'home' tracks."

De Rosa spoke to his disappointing finish, saying, "I tried to start strong and push right away and I was feeling quite good with my BMW until about half way through the race. Once the wind picked up though, I had some difficulty managing the bike and I was just trying to get to the finish line. I'm not pleased with the result of course but we know we have the potential to do better."

Wrapping up the weekend's action, Torres said, "On Saturday, we really had bad luck. We could have finished fifth or sixth if we hadn’t had the flat rear tire. It is always disappointing for the entire team when something like that happens. Sunday’s race was a lot better. We didn’t have the best grid position but we tried to give our best during the race. With the fuel tank getting emptier - and with less grip on the tires - we were able to go a good pace and I overtook a lot of riders."

STANDINGS

With the fourth round of WSBK over, Jonathan Rea remains authoritatively in first place in the standings, holding 195 points and a 64-point lead over second-place Thomas Sykes. Despite not finishing Race 1, Chaz Davies rose one slot in the standings; his 111 points put him in third over Marco Melandri’s 97 points. Alex Lowes rounds out the top five with 76 points. Jordi Torres is in eighth place with 57 points. Even though he’s unlikely to return before the end of the season, Torres’ Althea teammate Markus Reiterberger holds on to 17th place with 19 points.

In the team standings, it’s no surprise that the Kawasaki Racing Team holds first place with 326 points. Davies’ team, Aruba.it Racing, is in second with 208, followed by Pata Yamaha with 138 and Althea BMW with 79. The manufacturer’s standings play out in the same order, with Kawasaki at the top with 195 points, Ducati with 153, Yamaha with 87 and BMW with 63. Honda languishes in last place in the manufacturer’s standings with just 50 points, behind April (55) and MV Agusta (54).

The next round of World SBK action takes place 12-14 May at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, outside Bologna, Italy.

Tags:  Althea  Assen  De Rosa  Netherlands  S1000RR  Torres  WSBK 

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