Tuesday, April 24

REA SCORES HONDA'S FIRST WIN

Jonathan Rea
By MICHAEL ESDAILE

Irishman Jonathan Rea made up for his crash in the re-started first race to claim the second race at Assen, giving Honda its first win of the Superbike World Championship season, making it the third manufacturer, after Aprilia and Ducati, to taste SWC success this year.

After the wet re-run of the first race, the sun came out and the track was drying for the second race. But there were still damp patches, making tyre choice a bit of a gamble.

World Champion Carlos Checa decided on full wets, thinking another bout of rain was a real possibility, but as it turned out, that was a wrong move.

Tom Sykes chose the hardest rear Pirelli and jumped off the line to lead briefly before Jakub Smrz railed around the outside in the first corner and took off into the lead.

First race winner Sylvain Guintoli made a much better start from the front row and was fourth, behind BMW’s Leon Haslam who in turn was chasing Sykes’ Kawasaki.

Behind Guintoli the order was Rea, Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty, ParkinGo Aprilia man Chaz Davies and Frenchman Maxime Berger (Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati).

Realising his tyre choice was wrong, Checa pitted for a set of Pirelli slicks, the championship points leader rejoining at the back of the field. Meantime title rival Max Biaggi was on the move on his factory Aprilia and was up to 12th place before the first handful of laps were run.

Sykes was in trouble with his too hard rear tyre and was dispatched by a charging Haslam while Laverty had nipped past Guintoli for fourth. With five of the 22 laps gone, Sykes was valiantly defending third from the chasing pack of Laverty, Guintoli, Rea, Davies and Berger.

With heat in his tyres, Guintoli started reeling off a series of fast lap times, passing Laverty, then Sykes, before setting his sights on his Imola nemesis Haslam.

Laverty too got by Sykes, followed by Rea with a neat inside pass on the Kawasaki man, who was quickly dispatched by Davies while a hard riding Berger and a charging Marco Melandri on the second factory BMW also nipped past the Kawasaki. Sykes was unable to carry any decent corner speed and steadily went backwards, but put up a valiant fight to finish sixth.

With eight laps gone, Smrz still led from a closing Haslam who in turn was being stalked by Guintoli while Rea and Laverty were engaged in an Irish derby for fourth.

Still rattling off fast lap times, Guintoli outbraked Haslam for second to make it Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducatis first and second, with Effenbert team-mate Berger eighth. However, the fourth Effenbert Ducati, ridden by Brett McCormack, crashed out of 11th place, the Canadian suffering serious back injuries.

Next to go were Davies and Berger. That meant of four Effenbert Ducatis, two were gone and Biaggi was up to eighth, and still moving forward.

With five laps remaining, Guintoli got superior drive to pull alongside team-mate Smrz before outbraking the Czech rider to take the lead. Could the Frenchman make it a double? Rea had other ideas and having broken away from Laverty, was reeling in Smrz.

With four laps to go, Rea put the Honda into second place with a neat pass on Smrz, who stuck with him as they came onto lapped riders. Australian Mark Aitchison briefly slowed Rea’s charge but when Smrz went to go around the Aussie, he ran wide onto the wet astro-turf and crashed at high speed.

Rea continued his charge and swept past Guintoli to lead. Now there was only one Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati left in the race and it was Guintoli, in second spot. The Czech team prayed the Frenchman would hang on, and he did, finishing second.

Behind him, Haslam had faded and was in a tight race with Laverty and Melandri. In the space of a few corners, these three swapped third position in the battle for the remaining podium spot but Laverty was in the best shape and nailed it.

Just behind him, Melandri made a lunge and snatched fourth from Haslam on the line, with Sykes holding out Aytron Badovini for sixth.

Aided by the numerous crashers, Biaggi made it across the line in eighth place, and took over the championship lead from Checa, by one point.

Sykes’ effort kept him in third place on the points table heading to Monza while Guintoli jumped from ninth to fourth on the table, tied with Melandri on 66 points.

None of this took anything away from Rea’s gutsy effort. He had sliced open a finger on his right hand in his first race crash and was heading off to have it stitched up after the victory celebrations following race with more passing moves than almost a whole MotoGP season.



For full results, click on: http://sbk.perugiatiming.com/pdf_frame.asp?p_Round=ROUND&p_Anno=2012&p_Manifestazione=03&p_Gara=01&p_Sessione=002&p_Stampa=CLA