April showers

SBK Assen, netherlands, 22nd Apri 2012

Words: Laura Bradley, Pics: Dunk lamont

Sylvain Guintoli is, for the purposes of this race report, British. He's also a really nice guy who thoroughly deserved to win. (Pic: Dunk Lamont)The TT Circuit Assen has been the home of motorcycle racing for 77 years and hosts the Dutch TT and since 1992 the World Superbikes, two classic events on the World Championship Calendar. These classic events attract massive crowds and of course a festive atmosphere.

The history of the TT Circuit Assen goes back to 1925. Only during the second World War (1940 - 1945) were no events staged. Until 1954 the Dutch TT was held on public roads, and in 1955 a special 7.7 Km. long circuit was built. In 1955 the 25th Dutch TT was held on this new circuit, which was also suitable for sidecar races.

Until the early seventies the circuit was only used once a year for the Dutch TT. Nowadays the circuit is used for several World Championships and international and national race meetings, but the most important annual event next to the Dutch TT is the Dutch Round of the World Superbikes.

The weather for the weekend was predicted to rain constantly, but the occasional dry patches meant that the teams had very difficult decisions to make when it came to tyres and bike set up, this meant that there would be some very interesting results if the wrong decisions were made.

The first qualifying practice started dry with Rea setting the original fastest time. Camier soon went faster but it was Guintoli who ruled the roost with the time of 1’37.6. That was when the rain started, so all the rider’s pitted in to change tyres and possibly use the practice to test their ability in the wet. It was then clear that Guintoli would be the fastest throughout qualifying as he set the best dry lap time. Zanetti was the first to go out for a wet practice but pitted in, Rea then followed suit with twenty-five minutes to go of the session. Melandri, Haslam, McCormick, Sykes, Camier, Checa, Canepa, Berger, Laverty, Guintoli, Smrz, Giugliano, Aitchison and Aoyama all chose to take advantage of the chance to practice in the rain, with Guintoli’s time increasing to 2’05.459. All the lap times increased to a two minute average. Haslam crashed at turn five with six minutes left of the session and was unharmed, Aitchison also crashed but was also alright. This left Guintoli as the reigning champion by the end of the first session with Sykes, Camier, Checa, Rea, Fabrizio, Badovini, Melandri, Berger, Davies, Laverty, Smrz, Hopkins, Haslam, McCormick and Salom making up the rest of the provisional superpole entry list.

There was a time that the sun shone and made everything seem nicer. But it was a short time... (Pic: Dunk Lamont)The second practice was a wet practice from the off, Berger set the fastest time but Canepa took it from him and then Rea. Sykes did a lap which was .073 faster than Rea but then Smrz did better. Haslam momentarily took provisional pole but then Smrz pt in a faster time again and held it.
McCormick crashed at turn two after seven minutes of the session, he was fine but had to take the bike into the pits. Giugliano also crashed twenty minutes in at turn nine and was also fine. Rea then crashed at turn five and Fabrizio at turn nine, followed by Mercado on the same turn. There were no casualties but the conditions left the team mechanics with lots of work to do. The end results of the session were Smrz fastest with Haslam in second, Sykes third and Canepa fourth. Rea, Checa, Badovini, Guintoli, Melandri, Laverty, Zanetti, Fabrizio, Biaggi, Salom, Berger and Davies follow behind. This left the superpole entry list as Guintoli, Sykes, Camier, Checa, Rea, Fabrizio, Badovini, Melandri, Berger, Davies, Laverty, Smrz, Hopkins, Haslam, McCormick and Salom due to the dry times they set in the Friday qualifying.

In the free practice before superpole Camier had a big crash, the bike was completely destroyed. He had to be helped away by marshals after banging his ankle, while the bike had to be completely re-built in time for superpole. Superpole was then announced as a wet session, meaning that there would be two twenty minute sessions with only the top eight going through to the second session.

The first superpole had Guintoli holding the fastest time but soon overtaken by Smrz. Rea and Melandri pitted out with fourteen minutes left to go, Camier and Davies were still in the pits. Berger crashed and left Badovini with nowhere to go other than into the flipped bike, both riders were fine but out of the session. Camier’s bike needed some last minute fixes so he went out with twelve minutes to go, just as Rea set the fastest time for pole. Sykes set a fast time for second, Smrz third and Checa fourth. Hopper set a fast lap and went up to sixth, and Fabrizio took fourth. Davies did a quick time and took eleventh. Laverty came off the bike at turn three with six minutes left of the session, he was fine but also out of superpole. Camier then finally did a faster lap to get into twelfth place, with Davies up to tenth. Haslam set a faster lap time to get to third, with Davies then going into fifth and Melandri sixth, but Fabrizio then set the second fastest time and pushed them all down. Checa then set the fastest time of the session with Hopkins in second; Guintoli then pushed them all down again by taking the fastest time of the session. Guintoli, Hopkins, Checa, Haslam, Rea, Fabrizio, Sykes and Smrz made it to the second twenty minute wet superpole session. Melandri, Salom, Davies, Camier, McCormick, Laverty, Berger and Badovini didn’t make the cut.

The second superpole session had Rea setting the fastest time with Fabrizio in second. Smrz set a faster time to take second from Fabrizio but then Sykes pushed them down a notch when he set the fastest time of the session and took pole,. Checa slotted into fourth with Hopkins sixth and Fabrizio sitting comfortably in the middle, but Hopkins then took fifth. Haslam then set a 1’38 and took fourth place from Checa, pushing the current champion off the front row of the grid. All the riders then pitted in, but Fabrizio went out and set another fast lap to get fourth on the grid with nine minutes left. Guintoli then took third and Checa fourth, Haslam slotting into fifth place and pushing Fabrizio down to seventh as Smrz took third from Guintoli. Checa momentarily took fourth from Guintoli, but he lost it again as Guintoli put in another fast lap with one minute to go. Fabrizio then took sixth. This left the superpole results as follows:

First row of the grid: Sykes, Rea, Smrz, Guintoli

Second Row: Checa, Fabrizio, Haslam, Hopkins

Third Row: Melandri, Salom, Davies, Camier

Fourth Row: McCormick, Laverty, Berger, Badovini

We’re under the impression that Tom Sykes could be the new ‘Mr Superpole’...

Not something you see every day. New boy leads World Champions team-mate home in the rain... (Pic: Dunk Lamont)Race One started and Sykes took the lead from the first corner, Rea slotting into second and Checa third. Melandri soon overtook Checa and Haslam started to chase behind in fifth place. Smrz overtook Haslam to take fifth place, but at the start of the second lap Haslam fought back and regained his place. Sykes started to gain a steady lead over Rea and Melandri as Melandri started to have a look at the possibility of overtaking Rea. Brett McCormick crashed out at the first corner of lap three, walking away but retiring from the race. In this same lap things started to look up for Haslam as he set the fastest speed and started gaining time on the race leaders. At the first turn of lap four Melandri took second from Rea, Haslam overtook Checa and Laverty and Smrz followed suit. Both Laverty and Smrz then went on to overtake Haslam, and Checa soon overtook Haslam again too. This left the standings by lap six as Sykes, Melandri and Rea. Smrz then dropped down to seventh with Checa, Laverty and Haslam in front. Rea, however, soon changed these standings after having a big moment on lap ten, saving himself from crashing by pushing himself back up with his knee and using his traction control. He ended up behind Smrz, in seventh which pushed Haslam up into third place, with Smrz then overtaking Laverty into sixth.

Lap twelve saw unpredictable results as Sykes’ engine started to smoke as he crossed the line, leading him to have to stop due to a technical problem despite still trying to keep the place after dropping back to sixth place. This left Haslam in first place, with Smrz having overtaken Melandri into second but only to be pushed back down to third again when Melandri fought back. Melandri overtook Haslam into first place by lap thirteen and Smrz and Guintoli both followed suit, but Haslam then overtook Guintoli again as Davies worked his way up to be scrapping with Checa and Rea for fourth place. The flag then came out to show the first signs of rain as Melandri had a massive crash sliding straight into the gravel and taking more bikes off track as well, Smrz also crashed his bike and the red flag came out due to the conditions.

The re-start was announced as nine laps with the starting grid as Melandri, Guintoli, Smrz and Haslam making up the front row, Checa, Davies, Badovini and Rea making up the second and Hopkins, Giugliano, Laverty and Fabrizio making up the third. Biaggi, Canepa, Berger, Zanetti, Aoyama, Salom, Mercado, Camier and Aitchison followed up behind. Smrz’s bike wasn’t fixed in time for the re-start and Camier lost the bike on the warm-up lap, he was fine but out of the race re-start. Rea took the lead from the re-start with Haslam in second and Badovini third. Haslam overtook Rea into first place, but Rea crashed out by losing the back end, walking away but ending his hopes for winning this race. Haslam soon had a four second lead as Hopkins crashed out on turn nine of lap two, leaving Suzuki with lots of work to do for race two. This left the standings by lap three as Haslam, Checa, Badovini and Laverty working his way up by putting in increasingly fast lap times. Haslam had a seven second lead by this point, and Biaggi managed to work his way up in front of Laverty. Haslam then crashed out at turn fifteen, walking away but obviously annoyed at losing such a sure win. This left Checa in the lead with Badovini second and Biaggi third, Giugliano had overtaken Laverty into fourth place and soon overtook Biaggi into third place, with Biaggi fighting back soon afterwards to take third back. Guintoli was now also in the battle for third place and Fabrizio had also overtaken Laverty into sixth place. Davies crashed out at turn fifteen, uninjured but leaving Laverty as the only British rider still in the race. Zanetti also crashed at turn twelve of lap five, and Guintoli managed to get back in front of Biaggi again for third place whilst Laverty overtook Fabrizio into sixth. There was a slight battle between Biaggi and Guintoli but third place was held by the Ducati rider. Badovini then overtook Checa into first place, with Guintoli starting to catch up as well. Badovini then had a big crash coming into turn fifteen, again walking away but losing his chance for a win. Guintoli then overtook Checa and Giugliano followed suit, leaving the standings by lap eight as Guintoli, Giugliano, Checa, Biaggi and Laverty. Laverty soon overtook Biaggi into fourth place, but it was short lived as Biaggi took him back. Guintoli then set the fastest lap of the race with a 1’59.207 and went on to take his, and Effenbert Liberty Ducati's, first Superbike win, followed by Giguliano and Checa making up the podium. Biaggi, Laverty, Fabrizio, Smrz, Canepa, Melandri and Mercado finished off the top ten.
After the race we were informed that Rea had lost a chunk of his fourth finger on his right hand, but was still planning to be in the second race.

Nothing like a bit of argy-bargy... Eugene Laverty and Jakub Smrz dispute a bit of tarmac while Checa looks on. (Pic: Dunk Lamont)Race two started with Sykes taking the lead again into the first corner, only to be overtaken by Smrz. Haslam slotted into third place and Guintoli fourth. Checa was unusually down in twelfth place. Melandri also dropped down to tent place with McCormick, Berger and Davies slotting in front of him. Rea then worked his way up to fifth with Laverty sixth, Checa having dropped down to nineteenth with Mercado, Aoyama, Camier, Salom, Biaggi and Giugliano all in front.

Haslam overtook Sykes into second place by lap three, leaving them to battle and Sykes to fall behind and end up fighting with Guintoli to keep third place. Checa had now dropped into twenty-third place, which was due to him choosing intermediate tyres instead of the slicks and the weather remaining dry, which was the same problem Camier and Hopkins were experiencing. Laverty soon overtook Rea, with Berger following suit. This left the standings by lap four as Smrz, Haslam, Sykes and Guintoli. Laverty, however, then went on to overtake Guintoli into fourth place and Rea overtook Berger into sixth. Laverty and Guintoli both went on to overtake Sykes into third and fourth, with Guintoli being hot on Laverty’s tail and overtaking him to gain another place. Canepa then crashed on lap eight at the second corner, with Davies working his way up to sixth place and Berger seventh, both in front of Melandri. Sykes had now dropped down to ninth. Melandri soon went on to overtake Berger into seventh place. By lap eleven Smrz was still in the lead by four seconds, Guintoli passed Haslam going into the first corner and McCormick had a big crash on turn twelve. Fabrizio’s boot had also come undone whilst riding, slowing him down significantly. Davies soon crashed from sixth place, and Berger from eighth at turn two of lap twelve, both riders walked away unhurt.

Laverty was now chasing Haslam with Rea close behind for third place, Laverty went on to overtake Haslam with Rea trying to follow but being blocked off, but he managed it on lap fourteen and went on to overtake Laverty by the end of the lap. This left the standings as Smrz, Guintoli and Rea, with Biaggi overtaking Giugliano. Haslam soon started to get onto Laverty’s tail as Guintoli started to close the gap between him and the race leader, Smrz. Guintoli managed to take first place in lap eighteen, with Rea starting to close in and overtaking Smrz into second place. Smrz then crashed out at turn twelve of lap nineteen, walking away but losing his podium chances. Rea then went on to overtake Guintoli into first place. Melandri soon overtook Haslam by lap twenty-one, Haslam briefly taking it back but eventually losing fourth place with Laverty in third.
On the final lap of the race there was a huge battle between Melandri, Haslam and Laverty. Both Haslam and Melandri overtook Laverty, Laverty taking them both back and Melandri ending up second in the pack again. Zanetti crashed out on turn two, falling at the last hurdle as Rea took the chequered flag victorious. Guintoli took second with Laverty third, followed by Melandri, Haslam, Sykes, Badovini, Biaggi, Giugliano and Fabrizio.

After the race we heard that McCormick had been seriously injured from his crash, breaking his spine and having some hand damage with two black eyes. Luckily he appears to have suffered no neurological damage and ought to have recovered in a few months. We wish him all the best.

This man has a chunk of his finger missing, and still managed to win a race. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jonathan Rea, man of the meet. (Pic: Dunk Lamont)


Race One

1 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
2 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
3 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
4 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
6 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
7 Jakub Smrz (ducati)
8 Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)
9 Marco Melandri (BMW)
10 Leandro Mercado (Kawasaki)

Race Two

1 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
2 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
3 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
4 Marco Melandri (BMW)
5 Leon Haslam (BMW)
6 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
7 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
8 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
9 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
10 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)

Championship Standing after three rounds:

1 Max Biaggi 92
2 Carlos Checa 91
3 Tom Sykes 79
4Sylvain Guintoli 66
5 Marco Melandri 66
6 Jonathan Rea 65
7 Leon Haslam 58
8 Eugene Laverty 56
9 Jakub Smrz 39
10 Davide Giugliano 37


Thanks to Dunk Lamont (www.7050.co.uk) for photos.


Copyright © Motorbikestoday.com 2012. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Motorbikestoday.