In British Superbike’s first trip to the Continent, packed grandstands of both travelling and local Dutch fans witnessed high drama at Assen, with a noticeable rise in the pulse of this exciting series.
Reigning Champion Tommy Hill slipped to third in the title standings after an unfortunate incident when joining the grid for race one meant he started from pit lane, as Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes shared the wins in two competitive, nailbiting races. Young charger Alex Lowes logged two more podiums as he again raised his game and utilised a harder rear Pirelli tyre than most of his fellow competitors.
Dry conditions throughout race day and confidence inspiring banked corners created great racing as riders continually changed positions through the field and into the highly-charged, final chicane-finish line complex.
‘Shakey’ Byrne put his past circuit knowledge to best use in the very first practice session on Friday, stunning his rivals with a 1:38.651 in FP1, half a second faster than next placed Lowes. Lowes paid back the favour in the next session going fastest. Series new entrant Jakub Smrz delighted his Spitlaith Redmond Aprilia squad on a damp track (with all riders on Pirelli Diablo Superbike slick tyres) in a rain affected first session on Saturday, finishing ahead of Byrne.
Qualifying was again hit by short rain showers ruining the riders concentration and runs. Byrne suffered the most as he logged the fastest time in Q1 and Q2 but crucially lost out as the rain came down finishing up with a disappointing seventh grid position. Lowes continued his recent fantastic form logging his second pole position of the year and showing his intentions for Sunday’s races with the fastest lap of the weekend of 1:37.390.
Race one was held in cool, dry conditions (20C track 13C air temp) and couldn’t have started worse for Hill as he suffered a freak accident before the action even began as he tried to pick his way through the grid for his front row slot, damaging his bike and necessitating pit garage repairs. Although he got going after the race started and logged the fastest lap of the race (which would have meant a pole position for the second outing) before retiring, his team was adjudged to have held his bike with tyre warmers still in place after the 3 minute pre-race board thereby demoting him to sixth on the grid.
At the front end of the race Michael Laverty took the holeshot and started trading the lead with Byrne. Brookes began strongly before falling back, eventually re-grouping to battle past Lowes and a fast fading Laverty who finished in a disappointing seventh position in both races. Lowes on the other hand had a terrible start from pole position to end lap one in seventh before a sustained effort to claw his way back to third at the flag.
Byrne eaked out a comfortable lead in the second half of the 18 lap race to win by five seconds at the finish banishing any doubts of his race fitness after his Cadwell shoulder injury. Hill was first credited with the fastest lap (1:38.008) before his demotion giving his Swan Yamaha teammate Noriyuki Haga the pole time for race two with a 1:38.072 circulation.
Race two started less dramatically but once underway saw some fantastic cut and thrust manoeuvres as Laverty, Byrne and finally Brookes all lead with cameos for Haga, Easton, Lowes and Hill who started seventh, got as high as third and had to settle for fourth to a determined Lowes. The final few laps turned into a classic battle between Brookes and Byrne as the two showed their World class abilities. Brookes held his nerve until a committed move from Byrne on the final lap which he then reversed at the final chicane to the roar of the massed ‘tribunes’. Brookes logged the fastest lap of the race on lap nine at the halfway stage with a 1:38.309 showing great consistency logging fourteen laps in the 38’s. Track temperature under clear skies rose to 28C with an air reading of 15C.
Brookes and Byrne were definitely the main beneficiaries of some Dutch luck and tactics as they have significantly gapped Hill with the points standing at 570- Brookes, 568- Byrne, 548-Hill, 534-Lowes and 532-Laverty.
In the Riders Cup- for those outside the top six Showdown ‘Title Fighters’, James Westmoreland backed up the great rides of his WFR Honda teammate Lowes, to now hold a narrow lead from Noriyuki Haga.
Pirelli used slick tyres throughout the weekend except in Friday’s very first free practice session when wet tyres were utilised initially. Tyre choice for the actual races was split between most of the grid choosing the more regularly utilised Pirelli Diablo Superbike SC1 rear tyres and several riders opting for the harder SC2 compound (Lowes, Luca Scassa, Westmoreland, Chris Walker- Race 1 and Laverty- Race 2 only)
The British Supersport series also continued to excite as two riders took their debut victories over the weekend. Ex Supermoto ace Christian Iddon won Saturday’s sprint race whilst US teen-star PJ Jacobsen followed up his Donington Superstock victory with a Supersport class win for his elated Tyco TAS Suzuki squad.
Pirelli Racing Manager Jason Griffiths commented, “Assen certainly did not fail to meet our expectations and provided fantastic racing. The weather was a factor this weekend, overnight rain on Thursday & Friday nights impacting on track conditions and influenced the rate of tyre wear. Assen provides a challenge for durability and we saw differing choices from the teams. Shane Byrne & Josh Brookes were able to run with the SC1 rear, with Josh really having to work the tyre in the first race to secure second place. Even though he pushed hard the tyre finished the race in good condition. Alex Lowes used the SC2 harder solution for his brace of third places. The Pirelli service moves on directly to Silverstone for the next challenge.”
MCE British Superbike Championship- Round 10- Assen , The Netehrlands
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2. Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki) +4.731s
3. Alex Lowes (WFR Honda) +4.881s
4. Luca Scassa (Padgetts Honda) +9.327s
5. Noriyuki Haga (Swan Yamaha) +10.024s
6. Tommy Bridewell (Supersonic BMW) +11.026s
7. Michael Laverty (Samsung Honda) +11.538s
8. James Westmoreland (WFR Honda) +17.160s
9. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +23.137s
10. Robin Harms (Doodson Motorsport Honda) +23.292s
1. Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki)
2. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +0.246s
3. Alex Lowes (WFR Honda) +3.018s
4. Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +3.346s
5. Tommy Bridewell (Supersonic BMW) +9.074s
6. Noriyuki Haga (Swan Yamaha) +9.140s
7. Michael Laverty (Samsung Honda) +9.245s
8. James Westmoreland (WFR Honda) +17.311s
9. Robbin Harms (Doodson Motorsport Honda) +17.633s
10. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +18.891s
1: Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki) 570
2: Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) 568
3: Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 548
4: Alex Lowes (WFR Honda) 534
5: Michael Laverty (Samsung Honda) 532
6: Tommy Bridewell (Supersonic BMW) 521
More information regarding Pirelli’s entire range of racing and road tyres can be found at www.pirelli.co.uk/moto