WorldSBK Roundup – Assen, Netherlands

By Karr – Karrbon Copy.

The weather over the Assen circuit was predictable in its unpredictability – ranging from torrential downpours to sunny skies, the only constant was change. And, perhaps, the frigid temperatures.

motul. motorcycle oil. oil. bikewise.



At the start of Race One, the ambient temperature was read as 9.5 degrees Celsius. We could feel the wind chill through the TV screen.

There were a few riders who succumbed to the age-old allure of splashing through puddles. Remarkably, most of them didn’t crash.

A few lesser crashes happened early on, just to warm us up… First, Fountainhead, er, Fontainha, crashed at Turn Three on the second lap. Still during Lap Two, Ercolani and Vanucci came to tangles at Turn Eight.

We watched as Julio Garcia, miffed at losing his pole and having to start way back on the grid, scythed his way through the field like they weren’t even there. On Lap Three, he hit second place, and tried to fight for the lead. Unfortunately, fate had other plans: Ahead of Julio, local hero Buis was leading the pack when he, unexpectedly, got tossed from his bike at Turn Eighteen, leaving the attacking Garcia with nowhere to go but over the now horizontal motorcycle directly ahead of him. Di Sora managed to evade the chaos, at the cost of multiple positions.

Soon, the Red Flags were awakened. The race was stopped. A few minutes later, a very second-hand Buis was helped into the ambulance for a trip to the Medical Centre.

When the race finally restarted, there were a mere five laps for the remaining riders to vie for the victory. Garcia (J.) and his team worked fervently to get his bike ready for the restart, only to be told that he couldn’t join in, since he took the short way to the pits, and didn’t complete the mandatory full lap after his crash.

Bartolini restarted the race with a Double Long Lap Penalty.

On the very first lap of the restarted race, Ieraci had the cleanest slide out of the race we’ve ever seen.

Mahendra won Save of the Day on the second lap, thanks to some sort of dark magic keeping him upright when he really should’ve been buried in the Turn Ten pebbles.

Lap Three saw Gennai getting ejected in a most violent manner, exiting Turn Five in very much the wrong direction.

About the same time, Di Sora got the diluted version of Gennai’s high-side while entering Turn Five.

Salvador’s bike developed a sudden technical gremlin on the penultimate lap, just as the pack was going through Turn Five (again with this Turn Five); as he lifted his hand and sat up, he bumped into Osuna who had been passing on his inside. This led to a wobbly ride over the grass for Osuna, ultimately ending with him stranded on the mushy green patch.

The rain began poking its head out again at this stage, scaring a few riders into lifting their hands momentarily, before realising that they would just have to push on for another lap and a half.

Sabatucci opted for a lie down on his back on Lap Five, waving his hands at the rain-dropping clouds above.

Five-lap pseudo-Sprint race completed, Mogeda took his first-ever win in the class, with Calatayud claiming his first SSP300 podium in second; Iglesias was third over the line.

By the time they got to the podium celebrations, it was positively bucketing down…

#88 Daniel Mogeda 1st Race 1.
#55 Unai Calatayud 2nd Race 1.
#58 Inigo Iglesias Bravo 3rd Race 1.


Three riders were ruled out as ‘unfit to race’ on Sunday, namely Buis, Sabatucci, and Vannucci.

You’d expect that, between one wet and one dry race, the dry would be less chaotic… Good thing we didn’t bet on those odds.

Remarkably, the first lap went by sans crashes, lulling us into a false sense of security.

Lap Two abolished that, starting with a pile-up at Turn Five involving Agazzi, Martella, and – to some extent – Bolano. Agazzi and Martella found themselves awkwardly entangled in the trackside grass, a scene that’d be rather romantic under other circumstances.

In very short succession, Garcia – Marc – and Gennai were seen torpedoing off at Turn Nine. Both riders seemed perplexed, Gennai even lifting his hands in confusion, asking ‘What the heck just happened?’

Seabright was slapped with a Double Long Lap Penalty after jumping the start, but only managed to serve one of the laps before finding himself sliding across the grass on his stomach. He angrily punched the ground, while his bike took the time to smell the flowers.

With two laps to go, Calatayud went tumbling off over the gravel, looking like a starfish caught in a riptide.

Local boy, Bijman, got launched from his seat on the last lap at Turn Ten.

Make no mistake, the entire race was a nailbiter, filled with crazy overtakes and bikes going into corners five or more all at once without crashing catastrophically, but that final lap likely gave some people mild heart-attacks. How there wasn’t a fifteen-bike-pile-up on the last chicane will remain a mystery.

But, after causing all of their teams to bite off a few fingers, Mogeda, Veneman, and Garcia – Julio this time – flew across the line in a three-way photo finish. Mogeda had clenched the coveted double win, Veneman took a home podium in second, and Julio Garcia took third, after starting in twenty-sixth.

But wait, more drama! On the final lap, Salvador and Czarkowski came to tangling blows at the tenth turn when it appeared Czarkowski slid wide, and took Salvador along for company.

No, we’re not done. After crossing the finish line, Veneman and Ieraci mysteriously crashed into each other, leaving Ieraci in the doctor’s care mid-track, while Veneman opted for a service bike ride to his Parc Fermé celebrations.

#88 Daniel Mogeda with a double win.
#7 Loris Veneman 2nd Race 2.
#53 Petr Svoboda 3rd Race 2.



Between the Saturday SBK and SSP races, even more water fell from the sky, creating a very neatly sectioned racetrack with fifty percent bone dry, and fifty percent sopping wet tarmac. The field was split on tyre choices, some going full wet, some full slick, some mixing and matching…

Montella’s race basically ended before he could even do the Warm-Up; his bike was wheeled from the grid back to the garage for a technical gremlin lodged somewhere inside it.

On the first lap, Tuuli decided to lie down in the middle of the track just beyond Turn One, and by some miracle wasn’t run over even once.

A short while later, a bright yellow projectile shot off the track in the background – this turned out to be Booth-Amos retiring from the race involuntarily.

Smits crashed on Lap Three.

On Lap Five, Baldassarri’s bike tail whipped through Turn Fifteen, shooting its rider off into the gravel; here, Balda stood on his knees, facing the sky, and with hands stretched up to the clouds he called out to the racing gods in frustration.

As the wet half of the track began drying out rapidly, Huertas (and a few others) began heating up his pace. He was picking off the riders ahead of him at such speed, they looked like they’d discovered a secret reverse gear.

Huertas easily took the lead, and stretched it out, before ultimately claiming victory. Manzi snatched second place with a handful of corners to spare, leaving Debise in third – just.

#99 Adrian Huertas 1st Race 1.
#62 Stefano Manzi 2nd Race 1.
#53 Valentine Debise 3rd Race 1.


The final race of the weekend started off on a dry grid, but with a looming darkness beyond the grandstands. By the time the group started their Warm-Up Lap, rain had begun falling in a deceptively mild manner.

Riders began peeling into the pits to swap out their smooth rubber for more grooved rubber by the end of Lap One. The vast majority tried to hold on a little longer, but by the end of the second lap most of the field called in for the swap. Nearly all those who hadn’t done this by Lap Two, gave in by the end of Lap Three. Those who left it later, ultimately lost out in the race.

Rain soaked the track, only to step aside again for it to develop a drying racing line. Not quite dry enough for the ‘stay out on slicks’ gamble to pay off, however.

Rewind to Lap Two – McPhee lunged past Öncü only to plop down heavily and slide off into the pebbles.

Local boy, Van Straalen gained so much momentum thanks to his bright orange home livery and leathers combo, that he took the lead at the end of Lap Fifteen, directly in front of the grandstands, much to the delight of the fans. Creaking noises were heard under the roar of the crowd…

Antonelli took a little gravelly detour during the penultimate lap.

To the deafening roar and certainly the ultimate test of the Assen stands’ strength, Van Straalen took his first-ever WorldSSP victory, and took it in front of his home crowd. Huertas held on to second, and Tuuli to third.

Monday no Dutch fan will be at work, guaranteed. They’ll still be celebrating.

#28 Glenn van Straalen 1st Race 2.
#99 Adrian Huertas 2nd Race 2.
#66 Niki Tuuli 3rd Race 2.



Though it’d been bucketing at the closing of the Junior’s celebrations mere minutes earlier, the sun had already started poking its bright face through the clouds. There was still some rain falling on half of the track, and as such, riders were uncertain of which way the conditions would slide.

Just about everyone gambled on it drying out, apart from Spinelli, who went for Intermediate rubber, a choice that would prove extremely fruitful in the end.

A handful of riders pitted for a tyre-swap early on, but unfortunately this was a classic example of ‘too little, too late’. Spinelli had made the dream start, pulling a lead of over twenty-five seconds by Lap Five.

Also on Lap Five, Iannone flopped over hard in the wetter part of the track.

With seven laps to go, and Spinelli’s massive lead shrinking faster than a man hitting ice water, Locatelli pitted, and the Red Flags flew out almost immediately after. Red Flags? Everyone was perplexed, what track conditions?

As it turned out, Locatelli had pitted after his motorcycle began smoking worse than my late father, spilling oil all over Turn Fifteen. And with two-thirds of the race having been raced, the results were called according to the last timing point for each rider.

This meant that debutant Spinelli, a stand-in rider, won his first-ever Superbike race having ridden the bike a whole two days. How’s that for a result? Gold Star! Well run! We don’t care what could’ve happened had the Reds not come out. You won that one fair and square.

Toprak got second, and Bautista got third, after demolishing Spinelli’s lead in the last few laps.

#24 Nicholas Spinelli 1st Race 1.
#54 Toprak Razgatioglu 2nd Race 1.
#1 Alvaro Bautista 3rd Race 1.


Compared to Saturday’s races, the Sunday Superpole Race was pretty mellow. Sun was shining, the track was nice and dry…

Bulega had a stellar pull-off from the start, taking the lead and holding on to it right up to the point where a supersonic Bautista caught up in the last part of the penultimate lap. The latter made quick work of his teammate, stretching out a lead of over two-and-a-half seconds across just the final lap.

On the other side of the spectrum, Toprak was having issues. It seemed his bike was stuck in idle, as he lost multiple positions far too easily.

Bautista snapped up the win, well ahead of Bulega in second, while Lowes (Alex) just managed to steal third place.

#1 Bautista Superpole winner.
#11 Nicolo Bulega 2nd Superpole.
#22 Alex Lowes 3rd Superpole.


Race Two was again a stonker.

For Redding it lasted all of two laps, when he shot off into the gravel at the final turn. After getting to his feet, he threw up his hands to indicate just how upset he was at crashing.

On Lap Five, Bassani tested his bike’s stability by going for a quick detour through the gravel. Satisfied, he rejoined the action.

The infamous ‘Spots of Rain’ were reported by the eighth lap, and the riders were allowed to pop in for a tyre change by Lap Twelve. This was all duly ignored.

Lowes – Alex, here – and Rea came to blows at the first turn of Lap Ten. Rea quickly rejoined, while Lowes – still Alex – remained prone in the gravel.

Some epic fights occurred, not the least of which were for the lead. In the end, Rushhobbldigoglue claimed victory, his first at Assen, and the first for BMW to boot. Bautista came through in a close second, while Gardner finally broke his ‘Fourth-Place jinx’ by taking his first-ever WorldSBK podium in third.

For double firsts, we got a double helping of Toppie Stoppies on the way to Parc Fermé.

#54 Toprak Razgatioglu 1st Race 2.
#1 Alvaro Bautista 2nd Race 2.
#87 Remy Gardner 3rd Race 2.

That concludes a weekend of epic WSBK racing, and now for their spring break – already? That’s crazy.

Oh well, until we meet again!

~ Karr

(My Patreon link. Just, you know, in case one might want to show some appreciation for the hours of toiling over a grubby keyboard: )

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