Brilliant Nativi takes first win of season in Assen, rookie Kitzbichler victorious in Race 2

Alongside the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the legendary TT Circuit Assen was the Northern Talent Cup, as the Cup launched its 2024 campaign in style. It was as dramatic as you’d expect at the incredible circuit combined with ever-changing weather conditions, with Antoine Nativi (Racing Nativi Team) taking the Race 1 victory and Tobias Kitzbichler (Racingteam Kitzbichler) winning Race 2.

RACE 1: Nativi storms to opening win of 2024

Antoine Nativi (Racing Nativi Team) won the first Northern Talent Cup race of the weekend in Assen, his maiden victory in the category. The Frenchman was fastest ahead of polesitter Thias Wenzel (Kiefer Racing) and local hero Jurrien van Crugten (BB64 Academy) in the wet race interrupted by a red flag.

The NTC grid were all on wet tyres, but without Kyano Schoo (KS-Racing) and Delano Greven (DG Motorsport), both Dutchmen having failed to meet the minimum qualifying time, so it was just 22 drivers who started the thirteen-lap race.

Fast as lightning off the line, Thias Wenzel opened a gap immediately ahead of teammate Binder (Kiefer Racing) and Kitzbichler (Racingteam Kitzbichler) behind. On lap 3, Anakin Zelenak (Mass Sports Racing by JRP Motorsport), having made up six positions, crashed out of third place. Rider OK. With seven laps to go, Van Crugten was up to second behind Wenzel, but with a three-second gap to the leader.  Just as it looked like Van Crugten might make a push for the lead, Irmscher (Racingteam Irmscher) crashed out of eighth and the race was red-flagged. Rider OK.

On the restart of five laps, it was Wenzel and Binder with good starts off the line, with the Swiss taking the holeshot. The teammates battled it out until the German asserted his place at the front, though he couldn’t make a gap to the rest of the field. Van Crugten, who got a terrible start that saw him outside the top ten had risen through the field quickly and within a few laps was on the back wheel of the race leader.

On the last lap, a fierce four-rider battle raged behind between Nativi, Van Crugten, Phommara and Wenzel. In the final sector, Phommara went with an audacious move around the outside of Van Crugten and Nativi that almost saw him take the lead into the final chicane. It wasn’t to be though, as Nativi held his line and in a close finish took the chequered flag ahead of Van Crugten, Wenzel & Phommara. Van Crugten was adjudged to have exceeded the track limits on the last lap at Turn 17, following contact with Phommara (Phommara-Racing), so Wenzel was classified second and Van Crugten had to settle for third, and the final podium place.

Phommara, Kitzbichler and Binder completed the top six in this five-lap race. Local rider Tom Kuil (Zelda People Racing) finished 11th in the first race of the weekend.

RACE 2: rookie Kitzbichler shines in the Netherlands

Race 2 was won by Tobias Kitzbichler (Racingteam Kitzbichler) in stunning fashion, having led from the first lap until the end unchallenged. The Austrian crossed the finish line first after fourteen laps at the TT Circuit Assen, ahead of Dutchman Van Crugten (BB64 Academy) and Frenchman Nativi (Nativi Racing Team).

With the same grid as Race 1, in similar conditions, and with each rider that much more experience on the new Honda and in the tricky weather, the stage was set for an exciting rematch. The two Kiefer Racing teammates Wenzel and Binder made great starts and seemed to yet again establish themselves at the front of the race. Would it be a repeat of Race 1? Not exactly. On lap 1 the Kiefer teammates were left in the dust of a charging Kitzbichler who roared past and disappeared into the distance, 1 second a lap faster than his nearest rival for the first 10 laps.

Behind the Austrian, and with 10 laps to go, a battle for second place was shaping up between Van Crugten, Antoine Nativi and Ferre Fleerackers (Junior Black Knights). The Dutchman, struggling with the clutch at the start, had dropped as low as 21st, but like a rocket ship, he weaved his way through the field so that within five laps he had already joined the group fighting for second place.

In the end it was Van Crugten who came out on top of the compelling battle for second place. He finished just over six seconds behind Kitzbichler, but just ahead of Nativi and Fleerackers. Behind this trio, though at some distance, and completing the top seven, were Binder (Kiefer Racing) in fifth, Phommara (Phommara-Racing) in sixth and polesitter Wenzel (Kiefer Racing) in seventh place.

At the end of a successful first weekend for the NTC Frenchman Antoine Nativi sits atop the standings with 41 points ahead of Kitzbichler & Van Crugten, tied for second with 36 points each.

The Northern Talent Cup now looks forward to Round 2 at the Sachsenring in just under two weeks.


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