Round 4 – Assen
A freezing cold and windy Assen played host to a close session that saw the top five riders covered by just 0.031s, Tom Sykes taking the BMW to finish the opening day at the TT Circuit Assen on top!
Tom Sykes – P1
“I am looking forward to this weekend especially if it’s going to stay dry, I feel if the rain comes there could be a lot of trouble with the temperatures and the rain tyre. Having said that the whole of the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team are working really well, we have done a lot with the BMW S 1000 RR and got off to a steady start doing a few things in this morning’s FP1 and FP2 sessions. We now feel we have a strong pace in these conditions. Tomorrow we will look to refine our setting further, however we will keep an eye on the conditions during tomorrow’s 9am start… that being said I am looking forward to the races, I enjoy Assen and the layout of the track is fantastic so I hope we can convert this speed into some results.”
Having led the session in FP1, Kawasaki’s were on form at the famed Dutch venue. It was the reigning four-time WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea who consolidated a positive opening day with a second place as Friday concluded. The Ulsterman setting multiple fast times and eventually toppling his teammate. Rea will be hoping to continue his search for his first race win of the season.
Jonathan Rea – P2
“A very positive day to be honest. We have changed the bike set-up a little bit and gone back in a different direction from what we had been in the winter tests and the first few rounds. I have gained a little bit of agility on the bike set-up and I am able to do things a little bit differently. The bike is turning better in the longer corners and I am able to make the difference, so the window is a little bit bigger. With such a big change, step-by-step, I need to adapt a little bit more. Of course it is a learning process and I feel quite good, but here the temperatures are so low that it is important for us to analyse both the SC0 and SC1 option rear tyres for tomorrow. We need to understand exactly where the crossover in performance is, if any. Then we can find our race set-up. I feel quite positive after the work we have done today and we understand where we need to improve for tomorrow.”
Leon Haslam returned to the TT Circuit Assen in The Netherlands with a fine third place. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ will be hoping to return to the podium for the first time since Australia.
Leon Haslam – P3
“I am really happy because I did not expect to be third quickest. Our plan was to do this morning with a hard tyre and this afternoon with a soft tyre and we did over race distance in both sessions. So to just use two tyres over the whole day I am really happy. Always Assen is close, one tenth here, one tenth there, and the race is always a close battle. There are a few areas I want to improve in still but so far so good. The biggest thing is to keep the tyre temperature up. Normally in these conditions the SC0 would never last but the new bigger profile tyre is lasting just unbelievably.”
Markus Reiterberger was one of the revelations on Friday, lapping multiple consistent times and eventually placing fourth overall. Reiterberger looking to improve on a best Superpole result of sixth, achieved in Sepang 2016.
Markus Reiterberger – P4
“First of all I have done many laps around Assen. My first impression of the bike was not the best and we put this down to the rear tyre, despite this feeling we were still able to put ourselves into the top 6 during FP1 so we have to be happy about that. Going into the second session we didn’t expect too much with the results but we continued with some changes to the chassis and the electronics. I again struggled with the rear during the early stages of FP2 so we made a change of tyre to the SC1, this immediately changed the setting of the bike which was good step for me and I could consistently lap 1’35.00/1’36.00 times and finished the day in P4. I am happy with the setting change we made from today’s second outing, I hope we can continue this into tomorrow’s qualifying and race.”
In what was one of the closest sessions in recent WorldSBK memory, home-hero Michael van der Mark completed the session in fifth position, just 0.031s behind session leader Tom Sykes. The Dutchman was looking to put on a good show in front of a loyal home crowd and goes into Saturday full of confidence.
Michael van der Mark – P5
“It’s not ideal to be riding in such cold conditions as we had here today, not just for us but also for the tyres. It means you have to be a bit careful the first few laps but, overall, I’m quite happy with today. This morning I felt good on the bike and, on the last run, I improved my lap time a lot and it was clear what we needed to improve for the second session this afternoon. We made some changes to the bike for FP2, but this didn’t bring the improvement we were expecting, so we reverted back to a set-up closer to the one we ran this morning and I immediately felt better. I was struggling a little on corner exit, as the bike wanted to wheelie out of the turns, so we’ll need to look at that during FP3 tomorrow. The times are very close and I was able to put together some consistent laps, so I’m happy enough with the first day here in Assen.”
It wasn’t an all-conquering opening day for ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati team, who struggled throughout the session. Alvaro Bautista languished for the majority of FP2, in the pits with his crew hard at work, implementing the settings needed to challenge at the front. The championship leader finished the session in sixth, with a flurry of fast laps towards the end of FP2.
Álvaro Bautista – P6
“Today was a bit of an unusual day. The temperatures were very low and we used a slightly different setting from the last races to try and be quick right from the start. Maybe it was because the track was too cold, but I wasn’t able to improve the way I wanted during the first session. In the afternoon session, after a few laps, we decided to go back to the set-up used in the last races. The mechanics were very quick to carry out the modifications required and the feeling with the bike improved immediately. Basically in two practice sessions, we only lapped without any problems for the last ten minutes. These things happen sometimes, but luckily we were able to finish the day with a good feeling. The times are all close together, but I think we’ve found the right direction for the weekend.”
Chaz Davies had a small crash at Turn 5, soon remounting but returning to the pits. The Welshman, who is looking to continue his search for a third podium of the season, finished the session in ninth position, ahead of his teammate for most of the session.
Chaz Davies – P7
“It wasn’t so bad today and the lap times were really close. We are in ninth place but only 0.4s away from the top and I felt like there is more on the table. I had a really small crash, because I’m struggling to do what I want in Turn 5; it’s quite cold and I don’t have full confidence there. As soon as I went on the track this morning, my Panigale V4 R was working pretty good so I’m reasonably happy and at the end of the day we definitely found our base set-up. I have a lot more confidence with the front of the bike, which has probably gone up from 60 to 90%, and I’m much happier than what I was in the early rounds of the season.”
Yamaha’s Alex Lowes suffered another crash in FP2 and finished his first day at Assen in tenth.
Alex Lowes – P10
“The track conditions today were really cold, which isn’t something we were expecting coming into this weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. This afternoon I stayed on the used tyres and did a long run, almost race distance, but then the front tyre wear towards the end was quite severe. I tried to keep going until the end, to give us more information but in hindsight, maybe I should have come in a lap earlier because I lost the front on the bump into turn one and crashed. If I’d have come in for new tyres then I felt like I’d have been quite strong at the end. Now we need to work out why we’re getting excessive tyre wear, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on tomorrow.”
Two Independent team riders once again squeezed into the top ten, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) in seventh, just 0.140s from the leading time by Sykes. One position behind the Turkish rider, Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was one of the biggest improvers and finished in eighth, as second Yamaha rider too.
Sandro Cortese – P8
“I’m a little bit more relaxed after FP2, because this morning was a bit of a disaster for me. When I started FP1 it was like I’d forgotten how to ride a bike in the one week since Aragon! For the first time ever, I didn’t have a feeling for the bike but, obviously it was very cold this morning. We made some big changes on the bike to try and improve and we continued with this in the afternoon, but then we made the decision to go back to the base set-up we’ve used over the last three races, with positive results. This is how we need to work, rather than looking at what the other Yamaha riders are doing, as they are so completely different. I’m happy that we remained calm, stayed focused and made some good progression this afternoon. Of course, we are still missing a bit but if we look at the gap this morning, which was almost 2.5 seconds, and then compare it to the 0.2 seconds we’re missing now, I think we can be happy with the job we did. Now we just need to continue in this way.”
It was another difficult day for Melandri, with the GRT Yamaha rider again struggling to find a set-up on his R1 with which he was comfortable and that would allow him to rediscover the form that saw him finish on the podium at the opening round in Australia. Melandri and his crew will analyse the situation further overnight, in a bid to find an improvement ahead of FP3 tomorrow morning.
Marco Melandri – P14
“It was one more difficult day for me here in Assen. I’m still struggling with the same issue I had on the first day with the R1; I am trying to adapt my riding style and move my position on the bike to try and improve things, but it just seems to get worse. It’s difficult because we can’t go the way I’d like to with the set-up and, in the cold conditions we experienced today, the problem is even worse. The biggest issue is that, right now, I have no confidence and that means I can’t push as hard as I need to.”
In what was a phenomenally tight session, the leading 12 riders were covered by just 0.821s, with four Independent riders inside that gap.