World Superbikes heads to the “Cathedral of Speed” Assen in The Netherlands this weekend (April 22-24) for round two of the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Check out how all the teams are going heading into Rd2…
Assen celebrates its 30th anniversary battle for WorldSBK, with Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista leading the championship after two Sunday wins at round one at Aragon, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea sitting second on the points table and heading to Assen with the possibility of scoring his 100th victory for the marque, and world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu in third. News also this week that Dutchman Michael van der Mark (BMWO is back on the bike for his home round after a season delay due to injury, and that Leon Haslam will race for the Pedercini Kawasaki squad for the Assen round.
Race times (all times Australian Eastern Standard Time)
- WorldSBK Saturday 10pm-21 laps Sunday 7pm-10 laps and 10pm-21 laps
- WorldSSP Saturday 11.15pm-18 laps Sunday 8.30pm-18 laps
It’d been 1022 days between Alvaro Bautista’s (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) spells at the top of the championship but after just three races back with the Ducati Panigale V4 R, the Spaniard is already leading the standings.
Bautista’s double on Sunday at Aragon sees him come to a circuit where he was unbeatable in 2019 too, when he romped to a double, winning the opening 11 races of the season. However, as seen at Aragon, it’s a lot closer now; can he fend off Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who won all three races in 2021? His teammate, Michael Ruben Rinaldi, took a podium in 2021 at Assen and had a solid first round; can he challenge for victory this time?
In the green corner, Jonathan Rea took the opening honours of the 2022 season with race one victory in a thrilling final corner battle with Bautista. After the duo’s closest fight for victory, Rea now comes to a circuit that he’s become synonymous with. An unprecedented 15 wins – on both Honda and Kawasaki – mean that he’s the favourite. Two more victories at Assen this weekend for the six-time world champ, will create history and a milestone moment for Rea with a record 100 career wins for Kawasaki.
Tyre choice was crucial in 2021 and Rea did his homework to take his most recent triple in WorldSBK; he’s three points behind Bautista. On the other side of the garage, Alex Lowes’ season started with a crash and whilst yet to get a podium for Kawasaki at Assen or in 2022, his first one in WorldSBK came at Assen in 2014; will he deliver?
Third in the standings after Aragon, reigning World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) had a solid first round, with Yamaha making a visible step at a circuit they’ve historically struggled at. However, despite the gains, Toprak confirmed that they’d reverted back to the old electronics package for Aragon and hinted at a complete return to the 2021-spec Yamaha YZF-R1 for Assen. The Dutch venue is one of just three venues on the calendar that Toprak hasn’t won at – the others are Aragon and Barcelona. In 2021, third in race one and the Superpole Race were the highlights before he was skittled at turn one by fellow Yamaha rider Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). Teammate Andrea Locatelli has fantastic Assen memories, taking a first WorldSBK podium in 2021 after leading a race for the first time; can he go a step further?
It was a very positive opening round for Team HRC and their rookie line-up of Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge. The Spaniards lie fifth and sixth in the Championship and thus make it two Honda riders inside the top six. Both Lecuona and Vierge hope to consolidate their pace at a circuit they’ve not tested at; Lecuona found a breakthrough in braking at Aragon but with Assen being more about flow and corner speed, could their bike be a natural contender? Neither rider has performed particularly well in the MotoGP™ paddock days at Assen, but with a new challenge can come a reset; expect both Hondas to feature.
Where to start with BMW? On one hand, it looks like they’ve made gains as they had plenty of top ten success through the Aragon weekend, albeit not the top five they achieved in tricky conditions last year. However, Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) had a difficult time, something he said was “hard to accept”, struggling all round and managing a 15th in race one as his sole point-scoring ride. He’ll hope to fair better and break into the top ten as he continues his adaptation to an inline four engine configuration. Home-hero Michael van der Mark returns, the Dutchman kicking off his season at Assen after missing round one due to injury. He’s had podiums for Honda and Yamaha in past years and two top six finishes in 2021, so we will see where the BMW takes him.
The top Independent battle rages on and Frenchman Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) is in control; he gave BMW their best result of 2022 with seventh in race two at Aragon. Teammate Eugene Laverty took a top ten at Aragon and aims to make gains at Assen, however, it’s a familiar battle splitting the BMWs: Garrett Gerloff vs Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing). Gerloff showed great promise in Free Practice at Aragon but faded in the races and now comes back to the scene of his controversial collision with Toprak in race two last year.
For Bassani, he was the opposite of Gerloff last time out; not featuring in practice but coming good in the races, with seventh in the Superpole Race before a tenth top-six finish of his WorldSBK career in race two, taking sixth. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is next up in 14th overall, returning to the track where he suffered a big crash in 2021.
Vying to crack the top ten for the first time, Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) took two 13th places in his WorldSBK debut weekend and goes to Assen, where he took two WorldSSP podiums in 2021. Then, Sammarinese rookie Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), who came from 18th on the grid at Aragon to 12th in Race 1 for debut points. He took a top five at Assen last year in WorldSSP. Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) was a surprise at Aragon and took points, whilst fellow Yamaha rider Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) struggled, not scoring points and crashing in Race 2.
Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport Yamaha), Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team), teammate Hafizh Syahrin and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) aiming for first points and the news of “Pocket Rocket” Leon Haslam returning to Pedercini after the departure of Loris Cresson. (TPR Team Pedercini Racing). Despite being scheduled to make a wildcard debut, reigning British champion Tarran Mackenzie has been ruled out after a preseason testing injury.