Toprak Razgatlioglu and his Yamaha in the gravel bed of Assen – the Turk travelled to the Netherlands as world championship leader and shortly before Saturday lunchtime he made a mistake in the Superpole, which ended lightly because his team was able to repair the bike in time.

Toprak shows nerves – Rea takes back the championship lead

In the Superpole, Toprak had secured the front row with a strong performance at the literal last minute after repairing his slightly damaged Yamaha. When we heard Jonathan Rea’s tire choice before the first race of the weekend started, we raised our eyebrows in surprise. This time he and his Kawasaki crew had gambled heavily on the SCX tires developed for the sprint race for the race, despite the fine weather and for Assen, a relatively warm 25 degrees Celsius (the track was 37). With Razgatlioglu and Redding, however, his toughest opponents in the title fight had bet on the SC0, which is considered safer for the full distance. The reigning world champion was well aware that it could be tough towards the end of the first run because he had to reckon with decreasing grip. After the start, he wasn’t in the lead as a five-time pole sitter this season, but Toprak was the first to turn into the first corner in front of him. But the Kawasaki ace struck back and already at the beginning of Turn 5, called Strubben, Rea was back in front.

Michael van der Mark (BMW M-1000RR) despite a modest ninth place on the grid, he narrowly missed the podium in the end, while his team-mate Tom Sykes from the back of the field still managed to take seventh place.

The masterpiece of the best superbike rider of all time
After the early falls of Rinaldi (Ducati) and Lowes (Kawasaki) at the top, it developed into a remarkable three-way battle for the lead. As expected, Scott Redding was also very strong, and the Englishman was able to attack Toprak several times and even keep him in check in the second half of the race. At the top, however, the Northern Irishman pulled away in an irresistible manner, who left his opponent no longer a chance to seriously harass him until the finish line. Toprak Razgatlioglu rode another attack against Scott Redding towards the end of the race, but he parried and with two laps before the end, Jonas Folger (BMW) had red flags after a serious fall, with which the Turk had to be satisfied with 3rd place. In the interview afterwards, he not only appeared disappointed, but also downright sour, also because he had to admit that he had no chance of winning. As Toprak stated, he had apparently overused his front tire and therefore fought with blunt weapons towards the end.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki), Jonas Folger (BMW) and in the back Leon Haslam (Honda) hot on the heels of Ducati ace Scott Redding. For the man with 22 and the Germans, it was a day to forget after both of them had rudely finished their race in the gravel. Lucas Mahias also had a crash and broke his left navicular bone. He will not compete in Assen on Sunday

Jonathan Rea after the first race:In the Superpole, I had the feeling that my first fast lap might have been cancelled because I saw a yellow flag. When I got back into the pit lane I saw that my time was still there, but to avoid confusion I put another Q tire on and drove off immediately. I tried to avoid all traffic during the last few stages of the session and I had a free stretch, but you’re also nervous when you sit in the pits and watch everyone else go fast. We won the race because of our persistence, because I just kept going after the setback at Donington. On my pit board, I could see the gap between Toprak and Scott fluctuating. I knew it would be very hard to get away if I let these guys on. When I had a free track, I had to give my maximum, not make any mistakes and open a small gap. After that I had to keep pushing, never being satisfied because they were in their own fight and fought hard. If I relaxed, they’d get me. I had a good rhythm and my Kawasaki drove like it was on rails. In the end, I got vibrations on the rear tire. Instead of pressing the tire further in the critical areas, as in the fast right-hand bends, I spared the tire a little more. Even then, the gap grew bigger and bigger. It’s a really nice feeling to experience this as a driver. Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.“

Alex Lowes after his crash in race one:I felt good on the bike, and we made a positive step in FP3 in the morning. Superpole was pretty close. At the beginning of the race, I was a bit trapped by Rinaldi and Redding. I was overtaken by Jonas Folger, but was able to catch him again. Then in Turn 5, the really slow corner, I just lost the front. I tried to release the brakes to get around the corner and maybe with the tank still full I was too close to the limit. It’s a shame because it was such a minor crash, but the handlebars were damaged, and I couldn’t go any further. Just one small mistake and the race was over. But I felt excellent on the Kawasaki, that’s the main thing, and we have two more races tomorrow.“

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) in full concentration before the start of the first race – it was his day and with 13 race wins in Assen, he reached a mark that, like many others of his records, will hold its own forever (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Few winners and the question of the weather

In addition to Rea as the race winner, Redding and van der Mark belong above all. Locatelli and Gerloff among the winners of the day, while Razgatlioglu cannot be counted after losing the World Cup lead. At Toprak, it will turn out to be one of the losers, especially on Sunday. With the current weather forecast, the Turk is unlikely to sleep soundly. From around noon, there is a probability of around 90 percent that it will be damp, which can mean that the Superpole Race will already be affected. If it is really wet, the Turk is considered to have no chance, even if he sometimes did respectably on a wet track from 2020 onwards. But against rain kings like Rea, Sykes, Lowes, Haslam and others, he should then be at a loss. Tom Sykes and especially Garrett Gerloff showed an outstanding performance when they both made it into the top seven from the end of the field. Leandro Mercado made a strong comeback with 12th place, and the fast Argentine should be allowed to take a break since the season opener. Because his team started completely unprepared in Aragon, they decided to take a “creative break” to Assen after the desperate result in the first round.

After the start of the first race – Toprak turns into the first corner ahead of Johnny Rea, but at Strubben the Northern Irishman is already in front again. After that, the Turk only led once more in lap four and from then on only the Kawasaki ace.

The many losers in the first race
First and foremost, this includes the many who fell, above all the now injured Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). Jonas Folger also had to tremble and when he stood up at some point the observers were relieved, but with a concussion he will definitely be missing on Sunday like the French. With places 8 and 9, Leon Haslam and Chaz Davies are also not among the winners, but at least they made it to the finish and into the top ten. In tenth place, Axel Bassani is also one of the drivers who, like Viñales, cannot be dissatisfied on P11. Cresson and Mantovani made it into the points, but one lap behind the overwhelming winner, and therefore benefited from the many falls. For all the drivers without championship points in the first run, it has to be a question of finishing the race on Sunday. Alex Lowes, for example, is still in fourth place, and now he cannot afford to make any mistakes in the last two races of the weekend. The same goes for Alvaro Bautista and the rest of the crash pilots. The motto is definitely: Do not fall.

Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) ahead of Tom Sykes (BMW) – the two gambled away a top position with their crashes in the Superpole, which is why they had to start from the back and still go very far forward. You have to consider both of them in the last race, if they survive the sprint race on Sunday morning rash-free.

The result of the first race in Assen

Stand in the WSBK World Championship after the first Race of Assen

P, Rider, Points
1 REA 206
4 LOWES 114
6 SYKES 98
13 HASLAM 49
14 MAHIAS 36

TT Circuit of Assen

The subdivision of the four sectors is shown in black. The course has 12 right and 6 left turns and is 4.542 km long, with a start-finish straight that is only 300 m long.

WorldSBK Assen schedule

Unless otherwise mentioned, applies to all images (© WorldSBK).