Remy Gardner ahead of Jonathan Rea (both Yamaha) and local hero “Magic” Michael van der Mark. As we announced before the start of the season, the Australian finally proved in the Netherlands that he has reached the top of the Superbike World Championship. He was by far the best Yamaha rider in Assen.

Round 3 characterized by typical April weather

The fact that Dorna is based in Spain in no way excuses their planning errors in WorldSBK and MotoGP. Anyone who was there in Assen like we were and watched, freezing far too often, how in the borderline conditions the pilots often had to struggle almost more with the cold and wet than with their opponents, can only be surprised at the completely nonsensical scheduling of the Dutch Superbike World Championship round wonder. Luckily for the mostly local visitors, their local heroes, despite the poor conditions, provided a lot of variety and even caused huge cheers at the end. Last year, Michael van der Mark’s bad fall in the second race after he broke his thigh meant he had to take a longer break. This time, however, things should go much better for the 4-time winner of the 8 Hours of Suzuka, arguably the most prestigious race in Japan. But as is so often the case in Assen, it was his new BMW teammate Razgatlioglu who was responsible for the headlines of the day in the international reports at the end of the third lap.

Our photo taken shortly before 11 a.m. with a view of the Haarbocht grandstand and curve 1 on the far right of the picture. After a wet Saturday, the start of the Tissot Sprint Race began in sunshine, although it was bitterly cold at just 8 degrees Celsius on Sunday morning. During the first run on Saturday it was only one degree more, and it had even rained initially.

The one-sided sprint race at the start of Sunday

After the first third of the eighth of 36 races planned for the 2024 season, as so often since 2022, the tension had unfortunately already disappeared when it came to the question of which motorcycle would win in the end. But things got even more frustrating for Ducati’s competition. Starting from seventh place on the grid, the teammate of Nicolo Bulega, who was already in the lead after four laps, was still in P7. The Italian was almost 2 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Jonathan Rea when Alvaro Bautista began to mercilessly exploit the advantages of his Panigale V4R in acceleration and top speed. He only needed three rounds to make the top riders in front of him look like extras on their opposing brands, except for Ducati private rider Sam Lowes. Just two laps later, the Spaniard also overtook his stable-mate. From a sporting point of view, the whole thing was of course a farce, as the reigning world champion set lap times that, using the final lap as an example, were over 2 seconds faster than those of fourth-placed Remy Gardner (Yamaha R1).

Nicolo Bulega ( Ducati), who traveled to the Netherlands as World Championship leader, was leading his nearest rival Johnny Rea by almost 3 seconds in the sixth of only 10 laps of the Tissot Sprint Race. Only 4 laps later he was almost 3 seconds behind the winner and his teammate Bautista. This was one of the strangest races of the last few WorldSBK years and, as was the case at the start of the season and in the previous two years, the competition didn’t have the slightest chance.

Narrowly missed first Yamaha podium for Jonathan Rea

It was another frustrating experience for the record world champion to have to watch both factory Ducatis run their own race. As we already observed on site in BuriRam in 2019, it looked as if Ducati factory rider Bautista was competing against the competition on superbikes with MotoGP machines. What was probably even worse for the Northern Irishman in Assen was that he was still in third place with two laps to go, only to be caught by Alex Lowes and Remy Gardner at the end. But unfortunately, things were to get even worse for Johnny in the afternoon. Factory Yamaha colleague Andrea Locatelli crossed the finish line in sixth place behind the record world champion for the third time in a row. Behind the Italian, rookie Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team Ducati) was the best private driver, completely surprisingly beating the two factory BMWs of van der Mark and Toprak, who, like everyone else, were running SCQ tires but couldn’t handle it at all because their team had obviously made a serious mistake when setting up the machines.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) photographed by us on the way to the award ceremony for the sprint race in Assen in 2024. Finishing third after just 10 laps, a full 7,403 seconds behind the winner, who even started behind him, must be a strange experience for the fast man from Lincoln and his team. Somehow it seemed once again as if the factory Ducatis could play with their opponents.
A skeptical Andrea Locatelli was photographed by us shortly before the sprint race on Sunday morning. It wasn’t just for the northern Italian who comes from Alzano Lombardo that the conditions on the Assen weekend were almost at the limit of what was bearable, with temperatures mostly below 10 degrees Celsius. However, those who were responsible for driving in northern Europe again at this time of year were mostly sitting comfortably in their comfortable and warm offices.
One of the strangest, if not questionable, races in the thirty-seventh year of the WorldSBK in numbers. In the last 4 of only 10 laps, the winner drove an average of around 1.5 seconds faster than the second-placed man and in the final lap around 2 seconds faster than the man in 3rd place. That’s pretty much how you can imagine it when someone is on a MotoGP motorcycle competes against the superbikes. That’s why it looked to many as if Ducati had picked the wrong shelf for Bautista.

Turkish sensational victory on Sunday afternoon

It was thanks to the exceptional talent Toprak last year that Bautista on the Ducati MotoGP Replica was at least a few times alone at the front, uncatchable from everyone else. The Turk had never won at Assen, while Jonathan Rea achieved the WSBK record of 17 victories here on a Honda and Kawasaki. So far on the Yamaha it was only enough for the Superpole. However, after his disastrous ninth place in the sprint race in the afternoon and the missed victory on Saturday due to an early termination, Razgatlioglu was more motivated than ever before. Although it initially looked as if Bautista could pull away like he did in the morning in the Tissot Sprint Race, the Spaniard was unable to do so in the last race. This was initially primarily thanks to Remy Gardner, who simply didn’t want to let Alvaro shake him off. Toprak first had to move forward from 9th on the grid, but the BMW newcomer only needed three laps before he appeared in the Australian’s wind shadow. Three rounds later, in the most difficult conditions with rain falling in places, he began to fight for the lead with Bautista, who was also put under pressure and overtaken by Gardner at times. In the end, the Turk won ahead of defending champion Bautista, to the cheers of many compatriots who had travelled there.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (BMW) ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Ducati), Remy Gardner (Yamaha) and, a respectable distance behind, Andrea Iannone on the best private Ducati. Without the Turk’s fighting spirit and his irrepressible will to win, Sunday’s second race would have resulted in the third Ducati triumph on the Dutch weekend in a row.

Remy Gardner saves the Yamaha honor in the second race

After Jonathan Rea opted for the SC-0 tire instead of the SC-X, the Northern Irishman may have lost the chance to get into the fight for a podium. At least that was his assessment after the race, which ended for him in second-to-last place after an incident with Alex Lowes. His former teammate tried to overtake him in turn 1 and fell, which also affected Rea, and he then found himself in the gravel trap. Meanwhile, Locatelli and Gardner battled it out for the podium, with the Australian prevailing and capping his best weekend in WorldSBK to date with his first podium finish. Still the best Yamaha rider in Australia, the Italian was clearly overshadowed by Gardner in Assen and Rea also finished ahead of Locatelli every time since race 2 in Barcelona. With the exception, of course, of the bad luck we suffered through no fault of our own in the last race before the long compulsory break in the Superbike World Championship, which will now last until mid-June.

Local hero Michael van der Mark received a time penalty of 5 seconds after the Dutchman drove over the curbs twice in the target curve 17 and thus took a shortcut according to the regulations. Rookie Sam Lowes achieved his best WSBK result to date with P6 and Dominique Aegerter behind him achieved the only top ten result in Assen and at the same time the best result in the first third of the season.
We took the mood picture on Sunday afternoon, about half an hour before the start of the second round of the WSBK. At less than 10 degrees Celsius, visitors had to feel like they were at a ski race today, where even in the Alps almost everything is green except for the slopes. Unfortunately for the fans in this picture, it started to rain at this point a little later.

The situation before the WSBK’s far too long spring break

Only in passing is a note about what the weather forecast would be like two weeks later in Assen on the first weekend in May. With 18 to 21 degrees Celsius sunshine and even with rain on Monday it was still a bearable 16 degrees, so temperatures similar to those predicted on the last Saturday and Sunday in April. Thanks to the miserable planning by Dorna and FIM, there will now be an almost unbearably long break of almost two months before things can continue in Misano. In a later article, we will write a detailed review of the first third of the season. Compared to the previous year, when Bautista won almost at will and only four different drivers won (in 2022 there were only three), a significant improvement. Already five different winners prevented at least a uniformity, as in the previous year’s most one-sided season of the Superbike World Championship. The fact that Ducati’s opponents will test on this track before the next round in Italy is unlikely to be of much use to them. The Italian brand will dominate there mercilessly with its factory team and even their private drivers such as Iannone will be difficult to beat at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli on the Adriatic.

The first wet race of the season on Saturday brought a surprise winner with Nicholas Spinelli, replacing Barni Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci, who was injured in a motocross accident. As the only one on rain tires, he was helped by an abort in race 1 at the ideal time for him, when the track was already getting drier and he would have been caught by his pursuers shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, the Italian was unable to repeat his sensational result from the previous day on Sunday.

Chaotic second round of the Supersport World Championship

Just like the last WorldSBK race, the WSSP was also held in extremely borderline conditions. In the conditions that prevailed at the start, it is usually interrupted. It was already starting to rain heavily in the area of Turn 1 when the drivers were sent into the race and because everyone was on slicks, the pit stops to change to tread tires could only be a matter of time. At least that was evident to anyone who looked up at the sky and saw the dark clouds there. The race management didn’t seem to be interested in this; these gentlemen don’t have to risk their lives on motorcycles. Led by Niki Tuuli on lap one, as the rain increased, more and more people came into the pits, where a minimum of one minute and 16 seconds was required to change wheels. Two Australians, Italians and Frenchmen, plus, as expected, the Englishman John McPhee, were the last to set the time on slicks until the latter went off in turn 16 on the second lap. The same fate befell the Australian Luke Powers a few rounds later.

Our photo from the start of the WorldSSP on Saturday, in contrast to the second race the next day, where the conditions were still normal. The Spaniard Huertas ( Ducati won, who again fought for victory in the second race due to his well-chosen early pit stop.

Dutch victory to the cheers of the audience

The Finn Tuuli was only rewarded to a limited extent for his early pit stop as the track dried up. Towards the end of the second run he suffered from decreasing grip on his rain tires and was unable to bring the lead he had fought for early to the finish line. Local hero Glenn van Straalen took over this from lap 15 of 18 to the frenetic cheers of his many compatriots in the stands, and he didn’t let the butter be taken away from him until the chequered flag. Of course, this was a particularly redeeming result for the Ten Kate team based near the route with main sponsor Pata. Since the change in regulations, the Yamaha team, for which the Swiss Aegerter won the WSSP 600 title in 2021 and 2022, has looked anything but dominant. As in the WSBK, since 2023, more or less by chance, took over Ducati, the factory team of the Italian company, which apparently seems to have a lot of friends at FIM and Dorna. For most people, it is difficult to explain Nicolo Bulega’s superiority of 2023 on the red-painted Panigale V2 in any other way, especially because the Panigale V4R has also been at an advantage for a long time thanks to its preference for higher maximum speeds than the WorldSBK competition.

In extremely difficult conditions, Lorenzo Baldassari, who was later disqualified due to a “technical violation”, was in the lead ahead of Adrian Huertas and Kaito Toba. The Netherlands rarely seems to be a good place for the Italian, who fell badly in Moto2 qualifying in Assen in June 2017. In the background on the right van Straalen rushes up.
Curiously, race 2 of the WorldSSP on Sunday was officially considered a dry race, even though it rained at least in the first part of the route at the beginning and then everywhere until the route started to dry out again towards the end. Despite only P8 and 12th place the day before, the German Marcel Schrötter is only 2 points behind the new World Championship leader Huertas in fourth place after round 3 in Assen. Montella and Manzi in between, the two Italians each have 85 points.

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