Our shot in the foreground of the main grandstand at Assen on the bitterly cold WorldSBK Sunday of 2019 shortly before the start. The day before, the first run had to be canceled due to the freezing temperatures and snowfall in April. Therefore, instead of the Tissot sprint race and run 2 on Sunday, there were two races over the full distance.

The third event of 2024 – hopefully with an open outcome

For those familiar with the scene, after WorldSBK announced its new speed limits for this season, the first two rounds should actually have gone to Ducati. Instead of maintaining the maximum speeds that were valid at the end of the previous year’s season, the FIM reset them to the values from the beginning of the year. This meant that the Ducati Panigale V4R was once again clearly preferred over the competition, especially from Yamaha and Kawasaki, which were clearly disadvantaged in terms of acceleration and top speed on the first two courses. The few kilos of additional weight that Alvaro Bautista has had to pack on his motorcycle since this season only correspond to half of his weight advantage after the introduction of the minimum weight for pilot and machine in 2024. However, the Spaniard had the bad luck in Barcelona, which was unusual in the first two races Having to start far back, which meant that even at the Circuito de Cataluña near Barcelona he was no longer able to exploit the superiority of the previous two years. At that time he had won all three races without having to take unnecessary risks. But without a long start-finish straight in Assen, the experts are expecting the third event of this season to hopefully finally be open again.

Route sketch of the “Cathedral of Speed” near Assen, with the current layout since 2006, since the route was last shortened and now measures 4,555 kilometers. With many fast and flowing passages, this is one of record world champion Jonathan Rea’s favorite courses. This means that the Northern Irishman could finally fight for the top again for the first time on the Yamaha R1, which is still quite new for him.
The number in red letters, which means an increase in power compared to Yamaha and Kawasaki of around 10 to 15 hp and thus, as has been the case almost continuously since 2019, clearly advantages the MotoGP Replica from Ducati.
The worst accident to date in the WSBK happened in 1996 when Yasutomo Nagai crashed, who was fatally hit after falling from his Yamaha and died two days later from the injuries he sustained. For more about the earlier years, see “History” on this page in our richly illustrated history of the Superbike World Championship.

The long WorldSBK history and the most successful pilots

From 1992 onwards, a total of 36 World Superbike World Championships have taken place in Assen every year since 1992. The record of 12 victories each in Assen was shared by the best and second best riders in WSBK history until 2019, Jonathan Rea from Northern Ireland and the Englishman “King” Carl Fogarty. After Rea was clearly at a disadvantage on all the faster routes in 2019 compared to the Ducati MotoGP Replica with Bautista due to the material, he was still able to take the sole lead from 2020 onwards, as the Spaniard became a marginal figure on the Honda for two years. Jonathan’s mark of 17 victories in the “Cathedral of Speed” is likely to remain unmatched for some time, if not forever. In addition to “Foggy,” the list of Assen winners includes almost all of the big names in WSBK history. In addition to Troy Corser, the only people missing are the two Italians Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri, as well as the Welshman Chaz Davies.

Our statistics of the WorldSBK winners from Assen up to 2019, the year in which the most serious intervention in the history of the Superbike World Championship occurred with the introduction of the MotoGP Replica from Ducati. Although Rea was able to defend his title this season due to his exceptional class, the whole series changed from this year onwards. Real superbikes are and were motorcycles that you could buy from a dealer in order to be able to drive sportily on public roads. However, the Panigale V4R was designed purely for the racetrack.
“King Carl” Fogarty – the second best pilot in WorldSBK history behind Johnny Rea. It will probably be a long time before anyone surpasses his 4 titles from 1994 to 1999. Unfortunately, due to the sprint race that was introduced in 2019 and its meaning, which is misinterpreted by the majority, his number of 59 race victories (over the full distance, mind you) is senselessly and drastically devalued.

The strange story about the WSBK’s first Assen winner

The first victory in a WSBK race in Assen was secured on September 13, 1992 by the American Doug Polen, who was able to successfully defend his title from the previous year in his second season of the Superbike World Championship. who in the same year also won the world championship title on his private “Fast by Ferracci” Ducati, far ahead of defending champion Raymond Roche (France) on his factory Ducati. Many years later, the Italian manufacturer even tried to falsify the story and then declare Poland a factory driver, but the program books from the 90s don’t lie. Even this did not stop questionable journalists in later years from supporting this statistical fraud attempt. What is true and verifiable, however, is that after the factory team was disgraced in 1991 by the American team of the brilliant Eraldo Ferracci and his pilot Doug Polen, integration into the official factory team was not initiated until the following year. In the tuning scene, Ducati specialist Eraldo Ferracci was one of the greats. The Italian-born emigrant lived in the USA from the late 1960s. What he and his driver achieved in 1991, when they immediately outclassed the competition on race tracks that were almost all unknown to them, is still difficult to grasp even today.

Record winner Doug Polen in the center of the picture with second-placed Stephane Mertens, his teammate from Belgium in the Ducati factory team, on the podium after the first race in Assen in 1992. The year before, the US boy had an incredible winning streak as a 17-time winner on his private Ducati 888, which was only equaled 27 years later by the best rider of all time.
Our shot in the Assen paddock in 2019 with Jonathan Rea on his Kawasaki short-distance racer. This year, when it was very cold, he had no chance on the ZX-10RR, but in the following two years he took no less than 5 more victories and has since then set a record for eternity as a 17-time winner. Whether he can increase this number on the Yamaha R1 from 2024 is currently rather questionable.

Open starting position for Assen 2024?

With Alvaro Bautista and his new factory Ducati teammate Nicolo Bulega, the Aruba.it men should, according to the paper, fight for victory after the Spaniard’s triple victory last year. But the two of them still can’t be too sure, despite having the fastest material in the Netherlands. Because Toprak Razgatlioglu was victorious straight away on the BMW M-1000RR, which has been greatly improved for this season, the exceptional Turkish talent is of course one of the top favorites for the top step on the podium. Since in the “Cathedral of Speed” the advantages of the higher horsepower MotoGP replica from Ducati may be less noticeable than in the first two rounds, pilots like Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) and his former teammate Johnny Rea (Yamaha) also have Also good chances again to have a serious say in the victory. At least in the fight for the podium, this also includes the Yamaha pilots Andrea Locatelli, Domi Aegerter and Remy Gardner, as well as Danilo “Petrux” Petrucci and Andrea “The Maniac” Iannone on their private Ducatis as well as local hero “Magic Michael” van der Mark (BMW ) among the contenders for the top places.

Troy Bayliss on the factory Ducati, which was driven by WSBK icon Carl Fogarty at the start of the 2000 season. The Australian’s serious injury in his home country at the start of the season meant that Troy continued his career in the Superbike World Championship instead of the British BSB championship. As a result, he became the third best WorldSBK rider in history and to date the only one who has won a MotoGP Grand Prix (at the season finale in Valencia in 2006), of course on a Ducati. With six wins (over the full distance, i.e. with full points) he is the third best WSBK hero in Assen.
The cover of the WSBK program booklet from Assen 30 years ago – see more about the history of the Superbike World Championship on our page under “History”. In the golden 90s, the Prototype World Championship often had significantly fewer spectators than the WorldSBK. This was certainly due to the fact that the motorcycles competing at the time were among the best sellers for the manufacturers, and pilots like “King Carl” Fogarty, Pierfrancesco Chili, Colin Edwards, the two Australian Troys and “Nitro Nori” Haga were absolute heroes for the fans .

The situation in the World Championship after 2 rounds

Since the first four of the interim rankings are only separated by 16 points, the championship lead can change after race 1 on Saturday. But the second group with Iannone, Petrux, Locatelli and van der Mark is not too far behind to move closer to the top 4 with good results on the second last weekend in April, or possibly even join them and expand this illustrious circle. Yamaha new signing Jonathan Rea can currently only hope for this in the summer if he wants to close the huge gap by then, which currently seems almost impossible on his own. What is encouraging at the moment is that Ducati’s two competing brands, Toprak and Alex Lowes, are once again at the forefront. After two terribly monotonous years, when the winner with Bautista was usually already decided before the start, this is the most outstanding feature before the third round in Assen.

Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) ahead of local hero Michael van der Mark (BMW), Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) and the Australian Remy Gardner (Yamaha) – these four are definitely among the podium contenders for 2024 in the third round of WorldSBK. Of course, you also have to take Alvaro Bautista (Ducati) and Dominique Aegerter (Yamaha, with the 77) behind them in this photo into account. For Danilo Petrucci with number 9, however, there will be no return to Assen as he is in hospital with numerous fractures after a serious injury during motocross training in Italy.

The World Championship program for the third of 12 rounds

While the championship introduced for women still has to wait until Misano, the R3 World Cup forms the supporting program in Assen. The two races in this junior series take place at 11:50 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The times for the World Championship training and races have not changed compared to Barcelona. According to the weather forecast for the Circuit van Drenthe, very low temperatures can be expected again, which is no surprise in this region in the second half of April. A 30 to 40 percent chance of rain doesn’t make things any better. Except for 2021, when driving took place in the summer, after 2018 the temperatures were always well below 20 degrees Celsius and this time, like in 2019, the thermometer threatens to drop below 10 degrees on the weekend. But for many decades, calendar planning has not been one of the strengths of FIM and Dorna, which is why this has to be accepted by the fans.

Our photo from the Paddock Show 2019 with a beaming Jonathan Rea, despite missing out on victory, who was still wearing a Kawasaki outfit at the time. Since 2010, the only time he had not won a race was in the 2013 season in Assen, which unfortunately was to be repeated in 2023. It’s not just his fans who hope that he can fight for victory again this time on the Yamaha R1 on one of his absolute favorite tracks.

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