The tension that has been building between Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies finally spilled over at Assen. Three years of competing with one another for race wins and championships has strained their relationship, and on Saturday at Assen it reached breaking point.
On the final laps of Superpole, Davies was on a flying lap and came across Rea through turn seven. Being forced to sit up and avoid the touring Kawasaki, emotions got the better of Davies and at the end of the session he hit out at Rea in Parc Ferme.
“You stayed on three quarters of the track,” stated Davies after qualifying third. “I don’t know how tight a line you can pull out of that left but I’m three quarters of the track out there. You were in the way mid-way through the corner and then on the exit I had to pick it up because you were three quarters across the track, if I didn’t I’d have cleaned you out! Next time I’ll smash you from the inside and we’ll see what happens.”
Penalties don't always hurt
Rea was quick to respond to Davies and when the dust settled, Race Direction hit the Kawasaki rider with a three place grid penalty for the race. Ultimately it would have little effect on Rea and he was quick to get to the front and fight with Davies for the win. The Ducati rider led almost the entire 21 lap race but with four laps remaining Rea made his move.
The Northern Irishman was very fast in the final sector of the lap and made his move through the right handers leading to the final chicane. Davies answered back immediately on consecutive laps but on the penultimate lap with Rea in front, Davies ran deep into the final chicane with a technical problem. With Davies sidelined, Rea was able to get to the checkered flag without competition and claim another important 25 points.
For Davies the championship now appears to be a bridge too far, but after what had been set up as a thrilling final lap, tomorrow's race should offer the Dutch fans a true Assen classic. The historic circuit has seen many of the pivotal moments of WorldSBK history and today definitely echoed back to Carl Fogarty and Frankie Chili.
“Everyone could see on the TV how Johnny looked back and saw me coming," said Davies about the Superpole incident. "This fact is particularly disappointing. He was slow on a section of the track, which is one that he knew exactly where everyone was driving. He went where he should not be. We didn't pressure Race Direction to penalize him three places. Even if he is the world champion, he cannot ride around on the ideal line. Such games are not expected by the world champion. He thinks he's above it all.”
While Rea was unwilling to be drawn into a war of words, he did say that he offered his apology following the race.
“I understand that he was annoyed,” said Rea. “Of course right away I would apologize. I tried to talk to him like a normal person. But it was not the right time, he was in the red. It is unacceptable to me that he gave me a blow. We are role models for young riders. I got a hard punishment, I wonder if he'll get one for it?”
The blow that Rea referred was from Davies got past him and threw his hand at the Kawasaki. There was some dispute from both riders about the punch and following a meeting with Race Direction, Davies was given a warning for his behavior but not given a penalty.
"A blow?" questioned Davies. "I did it only to get his attention. He clearly looked in the other direction when I arrived after he'd turned around. I wanted to wake him up, ask him what he was doing.”
Tomorrow Rea will start his 200th WorldSBK race. Having increased his Assen win tally to ten, Rea has taken a big step towards the championship but will also take nothing for granted tomorrow.
“I’m really happy,” said Rea after claiming the win. “I’ve had so many questions over the weekend asking why I’ve won so often here and I don’t know why. It’s just a circuit I really like, it suits my riding style a bit and to make it happen here again is great - especially when we a had a really good pace in the beginning. After the last six or seven laps and I tried to plot a move to go through and to make a rhythm but it was unfortunate for him. After I passed him in T3 he had a problem, it was unfortunate it didn’t go down to the last lap - but I am really happy with our effort and to have another 25 points.”
Another 25 points and a dent in the championship hopes of Davies it may be, but it certainly adds another dimension to what has already been one of the best recent rivalries in WorldSBK. And come Race 2, the Welshman will have more than just a point to prove.
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