Race 2 at Assen didn't have the fireworks of Saturday but rather than the pressure cooker environment of a championship battle flaring up it was a slowly boiled intra-team scrap that was settled on Sunday.
In three years at Kawasaki Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have had their differences and tension but overall their relationship has been mostly positive. There was the potential for fall-out in The Netherlands however when Sykes closed dramatically on Rea in the second half of the race.
The 2013 world champion has battled illness in recent weeks, a bacterial infection has forced him to into hospital and laid him up since Thailand, but in the thick of battle he sensed a weakened rival.
Rea had chosen a softer compound front tire and it was wearing much worse than expected. Pere Riba, crew chief to Rea, explained the decision.
“In Race 2 we decided to use the softer rear tire because the temperature had risen,” said the Spaniard. “We knew that the rear would be OK for the race, but the issue for us was front tire wear. Pirelli had advised that the harder tire would be very strong in the race but because we hadn't used it during the weekend we felt that it was a risk to have so many changes for Race 2.Tom used the harder front tire and we used the softer but Johnny struggled with the wear in the second half of the race and had to try his best to manage the race.”
Rea certainly managed proceedings and stayed in front throughout despite Sykes closing on his rear wheel and making for an interesting fight to the end. Ultimately Sykes was also struggling for front end grip and was unable to hit the front before the final two laps when Rea felt he had enough in hand to press harder and try to open a gap.
Having seen his lead extend to almost half a second it seemed as if Rea was set for a comfortable win but in the final corners, including the always critical GT Chicane, Sykes closed at an incredible rate. Rea would take the flag by thousands of a second in a near photo finish but Sykes would take plenty of plaudits for a gritty ride.
"It was a very close finish and I have to say thanks to my my fans and all the team for being very understanding about my physical condition,” said Sykes after the flag. “Today I felt we had a package capable of winning. I always kept trying and I am obviously disappointed not to take the win."
It may have been somewhat disappointing for Sykes but a weekend with a pole position and two one-two finishes meant that it was an almost perfect weekend for Kawasaki.
“It has been an incredible weekend of racing,” said Rea. “Of course the race wins were really nice to take away. Today was a race of two halves, in the first half I raced hard until I got a warning so in the second half I just managed things to try and be safe and bring her home.”
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