Assen, The Netherlands
Four rounds into the World Superbike season and the contours of the 2015 championship are starting to become clear. Some of the things we expected to happen have unfolded much as predicted, but there have also been a fair few surprises. Time to take a quick look at the state of World Superbikes so far.
New technical regulations have been put in place aimed at reducing cost and leveling the playing field somewhat. Their effect so far? Despite the protestations of the Kawasaki and Aprilia riders, all of whom have been complaining of a loss of horsepower, neither top speed nor overall lap times appear to have been affected much. Taking Tom Sykes as perhaps the best example, as he was on the Kawasaki ZX-10R both this year and last, his lap times were half a second slower at Phillip Island, half a second quicker at Assen, the only two tracks at which it is possible to compare. Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale was a second quicker at Assen, and eight tenths quicker in race one at Phillip Island, but in race two lapped just as fast in 2015 as he did in 2014. Overall, the Phillip Island track was a little slower in 2015, while conditions at Assen were definitely improved this year over last. The jury is still out on the new rules, but there are definite rumblings audible from the jury room.
Perhaps the biggest effect of the new rules is on the expectations of riders. The Kawasaki is among the most affected of the WSBK bikes by the new rules, with claims that the ZX-10R has between ten and twenty fewer horses than it had in 2014. That has had a bigger impact on Tom Sykes than on his new teammate, Jonathan Rea, Sykes struggling while Rea has come in and cleaned up. Sykes finds himself with a bike that is down on power to what he is used to, a development which is not good for a positive mindset. Rea has come off a bike which he knew to be incapable of winning a championship, and hopped onto one which has been proven capable of doing just that. It's easy to go fast when what you have is better than what you had, and you see opportunity looming.
Press releases from the teams after Sunday's thrilling World Superbike races at Assen:
Assen warmed up for race two to a still-need-a-jumper 13°C, the temperature IT departments chill their server rooms to, with a track temperature of 20°C.
World Supersport gave us the fight we were hoping for and the drama we have come to expect.
The clouds over Assen let the sun peek through, but it was still a cold 9ºC air temperature and a 15ºC track. Pirelli advised riders that the soft A rear (SC0) likely wouldn't last the distance, but eight riders chose it anyway, including Chaz Davies and Sylvain Guintoli.
Heading into Superpole, Chaz Davies had the quickest time and it was set in the afternoon on Friday, where track conditions would be similar to those in Superpole. Fresh from a win last weekend, Davies would be looking for a front row start to best allow him to stay with the other fast men.
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after qualifying at Assen:
World Supersport qualifying took place with the top men battling for the front row.
Superpole One at Assen took part in sunny weather, warmer than it's been so far this weekend. Sylvain Guintoli and Ayrton Badovini were the most likely to advance, twelfth and fourteenth quickest in timed qualifying.
In the untimed practice, the Kawasaki pairing of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, with Michael van der Mark third-quickest at his home race.
After a Friday of Jules Cluzel dominating, Kenan Sofuoglu opens today with a quickest lap of 1'38.553 while Cluzel was beaten to second-quickest by PJ Jacobsen.
Leon Haslam set the fastest lap of the session ahead of the Kawasakis of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, but was unable to beat the time set by Chaz Davies yesterday. Davies was the only rider in the top ten unable to improve on his time from yesterday.
Leon Camier put the MV Agusta into Superpole Two for the first time in the marque's history.
Press releases from the series organizer and some of the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice in Assen: