A round-up of the day's events at the Assen round of World Superbikes.
Unfortunately, the weather played another role in today's events. Canadian Superbike Champion Brett McCormick suffered a heavy crash in race two today. He was diagnosed at Assen hospital with a fractured fifth and sixth vertebrae and has been transferred to Groningen hospital for further treatment. We wish him a rapid recovery. Our thoughts are with him and his family, friends and fans. More info here.
Max Biaggi, Aprilia, surprisingly leads the championship by one point after terrible qualifying and a day at the races that could have been a lot worse for the Italian. A surprising 4th place in an unusual and exciting first race, coupled with his rival Checa making a drastic error of tyre choice for race two, means the man who qualified 17th on Saturday took the championship lead.
Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa started the Sunday looking like a man who could play it safe and retain his championship lead, but in the first race, he was pipped to second place by his team-mate, having to settle for a hard-fought third, and in the second race, he gambled on a weather forecast of more rain. With wet weather tyres in a declared wet race, Checa struggled as the promised rain never showed up and the track dried out. He pulled in to change his tyres and went out on slicks in an effort to recover a point or two, but he had to settle for 17th place, last of the finishers.
Three poles out of three races, and that on a Kawasaki. Tom Sykes qualified brilliantly yet fell victim of a split water hose in race one and just didn't have the pace in race two. Every race weekend feels like one weekend closer to his first win.
Sylvain Guintoli put his Effenbert Liberty Ducati on the podium twice today, recording his first ever win in any World Championship in the first race and backing it up with a solid second place in race two.
Marco Melandri had, like many others, an unpredictable weekend. His BMW, along with that of his team-mate, appeared to have improved electronics in the mutable conditions, leading to a great battle at the front of the first half of the opening race and a fantastically fought fourth place in race two.
Jonathan Rea crashes out in the first lap of the restarted first race, but his well-earned victory in the second race helped his championship standings and gave him the opportunity to swear, albeit mildly, on live television. This was his fourth victory at Assen and he almost made his Ten Kate Honda look good.
BMW's Leon Haslam very nearly won the first race, commanding a dominant lead in the restarted race. As happened to so many riders, though, he was pushing too hard and threw away a safe lead, most likely being unable to see his pit board telling him how much of a lead he had. In race two, he rode better than his tyre choice should have let him and he entertained us all with a fight to the finish.
Irishman Eugene Laverty finished fifth and third today on his Aprilia, one place behind his team-mate in race one and four places ahead in race two. After his fight for the last podium spot in race two, he returned to his garage and was herded to Parc Fermé as he thought he was fighting for fourth place, not realising Smrz had crashed out ahead of him. His team put the information on the pit board, but he explained that you don't look at that when you're in a three-way fight with one lap to go.
Effenbert's Jakub Smrz started the second-half of race two from the pit lane, a victim of the single-bike rule as he crashed with everyone else in the left-hander just before the red flag went out. He still managed a 7th place. In the second race, he took early advantage of his intermediate front tyre and front row starting position to take an incredible early lead, until the track started rapidly drying out, allowing Guintoli and Rea to catch and pass him. Unfurtunately, his safe third place met with a back marker, Mark Aitchison, who most likely didn't see the blue flags in the reduced visibility, causing him to hit waterlogged astroturf, ending his race.
Davide Giugliano, Carlos Checa's team-mate at Althea Ducati, scored his first podium today, stealing second place from his team-mate on the last chicane, in proper Assen style. His second race was a little less remarkable, with a ninth place, but leaving the weekend with a podium was more than he would have expected.
Fabien Foret still leads the Championship, inspire of crashing out early on. Kenan Sofuoglu, with his second place today, equals Foret's 45 points. Sam Lowes and Broc Parkes have yet to score a win, but due to the top two guys both having a DNF, they are still well in the running. Vladimir Leonov's podium finish puts him in fifth place, but the surprise is newcomer Lorenzo Lanzi scoring a win on his first race returning to the series.