The World Superbike standings after a weekend's racing in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. The day gave us good weather that got better as the day went on and thrilling racing that followed the weather. There were ups and downs, winners and losers and those who leave with a mixture of both.
The woes of BMW Motorrad Italia, for instance, could have been a lot worse. In the morning's warmup, Chaz Davies destroyed his bike, giving his mechanics a full morning's schedule to build him a new bike from what was left, and heading to the starting grid, Marco Melandri's bike broke its gearbox in sympathy, ruling him out of race one. Coupled with Davies's unfortunate qualifying and Melandri's unusual glitch in the middle of the second race, it looked like BMW Motorrad would leave the Netherlands with empty pockets. It rested with Chaz Davies to recover some dignity for the team, and his pulling twenty points out of the bag did just that. To remain in second place, albeit joint second place with the two men considered the most likely to walk away with the title, is as good as could be hoped for.
PATA Honda also faced a disastrous weekend, with Leon Haslam tagging his leg in a tumbling bike in the sort of crash he's known to have walked away from unscathed in the past, and with their bike simply not being on par with the front runners. Enough bandwidth and ink has been sacrificed commenting on the state of the Fireblade that it goes without saying that Jonathan Rea's second and fourth places were a feat of talent and determination, but this island of hope, sandwiched between the horsepower tracks of Aragon and Monza was the best chance to showcase that talent. Rea's team get to celebrate this one before the crushing realisation that Monza looms ahead dawns.
Alstare Ducati should have made their mark here, with the track typically favouring red bikes with two cylinders ridden by world champions, but Carlos Checa couldn't push the bike as he languished in tenth place in both races. The disappointment was evident in both the rider's and the team's comments, hidden behind the positive spin. It's looking like Ducati's return with a brand new bike is starting to resemble their MotoGP efforts instead of reviving their past glories.
The last team with mixed fortunes is Crescent FIXI Suzuki. Leon Camier's missing of Superpole, in addition to his injury, plus Jules Cluzel suffering from mechanical failures in the race, the bikes and circumstances forced Leon Camier to push from last place on the grid. Camier had stated on Saturday that his knee started to hurt after just four laps on the GSXR, and it was unknown if he would even manage race distance, especially starting from last place on the grid, but with a ninth and seventh, he silenced the doubters and gave his team something worth cheering about.
On the other hand, Aprilia had a great weekend, with Sylvain Guintoli retaining his lead and Eugene Laverty standing on the top step in race two. Guintoli described his bike as not having any weaknesses, and after this weekend, it's hard to disagree with that assessment. Heading to Monza, a track that rewards the long-legged of bikes, and a track that Laverty has won at before, twice, Aprilia look comfortable.
Kawasaki had an even better weekend than Aprilia did. A predictable Tom Sykes pole, a win and a second place for Sykes and a third for Loris Baz gave them almost as large a points haul as Aprilia. Baz showed that, in his first full-time year with the Superbike team, he isn't just a rain man, a typical Frenchman on a green bike, and that he's actually a force in the dry as well. While Sykes's talent is openly recognised and celebrated, it won't be long before Baz is considered a challenger to the rest.
The championship is unusual at the moment as, while Sylvain Guintoli leads by a comfortable 28 points, second place is shared between Eugene Laverty, Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes. Heading to Monza, three riders are all aiming, from equal footing, to dethrone Guintoli.
World Supersports gave us the fight we were waiting for, the head to head battle between the title favourites, and in this respect, it delivered. performances behind the leading two were spirited and exciting, but the race won't be remembered for anything but Sam Lowes beating Kenan Sofuoglu for the first time this year. Lowes gave the Yakhnich Motorsport team their first win and, even though his result only put him and Sofuoglu in joint third, he should head to Monza knowing he can win on this bike.
And what of Assen itself, as much a character in the weekend as any of the riders or bikes? As predicted, although it was a safe prediction, the last chicane proved to determine on the last lap the podium in one race and the winner in two.
Monza, another old traditional track is next, and as long as it's dry, we should see equally exciting racing.
2013 - FIM Superbike World Championship
2013 - FIM Supersport World Championship
|2||Michael Vd Mark||Honda||49|
|9||Roberto Rolfo||MV Agusta||17|
|19||Christian Iddon||MV Agusta||5|