Photography by Gold & Goose
After the first race at Assen, it didn’t look like anyone could touch Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, but Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty found something extra for race two, hung tight with Sykes, passed him with four to go and then held off a great comeback by Sykes in the final set of turns to win race two in the World Superbike race Sunday. At the checkered flag the two were separated by just .089 seconds in a great two-way battle.
The skirmish for the final podium spot was nearly as intense. Loris Baz, Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Sylvain Guintoli had a wonderful four-way duel for the second half of the race and it was Baz finding a way to keep Rea at bay to secure the final podium, putting both factory Kawasakis on the box. It marked the first podium for Baz this season.
Davies recovered from a morning crash to finish a solid fifth, just ahead of Guintoli, who finished off the rostrum for the first time this season.
The end result is an epic points battle with Guintoli still holding the series lead with 111. Then a logjam in second with Laverty, Davies and Sykes all tied with 83 points apiece.
From the start Laverty looked totally determined to stay with Sykes in the second leg. The two ran one-two into the first turn. They gradually began to pull away from the rest of the field. Rea held third early, ahead of Baz and Davide Giugliano. Davies was charging and got up to eighth on the first lap. Then on lap five he stuffed his way past teammate Marco Melandri with a ruthless pass.
Giugliano, who got to as high as third, crashed out spectacularly on lap six, his bike flashing a streak of orange flames as fuel escaped from the tank.
With four laps to go Laverty, who been pressuring for several laps, finally out-cornered Sykes and took over the lead. He was on a charge and immediately gapped the race one winner. Surprisingly the end of the race didn’t play to a typical script. Instead of fading back, Sykes suddenly mounted a last lap charge and came back on Laverty.
It was a thrilling last set of turns as Sykes desperately tried to find a passing lane, however narrow, while Laverty fiercely guarded the inside through each set of corners. Out of the final turn Sykes went high entering and then dove tight inside on the exit, but Laverty’s Aprilia was a tad stronger out of the turn under acceleration and Laverty held on for his second win of the season, fifth of his career.
“It was fantastic to get the victory,” Laverty said. “Really unexpected today. The first race we were back there in fourth, trying to cling on for a podium. I really didn’t think we could beat Tom today I have to say, he was so strong. A big thanks to my crew…they really put their heads together between races and came up with a good change for the bike and that really transformed the Aprilia to help me get the win. It’s a little bit closer to the championship leader again. We right back in the fight.”
Sykes was still happy after second and said he’d hoped the race would have played out a bit differently.
“I wished he would have passed me earlier,” Sykes said with a grin. “It was so much easier to follow him in the fast part of the circuit. It wasn’t to be. It was so close to be the perfect weekend, but I’m happy with the steady start to the season. It was nice to finally gain some momentum today. It was a shame, I got a little bit excited on the exit of the chicane where Eugene put his bike and I just ran onto the curb, which took me out of the seat, but he rode well and I’m looking forward to moving on now.”
Baz was picture-perfect in the closing laps to hold off Assen expert Rea. He was delighted with his first podium of 2013.
“It was an amazing race,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be on the podium in the dry yet. I just wanted to be in the top five, but since yesterday the crew has done an amazing job with the bike. The race was a bit close sometimes with Sylvain, but I was really confident that I could pass him again when he passed me at the end of the straight. I just want to thank all the Kawasaki staff because they did a really good job.”
While finishing off the podium in race two Guintoli ultimately added to his series lead. He was up by 22 after Aragon and now has a 28 point advantage going into Monza on May 12.
Assen – FIM Superbike World Championship – Race 2
1. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 35’36.814
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35’36.903
3. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35’42.662
4. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 35’42.704
5. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35’44.173
6. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 35’44.218
7. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 35’57.909
8. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 36’04.081
9. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 36’07.047
10. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 36’09.215
11. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 36’16.738
12. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 36’20.718
13. Ivan Clementi (HTM Racing) BMW S1000 RR 36’36.983
14. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 36’38.667
15. Mark Aitchison (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 36’39.478
RT. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 24’31.112
RT. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 8’07.727
RT. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 3’39.175