Kawasaki Racing Team's Jonathan Rea may have enjoyed an upturn in form with two strong podium finishes to show for his Assen efforts, but a fall in Race Two saw him DNF for the second time in the 2023 WorldSBK Championship.
If you are a kind of glass half full person then you can see that Rea went from sixth overall to fifth overall in the championship standings. Look at the other way though, then it is hard to ignore that Rea is now staring down a 101 point margin to Alvaro Bautista.
If you are coldly analytical you could make an argument that if Rea could not win at Assen then his chances of winning anywhere else this year may be very slim indeed.
Time will tell on that last one, but in Rea’s own words, Sunday at Assen was, “Yeah, one of them days, unfortunately. But listen, I’ve got to take some positives from this weekend. The bike was really comfortable to ride. I was able to do things with the bike that I haven’t been able to do around Assen for a few years. The starts were great. Just missed the jump a little bit in race two.
"Then of course track position, I was there with Alvaro but Toprak was in the middle. That visual reference going through six, seven where I was making up time was hard because Toprak was there and then when I got track position, he came straight back. We both went long in the last corner and both Alvaro and I and Toprak came past. I’m happy now that things have settled down.
"We checked the data to understand the crash. For some reason, all weekend I had some pressure on the gear shift cell. Not the pin itself, but the actual arm. I think there’s been some pressure there. We can see it all throughout the weekend. This one time in T9, as soon as I opened the gas, it engaged third gear and that was enough to crash. I don't know if I lost the rear first or the front, but went down.
"Probably the most graceful crash, because I was that far from the ground. So, frustrated because I felt like we could fight for a podium again. I certainly felt much more comfortable in that race compared to yesterday, and also the superpole race. The Superpole Race, just a quick summary, was maximum attack for eight laps. I think I was able to hold my breath for eight laps. It just seemed Alvaro just broke me with two to go.
"Barring me in that race smashing into the side of him in eight, there was not really any opportunity to go through. I was able to do enough just to be there. Big picture is from yesterday to today to try and understand the front tyre consumption. We moved my position on the bike. We actually made me a little bit further back on the bar position, seat position, to understand if that would help the front tyre consumption. Superpole race felt okay but it’s eight laps.
"The biggest disappointment was not understanding where we were after 21 laps today. We can get them full 21 laps, call it a test. We weren’t able to get a result from that idea. So, frustrated not only to lose the points but that opportunity to understand a direction with the front tyre.”
Rea’s race two crash may have been caused by the bike changing gear, as he and his teem had seen some degree of pressure exerted on his gearchange lever earlier in the weekend.
“My footpeg’s here,” he said, showing the lever just in front of his toes, “so I ride on the balls of my feet. I assume this part of my toe is touching the arm… We can see the pressure on the cell from FP1. Just this one time was too much. In these extreme situations, I was trying. It happens.”