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WorldSBK Assen: Rea puts on another Dutch masterclass

No rider in the history of WorldSBK has got such a personal scorecard at Assen as Jonathan Rea.

It was one of the few tracks he could make the Honda Fireblade look like the bike to be on in WorldSBK. He won five races there on the CBR, before extending his Kawasaki/Assen win total to 11 in race one on Saturday afternoon, April 23, 2022.

Carl Fogarty’s birthday, funnily enough, the rider before Rea who also had a special connection to Assen, and most of the big statistics numbers in the biggest production-derived class of all.


Third in Superpole, behind his own team-mate Alex Lowes, Rea had to share some race leading tasks with Toprak Razgatlioglu. But in the end, Rea had enough to hold off a late attack from Alvaro Bautista in the final Geert Timmer chicane to win by just 0.1 seconds.

He and his tech team, led by Pere Riba as ever, made plenty of changes to his bike between arrival in Assen and winning, as the pace of WorldsSBK in 2022 demands that the bike has to be ‘just so’ or you have no chance. Ask Toprak Razgatlioglu, the 2021 champion.

Rea was, apparently for a time missing something: ”My Assen feeling, flowing with the bike, so it was a matter of step by step changing the setup, the balance of the bike. We did a lot from wheelbase to head pipe position, angle. Generally now I felt quite good.”

It was not all change, just tailoring in some regards. “The bike is behaving in a similar kind of way to Aragon, but with an Assen character. Assen is a circuit where you can’t fight against the bike. It’s a real rider’s circuit, but you need the bike to turn, you need the bike to flow.

"When you have that, then you can start creating some of the Assen magic, if you like, in certain areas. But the race was a difficult one because with Toprak in the front, I felt much faster. Then I went to the front and I felt like I didn’t want to destroy my tyres, so I just conserved the pace.

"He wasn’t coming back again so just keep my rhythm. Then I seen that Alvaro came through. The gap was really close. So, I had not much in reserve but I knew the last three laps I could really maximise the bike, really push on, because it was giving me really good feedback. Just a couple of weak areas that I needed to be careful, defend a little bit, make no mistakes. In the stronger areas I was able to put some power and win another Assen win. So, nice.”

He had a little surprise when Bautista came through to temporarily pass for the first time, but he knew he had to stick out out in the lead.

“Because he wasn’t on my pit board – it was always plus Toprak – I sensed that he was coming with a good pace, so the plan was to fight, get stuck in. As soon as he passed me, I was prepared to go straight back past. I did. I didn’t give him another opportunity because I kept the rest of my race clean, no mistakes. That little wakeup call was all I needed to stay in front.”

This was unquestionably one of Rea’s best wins, even if he did not quite know how much pressure Bautista was ready to apply in the final corner.


"I overcooked the last chicane just fractionally, trying to defend a little bit,” said Rea, denying it was a perfect race. “I threw my bike a little metre to the right more than normal, which closed the corner off and I arrived at it deep. (It was a case of ) please don’t get the cutback and do me on the line. But I wasn’t aware how close.”

Each bike had its strong and not so strong places in Assen Race One, as Rea explained. “I felt in T11, our bike had so much mechanical traction. I was able to get a really good exit. But from 12, that fast one, right the way to the fast left, he (Bautista) was so fast. The bike was so fast.

"So, I knew that unless I made a huge mistake in the left, 14 or 15, then I was going to create an invitation in the last corner. So, I didn’t make a mistake. I got on the gas good. I thought, if he’s going to pass me, it’s going to be a big one. I tried to be clever. I braked in the same place, but just a little bit inside.”

However it was done, it takes Rea to the edge of 100 Kawasaki race wins, as race one on Saturday was his 99th on either Ninja ZX-10R or ZX-10RR machinery.

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