Despite the pain of a hand injury, Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea took his first World Superbike victory of the year at Assen yesterday in race two.
Rea, pulled the nail from his right ring finger when crashing in race one but made the correct tyre choice on a drying track for the start of race two — working his way through the pack to post his fourth WSB victory at the famous TT Circuit in just three years.
Race one winner Sylvain Guintoli was second on the Effenbert Ducati, with fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty third on the factory Aprilia.
Rea now holds fifth place in the series on 65 points behind Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Tom Sykes  and Guintoli . Laverty is eighth on 56 just two points behind Leon Haslam.
Laverty’s performance was also of the heroic variety, with the Toomebridge man having to fight off a late challenge from the BMW pairing of Haslam and Marco Melandri. It will surely be a confidence inspiring result for Laverty after a sluggish start to the season with his new team.
A smiling Rea said afterwards: “In the end we had it covered, but not until the very end! We chose the right tyre for the job.
I could actually see the rubber flying off the other guy’s tyres, but in the beginning I had to be really careful.
“It’s nice to get the win after crashing in race one. My finger is pretty much hanging together so I’ve to go and get some stitches in it,” he added ruefully.
Laverty was equally as delighted with his race two podium, as he initially thought he was fighting off the brace of German BMWs for fourth place.
Unaware that Jakub Smrz had crashed out of third place late on, he explained: “Those last few laps with Marco and Leon were tough going. I didn’t realise it was for the podium, but I just wanted that position so badly.
“My tyre was finished from the halfway point and even in a straight line my teeth were chattering,” he said. “The podium is a bonus as those two boys [Melandri and Haslam] are so hard to beat.”
Race one was looking like a class before being red flagged, and was finally settled over a nine-lap sprint in treacherous conditions. The win went to top step debutant Guintoli after Haslam threw away what looked like an unassailable lead.
When Rea fell, the door was left open for the Althea Ducati pairing of Giugliano and Checa to take second and third. A late surge from the out-of-sorts Italian Biaggi saw him overhaul fellow Aprilia employee Laverty for fourth.
Pole man Sykes had a day to forget after a mechanical forced him out of race one and despite a strong start in race two he fell back through the pack to a lonely sixth place.
Carlos Checa made a schoolboy error in race two opting for a full wet tyre setting on a drying track, scoring no points in 17th, one lap down.
Meanwhile, Damien Byrne was the winner of the opening Adelaide Masters’ Superbike race of the year at Mondello Park. Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston took second ahead of Lisburn’s Carl Phillips in third. Waterford’s Brian McCormick, was a three-time Superbike winner at the meeting. Richie Ryan and McCormick were the Supersport race winners.