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Jonathan Rea on a high after double Dutch joy at Assen in World Superbike Championship

By Paul Lindsay

Published 18/04/2016

Top step: Ulsterman Jonathan Rea takes to the podium after extending his World Superbike title lead with yet another double triumph at Assen
Top step: Ulsterman Jonathan Rea takes to the podium after extending his World Superbike title lead with yet another double triumph at Assen
Reigning British Superbike champion Josh Brookes

Jonathan Rea's Dutch double at Assen over the weekend helped the reigning champion extend his lead at the top of the World Superbike Championship to 45 points over main rival Chaz Davies and 51 to his team-mate Tom Sykes.

It was a repeat of last year's two race triumphs, and his record at the Dutch circuit now stands at an unprecedented nine victories.

If Saturday's race win during round four of the campaign was exciting, then the strategy played out by Rea and his Kawasaki Racing Team in yesterday's second encounter in difficult conditions could well be one to look back on at the end of the season as pivotal.

Rea joined the majority of the grid on wet tyres at the start of yesterday's second race and while reigning British Superbike champion Josh Brookes stormed into the lead on the drying track aboard his Milwaukee BMW, the astute Ulsterman Rea pitted early for a change of rubber.

He made the bold decision to switch to dry tyres and it proved to be priceless in the latter stages of the captivating race.

And as we have come to expect from the reigning World Superbike champion and his Kawasaki Racing Team - headed up by crew chief Pere Riba - the Manx-based rider went on to complete his Assen double after an immense battle with team-mate Sykes.

Reflecting on his double victory, which took his career win record in WSB to 34 top steps, Rea said: "I really enjoyed the first race.

"I picked my moment, went through and managed to hold onto my lead.

"It's an important win for me as my confidence was dropping a bit, but this has really picked me up.

"The data we have learned from that race will be invaluable in the future.

"And to complete another Assen double, I am so pumped."

Recounting the second race, he explained: "I knew on the grid the track was drying and when we took the warmers off and saw Sylvain (Guintoli) was on intermediate tyres, it was the tyre to be on and I was a bit worried.

"In the beginning I rode as slow as possible to preserve the wet tyres, but in the end I decided to come in and get the slicks on.

"I took my time when I got back out there, then just managed the race.

"I'm delighted for the whole team."

Rea's decision to come in at the end of lap eight proved crucial, and while his team-mate Sykes played out the same strategy, the Ulsterman's call to gamble on wets over Sykes' change to intermediates was the race-winning move.

Dutch favourite Michael Van Der Mark took third place, giving his Ten Kate Honda team their second podium of the weekend, but the man who lost out most was Davies, whose fifth place on the Ducati cost him dearly in the Championship chase.

The World Supersport championship, which was red flagged because of heavy rain and re-started over six-laps, saw Spanish-based Englishman Kyle Smith take a surprise victory aboard the CIA Insurance Honda.

Fellow British rider Gino Rea stole in to finish in second place on the GRT Racing MV Agusta with Turkish ace Kenan Sofuoglu clinching third for Puccetti Kawasaki.

At home on Saturday afternoon, Nico Mawhinney was a double Superbike winner at the Bishopscourt round of the Mondello Masters.

The Castledawson joiner was coolness personified on a day when red flags and a plethora of incidents disrupted the on-track action.

Reigning Irish Superbike champion Ryan Rainey sustained the worst of the injuries in the conditions.

The IFS Yamaha rider suffered a dislocation to both shoulders, with a suspected ankle fracture also set to keep him out of action for quite a few weeks.

Belfast Telegraph

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