Dutch double for Jonathan Rea as he extends lead in title race
Despite being the victim of a querulous tirade, a race one start position penalty, and the task of overcoming the all-new World Superbike race two reversed grid format, Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea stormed to a record-breaking Assen double victory over the weekend in the Netherlands.
The jubilant 30-year-old, who is almost an adopted Dutchman after his lengthy tenure with the Ten Kate squad during his formative years in world championship, said: "Of course the race wins were really nice to take away.
"Sunday was a race of two halves: In the first half I raced hard until I got a warning, so in the second half I just managed things to try and be safe and bring her home.
"I had a little bit left at the end but the biggest problem was the wind today."
It all came on a weekend when the reigning double World Superbike champion clocked up his 200th World SBK race start, which resulted in his 10th and 11th career wins at the Dutch venue, extending his lead in this year's series to 64 points.
It was an important day of statistics for Rea, as he also secured his 45th career win in SBK and his 30th individual race win for Kawasaki, but it wasn't without high drama.
The Isle of Man-based Ulsterman's weekend started with a record qualifying lap at the cathedral of speed in the Netherlands, but the resulting joy of landing pole position was short-lived.
Rea was later penalised three positions on the grid after an altercation with Chaz Davies, who almost collided with Rea whilst on a flying lap in the closing seconds of the Q2 session.
Rea was unrepentant and explained apologetically, that he'd moved off the racing line and was not to blame, but Davies was incredulous, firing a number of expletives at Rea in parc fermé much to the delight of Rea's KRT team-mate Tom Sykes, who was awarded the pole position slot in the aftermath and a shiny new watch for his troubles.
The Kawasaki Racing Team number 66 rider joked: "I had a front row seat; all I needed was the popcorn!"
In the end it made little or no difference, as Rea pushed through his rivals just two hours later to take the race win, while Davies and his Aruba.it Ducati team again suffered heartbreak, with a mechanical failure as he approached the last lap, whilst tucked in the wheel-tracks of Rea - ruining what promised to be an amazing final lap for the Dutch audience.
With the Welshman cursing his luck with a broken motorcycle, Tom Sykes accepted his gifted second place finish, some four seconds down on Rea with Marco Melandri [Aruba.it Ducati] third. Eugene Laverty finished fifth.
In Sunday's second race, Rea had to overcome the reversed grid positions, which have been implemented for this season in SBK, but still took the win, albeit marginally over the improving Sykes for a Kawasaki one-two, with Davies five seconds adrift in third.
Eugene Laverty took a brace of eighth placed finishes on the Milwaukee Aprilia, which leaves him tenth in the championship standings.
The World SBK series moves to Imola in northern Italy for round five in a fortnight's time on May 13-14.