Jonathan Rea ready to 'pressure Kawasaki' in bid to halt Ducati and Bautista's domination
Is Jonathan Rea's grip on the World Superbike championship just beginning to slip following second and third place finishes during yesterday's fourth round at Assen in Holland dropping 53 points behind undefeated Alvaro Bautista in the championship chase?
It was a difficult weekend all round at the Cathedral of Speed with Saturday's opening 20-lap race cancelled until yesterday after snowstorms hit the circuit.
The Superpole Sprint race was axed yesterday and just the two main 20-lap races completed, in bright sunshine, with win numbers 10 and 11 of the year for Bautista on his Ducati.
Rea from eighth on the grid got boxed in at the start of race one as Bautista, Markus Reiterberger, local star Michael van der Mark and Leon Haslam hit the front with Rea through to fifth at end of lap one.
He eventually made it through to second, but had no answer to the flying Bautista who won by over three seconds from Rea, who had VDM a second behind in third for his first podium of the season, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Jonathan was philosophical saying: "It was always going to be difficult from eighth.
"I rode good and second was best I could manage."
However, race two was a thriller, with Rea making a blistering start from the third row to actually lead the race by the fifth corner.
Rea held on at the front for five laps with Bautista, Chas Davies, van der Mark, Sam Lowes and Leon Haslam snapping at his heels. Bautista hit the front on lap six with Rea hustled back to fourth, but a lap later he was back into second putting in a superb effort to live with the flying Spaniard, but to no avail.
As Rea's rear tyre went off, he dropped back into the grip of the fast finishing van der Mark who passed Rea with three laps remaining. Rea made a final lap passing attempt at the fast Turn ten and the pair touched, but stayed on board, the Dutchman holding onto second as the pair flashed past the chequered flag almost side-by-side just 0.018 separating them, although over four and a half seconds behind Bautista. First time outside second this season Rea said: "My start was a joke, surely I hadn't made a jump start I was thinking.
"I wanted to lead Alvaro and I backed the field up to make it interesting, but he just blasted past. I thought I'd settle for second as my rear tyre struggled for grip, but Mickey came from nowhere and got past me.
"I threw everything at it and I had to have a go, but we touched.
"The gap to the front is still too much and we'll have to put pressure on Kawasaki to help us get closer.
"Italy is next up and it would be nice to put one over Ducati on their home patch."
Eugene Laverty had a poor weekend with 13th and 14th place finishes as he struggled for grip in the extremely cold conditions with his Team Goeleven Ducati. At Lyng in Kent Martin Barr finished sixth overall in the second round of the Maxxis British Motocross MX2 championship after fifth and sixth place finishes while in the second round of the Irish Motocross championship at Tandragee James Mackrel had a day to remember winning both the Premier MX1 and MX2 classes overall.
• Alex Rins beat Valentino Rossi to claim a shock maiden MotoGP win in the Americas Grand Prix, after reigning World Champion Marc Marquez crashed out of a dominant lead.
Suzuki's Rins took the lead from Rossi with four laps remaining and resisted his Yamaha rival to clinch his first win in the premier class.