Jonathan Rea sets early pace in practice but slips to fourth
Despite topping the opening two practice sessions for the fourth round of the World Superbike Championship at Assen, current leader of the series Jonathan Rea had to settle for fourth spot in the final and fastest session of the day, unable to improve on his best lap set in free practice two.
It was local hero Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha) who squeezed ahead of Ducati duo Marco Melandri and rookie Michael Ruben Rinaldi by a quarter of a second.
On the limit, Dutchman Van der Mark set his fastest time on his 21st lap but performed a remarkable 'save' from a lurid slide two corners into his next lap.
Earlier, record three-time world champion Rea, who has won the last seven races here, set a blistering pace in the opening session on his Kawasaki Racing Team machine, a quarter of a second ahead of Van der Mark, as the pair were the only two riders in the 1m 35sec lap bracket at the Cathedral of Speed.
Session two saw Rea just fractionally faster than his practice one time, but it was significant that he put together a strong 17-lap run, working on his race tyre ahead of today's first race.
Rea's team-mate Tom Sykes was half a second quicker in this session bringing him to less than a 10th of a second of the Isle of Man-based Ballyclare rider.
Red Bull Honda rider Jack Gagne had a monster of a high side and, although he walked to the side of the track, he ended up in the medical centre having bruised his hip and suffered cuts to an elbow. It put him out of the final session, although he is expected to try to get back in action during today's qualifying and opening race - his Honda Fireblade, however, was a sorry mess and virtually a write-off.
The final session saw the chasing pack tighten up with no less than nine riders in the 1m 35sec bracket, headed by Van der Mark with Rea relegated to fourth fastest at the end of the day.
Race one is scheduled for noon our time today and it should be a cracker.
Meanwhile, a free weekend from British Superbike has Tyco BMW duo Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon teaming up with Danny Webb in the Wepol Racing by penz.com BMW Endurance World Championship team that will start today's 41st Le Mans 24-hour race from ninth on the grid.
Also in France, Michael Dunlop is competing with the Team R2CL Suzuki team, qualifying in 18th position on the 60-strong grid for what is the second round of the FIM Endurance World Championship.
Strange that Michael dumped Suzuki in favour of Tyco BMW for the international road race season and he's riding for a Suzuki team this weekend!
Dunlop's team mates are Anthony Loiseau and Clinton Seller for this test of man and machine, while fellow road racer Peter Hickman is riding for the NR48 BMW alongside Kenny Foray and Lucy Glockner, and they start from a superb third on the grid behind event favourites Team SRC Kawasaki and YART (Yamaha) with reigning world champions GMT94 in fourth.