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‘This track just works’ Jonathan Rea ready to rule again at Assen

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Flying lap: Jonathan Rea posted the fastest time in free practice at Assen yesterday. Credit: PA

Flying lap: Jonathan Rea posted the fastest time in free practice at Assen yesterday. Credit: PA

PA

Flying lap: Jonathan Rea posted the fastest time in free practice at Assen yesterday. Credit: PA

Jonathan Rea says there is no ‘magic recipe’ for his stunning success at Assen in the Netherlands, where the six-time World Superbike champion is bidding to regain the lead of the title race this weekend.

Rea has won 12 times at the legendary Dutch TT circuit and is tied with former four-time champion Carl Fogarty as the most successful riders ever at Assen.

The Northern Ireland star missed out on the opportunity to enhance his record in 2020 after the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, but Rea marked his return in style yesterday as he posted the fastest time in free practice.

He lost the lead of the championship to Turkish talent Toprak Razgatlioglu at Donington Park a fortnight ago, but the Kawasaki rider must feel he has a golden opportunity to overturn the deficit at his happiest hunting ground, where up to 35,000 fans will be in attendance each day.

Rea, whose time of 1m 34.391 in FP2 left him 0.121s ahead of American Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha), said there was no single reason why he has been such a prolific winner at ‘The Cathedral’ over the years.

“I don’t really know the answer – this tracks just works for me,” said the 32-year-old.

“There’s no magic recipe, just a good feeling and the nature of the circuit is very fast and flowing, and I think that suits my riding style quite a lot.

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“The Kawasaki ZX-10RR works very well here and also my team-mates have been fast here in the past, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend.

“It’s a new year and everyone starts from zero here, without being here last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we stack up,” Rea added.

“It’s a great track and a great track for me, with great memories all throughout my career really.

“I got really close to my first Supersport win here in my rookie season and my team-mate just pipped me to the line, so a lot of good times.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t come here in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, but we’re back again and back with fans, so it couldn’t be better.”

Rea, meanwhile, has played down speculation linking him with a switch to the MotoGP World Championship next year with the Petronas Yamaha team.

Giving a short answer, he made it clear he was as ‘surprised’ by the rumours as everyone else.

“I don’t want to speak about that in the middle of a race weekend at all, but of course I’ve read the same stories… and I was equally as surprised.”

Rea, though, will return to the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan, which will host the finale of the World Endurance Championship in November.

He previously won the race in 2012 for Honda and triumphed again for Kawasaki the last time the event was held in 2019.

Championship leader Razgatlioglu was sixth fastest at Assen yesterday on the Pata Yamaha, 0.3s down on Rea’s benchmark time.

Last year’s title runner-up, Scott Redding, was third on the Aruba.it Ducati ahead of Team HRC’s Alvaro Bautista and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad).

However, Eugene Laverty is absent this weekend after his satellite BMW team withdrew from the event, citing ‘internal restructuring’.

Roberto Perego, RC Squadra Corse team manager, said: “We are so sorry and it was a hard decision, but we decided not to attend the Assen round due to internal reasons. We are at the beginning of our project, and we are working hard on a restructure internally.

“We are very disappointed about this absence since it would have been an important opportunity with BMW Motorrad and Eugene. We will use the break to be better organised, to be competitive, as we deserve, in WorldSBK.”

Following qualifying this morning, race one is scheduled for 13:00 BST. The Superpole race is at 10:00 BST tomorrow followed by race two at 13:00 BST.

Randalstown’s James McManus will also be in action in the World Supersport 300 class for Team 109 Kawasaki.


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