World Superbike king Jonathan Rea rewrote the history books yet again as the Northern Ireland star moved back into the lead of the title race with a landmark victory at Assen yesterday.
The 32-year-old became the first rider ever to win 13 races at a single circuit in the championship, surpassing England’s Carl Fogarty, who was a 12-time winner at the iconic Dutch TT circuit.
More significantly, Rea knocked Turkish rival Toprak Razgatlioglu off the top spot after the Yamaha rider capitalised on Rea’s crash in race three at Donington Park open a slender two-point lead at the top of the standings before this weekend’s fifth round.
Razgatlioglu finished third in yesterday’s opener behind Scott Redding (Aruba.it Ducati), who was 3.3s down on Rea when the race was stopped after 19 of 21 laps following German rider Jonas Folger crashing out.
It was Rea’s 90th win in World Superbikes for Kawasaki since he joined the Japanese manufacturer in 2015, and his 105th career win in the series.
It’s little wonder, then, that the Northern Ireland man has once again been linked with a move to the MotoGP World Championship next year with the Petronas Yamaha team.
Last week, Rea said he was as ‘surprised as anyone’ by the renewed speculation, but he later refused to rule out a switch to the premier Grand Prix class when pressed on the rumours, telling a media debriefing on Friday that he would ‘never say never’.
However, Rea’s only concern right now is winning an incredible seventh title in World Superbikes.
His sixth win of the season, which came after he maintained his unbroken run of five pole position starts this year, has set him seven points clear of Razgatlioglu ahead of today’s two races at Assen.
“Those guys had a great pace as well,” said Rea of Redding and Razgatlioglu, “so let’s see tomorrow – probably a different story, different conditions from the weather forecast says, so let’s see.
“I know when you’re in that battle and you go through and get clear track, you have to try and go away because it’s almost attack or be attacked, you can’t just settle into a rhythm.
“That got me away from that battle, which is what won me the race eventually.”
On his record 13th win at Assen – back on the calendar this year after missing out in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic – Rea added: “I wasn’t thinking about it during the race, the gap was very close and then I see on the big screen coming into the last sector that they [Redding and Razgatlioglu] were battling and that’s where the gap was yo-yoing.
“I was taking chunks out of them sometimes and then I was keeping the gap consistent, but huge thanks to my guys because we made a tyre choice today with new tyres on the front and rear.”
After battling with Razgatlioglu on the opening laps and then holding off Redding later in the race, Rea managed to pull a gap, which he stretched to more than three seconds by the time the race was red-flagged.
Behind Redding and Razgatlioglu, Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad), Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT) finalised the top six.
Eugene Laverty is not competing at Assen this weekend after his RC Squadra Corse BMW team opted to sit out round five to focus on making personnel changes within the team.
In the first World Supersport 300 race, Randalstown teenager James McManus finished 21st on the Team 109 Kawasaki.
The WSBK Superpole race will take place today at 10:00 BST with race two at 13:00 BST.