WSBK: Jonathan Rea extends title lead with Assen victory

Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea.

Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea.

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Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Rea came out on top in a thrilling battle to win the opening World Superbike race at Assen on Saturday – his eighth career World Superbike win at the iconic Dutch TT circuit.

Rea, Welshman Chaz Davies and Michael van der Mark went head to head in the closing stages of the race after Tom Sykes had crashed out of contention at the final chicane.

Long time leader Davies came under attack in the final laps from Kawasaki star and reigning champion Rea and local hero van der Mark, who pushed the Welsh rider back to third.

However, van der Mark’s race came to an abrupt halt when he came off his Honda Fireblade on the penultimate lap, leaving Rea out in front from Davies.

A mistake at the first corner at the start of the final lap cost Davies any chance he had of challenging Rea and the 29-year-old Ulsterman closed out his 33rd World Superbike victory by 1.6 seconds, increasing his lead at the top of the standings to 31 points over Davies with Sykes now 54 points off the top in third.

Former MotoGP world champion and WSBK rookie Nicky Hayden earned his first rostrum in third place on the Honda Fireblade.

Race two is scheduled to take place at 12pm on Sunday.