World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea targeting Assen record this weekend
Jonathan Rea is focused on maximising his opportunity to retake the lead of the World Superbike Championship at Assen in the Netherlands this weekend at one of his strongest circuits.
The six-time world champion trails Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) by two points after four rounds of the series, dropping behind the Turkish rider last time out at Donington Park.
Rea is tied on a record 12 victories at Assen along with four-time World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty, and another victory this weekend would see him become the first rider in the history of the championship to record 13 wins at a single circuit.
The Kawasaki rider put down a marker on Friday as he topped the times during the first free practice sessions on the ZX-10RR, leading the way by just over a tenth of a second from American Garrett Gerloff on the GRT Yamaha.
And Rea will aim to build on his strong Friday start in qualifying on Saturday morning before the first race of the weekend, which is scheduled for 13:00 BST. Sunday's WSBK races are at 10:00 BST and 13:00 BST.
Up to 35,000 fans will be in attendance each day over the weekend at Assen, with the Dutch TT circuit making a welcome return to the calendar after it was dropped in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rea said: “I am really happy to be returning to Assen after its absence last year. It is a really unique layout, a high speed circuit with fast corners and quick changes of direction.
“I never got to ride the ‘real’ old Assen but the modified version is, for me, incredible – one of the nicest and most flowing circuits on the calendar.
“I have great memories there and the fact that there will be lots of fans is a huge bonus because Assen and the fans go together perfectly,” added the 32-year-old Ulsterman.
“I had some nice battles there in 2019 and I am looking forward to more this year. I hope we can capitalise on it being a good circuit for me and the bike.
“The target is to win but we need to work smartly and calmly to put us in the best possible shape to compete come the races.”
Razgatlioglu was sixth fastest on Friday, 0.3s behind Rea, with Scott Redding third on the Aruba.it Ducati ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and BMW Motorrad’s Tom Sykes.
Rea also took the opportunity to play down rumours linking him with a move to MotoGP in 2022 with the Petronas Yamaha team, saying he was ‘as surprised’ as everyone by the recent speculation.
Meanwhile, Toome’s Eugene Laverty will miss round five of the championship this weekend after his RC Squadra Corse BMW team withdrew from the event.
In a statement, the team said it was undergoing ‘internal restructuring’ and aimed to ‘return stronger’ after Assen.
Also this weekend, round three of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship is taking place at the Brands Hatch GP circuit in Kent, where Honda Racing’s Glenn Irwin is hoping to climb the table from 12th place.
The Carrick man was left frustrated at Knockhill in Scotland, where he was struggling with his fitness after recently discovering he had contracted Covid-19 in April.
Irwin said: “We will work on our weaknesses from last year and maintain our strengths. I definitely think that I can start my bid for more this weekend [and] of course you have to be in the Showdown before you think of anything else.
“The beauty of the Showdown is that I am only 18 points behind [eighth place].
“Last year it was good having no Showdown in the position we were in, but this year it’s great having it.”
The first BSB race on Saturday is scheduled for 16:15 with Sunday's races at 14:10 and 16:45.