BY GILES SPENCER
Tooting’s Gino Rea suffered more bad luck at Assen with two non point-scoring rides bringing an end to his recent run of form in the British Superbike Championship.
For the second time this year, Rea started off proving he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on a track he knows.
After taking a career best seventh place at Silverstone two rounds ago the 28-year-old had a lot to live up to going to a track he’d had considerable experience and success at in the past, having raced there in Moto2 and World Supersport claiming a second-place finish in the latter in 2016.
Fastest in the first Friday practice session, Rea kept the pace up for the rest of the day finishing only 0.387s down on title favourite Leon Haslam.
Rea carried the form over to Saturday’s qualifying to be in the middle of the fourth row in 11th, 0.721s off the pole time of Jake Dixon (RAF Regular and Reserves Kawasaki), also taking the accolade of top Suzuki on the grid.
Disaster struck on race one as Rea lost the front on the brakes at De Bult and crashed out.
He lined up on the third row of the grid in ninth for race two, courtesy of his fastest earlier lap time.
A good start sawing Rea holding station over the first lap until the Honda Racing machine of Dan Linfoot went down in front of him through the final chicane, forcing him to slam on the brakes leaving Moto Rapido Ducati rider Tommy Bridewell nowhere to go but into the back of him.
The impact knocked Rea into the air and set off his airbag suit, luckily coming back down onto the bike and able to carry on.
The incident brought out the pace car for several laps whilst they cleared up what was left of the two machines, allowing the riders tyres to lose heat. Tarran MacKenzie crashed out of the re-start at the same chicane, Rea somehow missed the spinning bike and found himself in sixth place.
But his badly damaged bike began to slow and Rea limped home in 16th spot.
Rea said: “I was surprised to be quickest in Friday practice. I’ve been here several times on a 600 so all I had to do was change my line and braking point to suit a superbike.
“We had a few little areas that I didn’t feel good in, so considering that I was really surprised to go out and put it P1.
“In qualifying we made a little change and I felt good but I was struggling in the fast corners. In Q1 I lost the front but managed to save it on my knee and elbow. We couldn’t change anything for Q2 as we didn’t have enough time.
“I was on the bubble of making Q3 and had to push to get a fast lap. I had the same problem [losing the front] but this one I couldn’t save at 110mph! There was quite a lot of damage, the guys worked till midnight to get the bike ready.
“We had a few niggles in Sunday warm-up and the bike didn’t feel quite right in the race. I was sitting comfortably in the top 10 and just had a really strange crash. The telemetry showed I did nothing different from the lap before, I just lost the front.”
About the race two incident Rea said: “I put myself in a really good position, I was ninth, felt good and unfortunately Linfoot went down. I got on the anchors to avoid hitting him and got rammed from behind really hard.
“The biggest problem was it buckled my back wheel so badly the bike was vibrating its head off. The vibration got worse and worse and I could barely lean the bike over for the rest of the race. I thought the back wheel was going to explode and should’ve pulled in but I wanted to finish the race for the team. I was losing the front two or three times a lap.
“We were unlucky this weekend. As a team and a rider there was not much else we could’ve done. I was fast and consistent all weekend.
“We ruffled a few feathers and showed what we’re capable of when I know the track and the bike’s working well. The biggest thing was it was refreshing. To go out after a year of learning new tracks and finish first and second in practice almost proves a point that you don’t forget how to ride.”
The final round is at Brands Hatch on October 12-14.
Photos by Ian Hopgood