BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Assen, The Netherlands, 20/04/2016, FIM Superbike World Championship BMW Motorrad Motorsport
The TT circuit in Assen is one of the most iconic tracks in international motorcycle racing. World championship races have been held at the “Cathedral of Speed” since 1955, and the tradition of racing in the city in the northeast of the Netherlands stretches back as far as 1925.
However, Assen is just as renowned for its unpredictable weather. The circuit is frequently hit by showers and, with a track that dries out quickly due to the nature of its surface and what are often strong winds, conditions can vary greatly over the course of a single lap.
Last weekend, when Assen hosted the MOTUL FIM World Superbike Championship (WorldSBK), was no different. The weather gods proved to be in a particularly imaginative frame of mind at the fourth round of the 2016 season, sending down hail on the circuit below. As such, the task facing the BMW teams and experts from HP Race Support was far from easy. However, they defied the weather chaos to produce more highlights.
In Friday’s two practice sessions, the riders had to contend with continuous rainfall. The weather did then improve on Saturday, and the track dried out just in time for Superpole and race one.
The two Althea BMW riders Jordi Torres and Markus Reiterberger backed up the fine displays they have already shown in the early stages of the season, and once again finished ahead of a number of works riders on their BMW S 1000 RR. As at his home round at MotorLand Aragón two weeks ago, Torres finished an impressive fifth. Reiterberger was also in contention for a place in the top six for much of the race, but then lost time through a brief ride through the gravel – he had to avoid an other rival and for this reason braked too late. He crossed the finish line in seventh place, earning him his fourth top-eight finish of the season.
Milwaukee BMW rider Josh Brookes finished 11th to claim his best result since the season-opener in Australia. His team-mate Karel Abraham was forced to retire with a technical issue.
On Sunday, it was the turn of Brookes to catch the eye. He clocked the fifth fastest lap time on his Milwaukee BMW S 1000 RR in the warm-up, which was held in dry, sunny conditions. In the race itself, which was dominated by crazy weather, the Australian produced a brilliant wet-weather ride and actually spent several laps leading the world championship field for the first time.
Everything looked set for a dry race when the heavens suddenly opened and the circuit was hit by heavy rain and hail. This heavy shower had passed by the start of the race, but it had already done enough to make tyre selection a lottery. Dark clouds lingered, and nobody knew whether it would rain again or the track would dry out quickly. Some went for wet tyres on the front and rear of their bikes, others opted for an intermediate rear tyre.
Brookes chose wet tyres – and went on the attack. Starting from 14th on the grid he stormed through the field in wet conditions. He moved into the lead on lap five, and remained at the head of the field for six laps, although the sun had by this time reappeared and the track was drying out rapidly. With only ten more laps to go, he came into the pits as the race leader to switch to slicks. Unfortunately, his efforts went unrewarded: not long after rejoining the race he lost control over the front while braking on a still damp patch. He could not avoid to fall but escaped uninjured.
Despite this, Brookes was optimistic after his ride: “We made progress all weekend. When the rain came we did not know what to expect at first. We had set the fifth-fastest time in the warm-up in the dry. For this reason, I thought it might not be so easy in the wet. However, the changes we made to the bike in the dry over the course of the weekend also improved it in the wet. I felt I could ride faster. I started to overtake other riders – and it was child’s play. I had a lot of confidence in the bike and the tyres, and it felt completely natural to ride at that speed. It was awesome to lead a world championship race. I was really happy.”
His Milwaukee team-mate Abraham finished 14th in the weather lottery. The two Althea BMW riders were unfortunate with their tyre strategy: Torres came home 15th, just ahead of Reiterberger in 16th.
Like two weeks ago at MotorLand Aragón, Matthieu Lussiana (Team ASPI) raced again in Assen. The Frenchman finished 15th in race one to claim his first world championship point on his RR, which complies with the Superstock regulations. Lussiana then came home 17th in race two.