TIMELESS CLASSICS: the hair-raising last laps from WorldSBK’s 30 years at Assen

Wednesday, 20 April 2022 08:02 GMT

From final chicane dramas to youngsters fighting it out and home heroes, Assen has hosted it all…

It’s historic. It’s famous. It’s got a legacy that is almost unrivalled. ‘It’ is of course the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands as the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship rolls into town for Round 2 of the season. The Motul Dutch Round has always been a classic on the calendar and this year, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of WorldSBK action, having arrived on the calendar in 1992. So, with 30 years of fantastic racing at the Dutch venue, it’s only right that we picked out some of the best Assen classics for you to enjoy ahead of the modern-day thrillers that await this weekend.

Race 2, 1996: the top three split by 0.070s, Fogarty resists Kocinski

After switched from Ducati, where he was Champion in 1994 and 1995, to the RC45 Honda, Carl Fogarty was on the backfoot. However, Assen was ‘Foggy’ territory and since 1993, he’d been unbeaten. Race 1 in 1996 was no different but the Race 2 saw his rivals out to spoil the fun. Heading into the final lap, the British rider had a marginal lead but a golden final sector for Kocinski put the American in a position to pass; he got down the inside of Fogarty but ran wide in the chicane, with ‘Foggy’ pulling it back and getting the power down to the line, whilst Troy Corser put in a big charge too. Fogarty just held on to the roar of the crowd for what would be his final victory with Honda.

Race 2, 1998: Fogarty and Chili come to blows

One of the most iconic showdowns, Carl Fogarty and Pierfrancesco Chili were both going for the title in 1998’s titanic season and with Chili beating ‘Foggy’ in Race 1 at Assen – only the second rider to beat Fogarty there – Race 2 was tense and dramatic. Chili had the lead coming into the final sector, but Fogarty wasn’t going to be beaten again and passed him into the final chicane on the last lap. Chili crashed all of his own accord and by the time Fogarty had got to the same point on the slow-down lap, tempers were flaring. Chili was visibly unhappy, Fogarty was angry in retaliation, Fogarty’s team manager Davide Tardozzi tried to calm the situation and a dramatic press conference followed. Chili went on to talk about the incident in 2021, Fogarty went on to take the 1998 crown.

Race 2, 2004: battle of the youngsters between Vermeulen and Toseland

Chris Vermeulen was a rookie in WorldSBK in 2004, having won the 2003 WorldSSP title with Ten Kate Honda and both graduating to the top class. However, a title challenge was on, and James Toseland was likewise bidding to be an underdog Champion in the shadow of his Fila Ducati team leader Regis Laconi. The last lap at Assen in Race 2 was a classic with the lead changing three times before eventually, it was Vermeulen who kept his title hopes alive, beating Toseland in a true thriller in the Netherlands, giving the Dutch Ten Kate Honda team a WorldSBK home debut to remember.

Race 2, 2007: Bayliss denies Toseland by 0.009s

Assen gave us a true classic in 2007 as two of the greatest went head-to-head for supremacy. Having taken a Race 1 win, James Toseland was aiming to go double Dutch and give the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team a first home double. However, Race 2 saw Xerox Ducati’s Troy Bayliss back in the mix and with only one win in the opening nine races, the reigning Champion was eager to come back strong. Leaving his braking late into the chicane on the last lap, Toseland compromised his exit speed onto the straight, whilst Bayliss got his Ducati 999 F07 driving to the line, pipping ‘JT’ by 0.007s. Both riders sat down and spoke about the moment later in life, with the emotions still as pure as that day.

Race 1, 2009: Spies beats Haga in final lap thriller

The 2009 season was a classic from the start and Race 1 at Assen gave one of the best races of the year. A three-way fight between Yamaha’s Ben Spies, Ducati’s Noriyuki Haga and Honda’s Leon Haslam made for great racing, but in the end, it’d be the title contenders of Spies and Haga who battled. Haga led into the final sector, but Spies surprised the Japanese rider with a stunning pass at the fast Hoge Heide right-hander; Haga tried to retaliate at Ramshoek, but Spies had it covered, braking later into the final chicane and getting the job done –one of the best races in WorldSBK.

Race 2, 2019: Bautista makes it 11, van der Mark beats Rea on the line

2019 was a stunning season, with Ducati’s rookie revelation Alvaro Bautista on fire as he cruised to victory after victory. Following a snowstorm on Saturday, both full-distance races were rescheduled to Sunday and after a Race 1 win, Bautista aimed for an eleventh straight win at the start of the year, nothing ever seen before. With early laps spent battling Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea, Bautista broke clear on Lap 6 to head of victory, but it was home-hero Michael van der Mark who had a thrilling battle with Rea in the closing stages, before pipping him on the line on the final lap to take second, sending the home crowd wild. Will Bautista and Rea be fighting hard again in 2022?

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: you can’t afford to miss these…

Race 2 from 2021 had stories everywhere. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) was taken out by fellow Yamaha rider Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) at Turn 1 on the opening lap, whilst Toprak’s teammate Andrea Locatelli led on his way to third and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) taking victory and completing his last triple so far. As well as that, there’s Tom Sykes’ last win from 2018’s Race 2, Sykes battling with Eugene Laverty for the win in Race 2, 2013 and Sylvain Guintoli’s first win in 2012. Dating further back, 2006 saw Chris Walker come from last and in the gravel at Turn 1 to the top step of the podium in a miraculous comeback in Race 1, whilst Troy Bayliss clinched his first title at the track in Race 2, 2001.

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