Kyle White: Assen master Jonathan Rea will be full of Dutch courage
Jonathan Rea will be overflowing with Dutch courage as the reigning World Superbike champion prepares to come out with all guns blazing at Assen.
The Ulster rider’s record at the ‘Cathedral’ speaks for itself, with Rea winning eight of the last 10 WSBK races to underpin his love affair with the historic venue in the Netherlands.
On Friday, he held sway at the top of the free practice timing screens until old rival Tom Sykes produced a blistering late lap to bump the Kawasaki star back to second place, albeit with only three thousandths of a second between them.
Of more interest to Rea will be runaway championship leader Bautista’s position on the combined qualifying times, with the Spanish rider occupying sixth place at the end of day one on the Aruba.it Ducati V4, three tenths off the top time.
The ex-MotoGP man has stolen a march at the top of the points table after winning all nine races so far during the first three rounds.
Bautista has appeared unstoppable on the blood-red Italian machine, but perhaps his absence from the very top of the leader-board following FP1 and FP2 will have given his rivals some heart.
The 35-year-old has built up an advantage of 39 points over Rea – a deficit the four-time champion will be eager to reduce this weekend.
As the master of Assen, Rea will be pushing himself to the limit in an effort to land his first victory of 2019.
And should he manage to pierce Bautista’s armour, the championship may have taken on a whole different complexion by Sunday evening.