World Superbikes Assen: Eleventh heaven for Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea third
Alvaro Bautista sealed a double at Assen to make it a staggering 11 successive victories in his maiden season in the World Superbike Championship.
The Aruba.it Ducati rider has moved 53 points ahead of reigning champion Jonathan Rea after the first four rounds, reinforcing his status as the title favourite.
Kawasaki star Rea gave all he could after making a blistering start from eighth place on the grid to take the lead from Bautista on the first lap.
Rea put his head down and tried to make a break for it on the ZX-10RR, but he was unable to shake off Bautista as the chasing pack began to line up behind him.
It seemed inevitable that Bautista would find a way past the Ulster rider and he made a decisive pass on the fifth lap.
Rea dropped back a few places with Chaz Davies diving underneath him on the second of the factory Ducati machines, while Pata Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark also edged ahead of the Kawasaki rider.
However, Rea swiftly battled back, charging through to second place once again, but he could do nothing to reel in Spaniard Bautista, who shattered the lap record as he opened a lead of 3.3 seconds at the front.
As the race unfolded, Dutch hero van der Mark began to close in on Rea in the final part of the race, making his move to snatch second place on the penultimate lap.
Rea tried to fight back and there may have been contact between the pair on the final lap, but the Yamaha rider prevailed by a wheel’s breadth on the line, ending Rea’s run of 10 consecutive runner-up finishes.
Remarkably, it was the first time since 2013 that Rea failed to win at least one race at the Dutch TT circuit.
Bautista was over four seconds ahead at the chequered flag and will now take all the beating as he eyes the World Superbike crown in his debut season in the class.
For Rea, he will be wondering what he has to do to in order to halt Bautista’s incredible winning streak. The 32-year-old would have felt Assen offered his best opportunity to get off the mark in 2019, with no long straights where the faster Ducati could really capitalise on its top-end speed advantage.
Yet, the script remained unaltered, with Bautista continuing to re-write the history books as he put further daylight between himself and his rivals at the top of the standings.