World Superbikes Assen: Jonathan Rea 'can't do anything' about Alvaro Bautista and Ducati
Jonathan Rea says he needs an improved package from Kawasaki after the reigning World Superbike champion fell further behind in his bid for a record fifth title at Assen on Sunday.
Spain’s Alvaro Bautista won both races on the Aruba.it Ducati to make it an incredible 11 wins on the bounce in his rookie season.
The former MotoGP rider remains unbeaten after stretching his lead at the top to 53 points over four-time champion Rea, who finished as the runner-up for the 10th consecutive time in race one.
However, Rea had to settle for third place in race two after he was overhauled on the penultimate lap by Dutch rider Michael van der Mark on the Pata Yamaha.
The Northern Ireland rider’s prospects of winning an unprecedented fifth successive WSBK crown took a significant hit at a circuit where Rea had won eight of the last 10 races.
The last time he failed to win a race at Assen was in 2013 and going into the weekend, Rea must have felt the Dutch round offered his best chance yet of ending Bautista’s winning streak.
Yet, the script remained unaltered, even if Bautista’s margin of victory at the end of both races was less than it had been in the previous rounds.
Rea, who started from eighth place on the grid after Saturday’s qualifying session was cut short due to a red flag, said the ‘performance gap’ between the Ducati and his Kawasaki remains too big.
“The start was a joke, it was that good I thought ‘surely I haven’t jumped the start,” the 32-year-old told Eurosport afterwards.
“I got to the front and tried to back everything up just to get everyone involved. He (Bautista) just seemed to stick to me like glue and then blitzed me down the back section.
“I was throwing everything at it. I’m happy with our efforts but unfortunately again were too far from the front.
“The performance gap is just too much, I can’t do anything right now but we have to put pressure on Kawasaki to improve our package.”
Race one was initially scheduled for Saturday but was cancelled as a result of heavy snow and hail showers.
In a revamp to the programme, the Superpole sprint race was scrapped, although the main 21-lap races went ahead.
And in the opener, pole man Bautista became the first rider ever in World Superbikes to win the first ten races of the season.
He took control from the front on the Panigale V4-R and managed his pace, maintaining a safe cushion between himself and Rea in second place.
The gap between them at the finish was 3.1 seconds, with home hero van der Mark taking third ahead of his Pata Yamaha team-mate Alex Lowes. Leon Haslam finished fifth with the top six completed by Marcus Reiterberger on the factory BMW.
In race two, Rea gave his all after making a blistering start from row three to take the lead from Bautista on the first lap.
He attempted to slow the pace to bring more riders into the mix with Bautista, but it seemed inevitable that the Ducati rider would find a way past and he made the decisive pass on lap six.
Rea dropped back as Chaz Davies dived underneath him on the second of the factory Ducati machines.
The champion swiftly battled back, charging through to second place once again, but he could do nothing to reel in Bautista.
As the race unfolded, van der Mark began to close in on Rea and made 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.
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.
Eugene Laverty finished 14th and 13th on the Team Go Eleven Ducati.