HOMETOW BACK AT

Ôto­day, to fin­ish third place in such a dif­fi­cult race was as good as a vic­to­ryõ DUTCH COURAGE Van der Mark and Hay­den go big at Assen to take podi­ums on­board the re­ju­ve­nated Fire­blade

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - Jonathan Rea Chaz Davies Nicky Hay­den AT ASSEN WSB RE­PORTER

The of­fi­cial Honda World Su­per­bike team was in the dol­drums en­ter­ing their home race week­end. The Nether­lands-based Ten Kate squad had en­joyed two good open­ing rounds, with podi­ums for young star Michael van der Mark in Aus­tralia and Thai­land. How­ever, there was a tough re­al­ity check in Aragon, with low scores and no score for both van der Mark and su­per­star for­mer Mo­togp cham­pion Nicky Hay­den.

Af­ter the heavy rain af­fected prepa­ra­tions for Satur­day’s first WSB race at Assen, it looked like van der Mark may have been able to chal­lenge for his first race win un­til a high-speed crash while push­ing for the lead ended his win­ning as­pi­ra­tions. Fi­nally it was Nicky Hay­den who took his first ever WSB podium, an­other step along his rapid learn­ing path on the sup­pos­edly out­classed Honda.

On Sun­day van der Mark made up for his Satur­day crash with a clever and com­mit­ted third, re­deem­ing him­self in front of his ador­ing Dutch fans as well as con­firm­ing Honda’s re­cent shin­ing re­cov­ery in terms of WSB com­pet­i­tive­ness.

In sim­ple terms Honda’s old bike put the Yamaha and even Du­cati ef­forts in

MICHAEL VAN DER MARK

the shade at Assen, de­spite a sec­ond place in race one for Chaz Davies and his Pani­gale.

“It was so im­por­tant to take a podium to­day be­cause I have never felt so bad af­ter crash­ing out of race one,” said van der Mark on Sun­day. “I felt that I could win the race or at least have sec­ond place yes­ter­day, but then crash­ing out in your home race is the last thing you want, es­pe­cially while hold­ing sec­ond po­si­tion. To­day, to fin­ish in third po­si­tion in such a dif­fi­cult race was as good as a vic­tory.”

On Satur­day he was left dis­traught af­ter mak­ing the er­ror while chas­ing down Jonathan Rea. At the end of the race he went to stand on the pit wall in front of the podium cer­e­mony to say sorry to his fans and they roared his name like a foot­ball crowd. As he headed back to his pit garage, he was in tears - in­con­solable.

The fact that he turned self-harm­ing into self-heal­ing on Sun­day says that this guy may be a bit spe­cial af­ter all.

On the sub­ject of be­ing spe­cial, any­body who has won the Mo­togp ti­tle eas­ily fits that de­scrip­tion; 2006 champ Nicky Hay­den did not ar­rive in WSB on the most fan­cied ma­chine, and he has had to fight hard to get some im­prove­ments in his set-up from day one, but he made it all worth­while with a third place in the first race at Assen.

“This is a home race and the team have worked very hard,” said Hay­den. “They were not happy af­ter Aragon and I have been pretty de­mand­ing on them and they are def­i­nitely work­ing well and im­prov­ing ev­ery week.”

Get­ting away clean was vi­tal for Hay­den from 10th place on the grid.

“I am very happy about the start be­cause the few first times I rode the bike the clutch was ter­ri­ble and I re­ally stressed that we had to do some­thing about it. I un­for­tu­nately re­alised I could be start­ing from the sec­ond or third rows (this year) so to their credit they changed a cou­ple of springs and tested some stuff in Phillip Is­land and Thai­land. Since then, the clutch has been per­fect for ev­ery start. It is th­ese lit­tle things that a team does that adds up to help a rider. To­day if I had not got a good start I wouldn’t have gone with that group, so it paid off for ev­ery­one.”

Hay­den ul­ti­mately in­her­ited his first race podium at the ex­pense of his young team-mate van der Mark. Un­able to truly chal­lenge Jonathan Rea or Chaz Davies for top hon­ours he sat on the back of them, but the vastly ex­pe­ri­enced Ken­tucky Kid was in the right place at the right time.

“Truth­fully they were quicker than me so in the be­gin­ning I was try­ing to stay there and learn what I could,” said Hay­den. “A few times if I re­laxed the gap would start open­ing up. As Michael crashed, in turn five I had a lit­tle is­sue and I thought I should just take this podium and take th­ese points. I needed it for the team, for my­self and now we will keep go­ing.”

Amer­i­can fans have had to wait a long time for one of their riders to climb onto a World Su­per­bike podium. The last time it hap­pened was in 2009 when Ben Spies won race one at Por­ti­mao.

RON­ALD TEN KATE

con­fi­dence and he knows he can run with those guys. Sun­day was an­other dif­fer­ent day, two races in one. Again on both wet and dry con­di­tions we could stay in the front group. Maybe we should have come in ear­lier to change the tyres but I do not think it would have af­fected the fi­nal out­come too much. We have proven to be fast in dry and wet con­di­tions and with both riders as well. That makes me even hap­pier.

“For the fans at Assen, every­body was wait­ing for a new star in mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing in Hol­land. How Mikey in­ter­acts with the crowd, how he deals with the pres­sure, it shows you that he has even more po­ten­tial than we can see now.”

‘We’ve proven we can be fast in the wet and the dry, with both riders’

SYKES MPH Lo­cal man van der Mark showed team­mate Hay­den the way in race two at Assen

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