Nothing could separate the top three in the opening race for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the TT Circuit Assen, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) claiming a stunning victory after a three-way battle for the Race 1 win. He fended off challenges from Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) to claim a stunning victory and claim the Championship lead by just two points.
Razgatlioglu was able to get a good start from pole position and looked to maintain the lead, but soon found himself under pressure from Rea, while Bautista was battling his way back from fifth on the grid. Rea first made his move on Lap 3 on the exit of the chicane to move ahead of Razgatligolu and held the lead for a few laps before Razgatlioglu responded into the chicane on Lap 13; Razgatlioglu had looked for the move at Turn 1 but ran wide.
Rea made a move for the lead on Lap 16 at Turn 1, again on Razgatlioglu, as the race ebbed and flowed between the pair. On the same lap, Bautista made his move on Razgatlioglu for second place with the reigning Champion having to settle for third place. As the 21-lap race reached its conclusion, Bautista closed in on Rea on the final lap and looked to make a race-winning move at the chicane, but the six-time Champion was able to hold on to claim his 99th victory with Kawasaki. It also means Rea has claimed 16 wins at the TT Circuit Assen while he also claimed the 300th win for a British rider in WorldSBK. Second place for Bautista meant he claimed his 31st podium finish in WorldSBK and, with Razgatlioglu in third, means the trio have shared the podium ten times.
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) claimed fourth place after running in the top three throughout the first parts of the race after getting an incredible launch from fourth place. He was 8.7s behind teammate Razgatlioglu but also 7.7s clear of Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) who finished in fifth place and claimed his first top-five finish in WorldSBK. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was the top Independent rider and top BMW rider with sixth place, just half-a-second back from Lecuona in fifth.
It was a strong result for German rookie Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) as he secured seventh place, despite dropping back in the early stages of the race. Oettl was able to move his way up the order to finish ahead of Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in eighth, with Gerloff, like Oettl, fighting back after dropping back in the opening stages of the 21-lap race.
Despite losing ground in the opening stages of the race, Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) battled back to claim ninth place and the first top-ten finish he has scored on the BMW M 1000 RR with Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) rounding out the top ten. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) finished the race in 11th place after trying to move his way up the order, while Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha) took 12th place after putting on a last-lap move on home hero Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
Van der Mark, still visibly limping when walking following his broken leg, claimed 13th place on his first round of the 2022 season. He started on the same row as teammate Redding and ran ahead of him in the early stages of the race before Redding made progress. Italian Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) claimed points with 14th place while Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) rounded out the points. The Frenchman had been running in the points but a late-race crash dropped him down the order.
Leon Haslam (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) was 16th on his first race back with the Pedercini Kawasaki squad, missing out on a point by just two tenths, while he was also only a tenth ahead of Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). The Japanese rider had to serve a Long Lap Penalty for a track limits infringement during the race which dropped him down the order. He was still able to finish ahead of rookie Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), MIE Racing Honda Duo Leandro Mercado, Hafizh Syahrin and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura).
Wildcard Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing) was the first retirement of the race. At the end of Lap 8, he was in the gravel at the final chicane before re-joining the race. However, after he got going, he pulled off at Turn 1 and was out of the race. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) had been running in the top five during the race but had to pull into the pits at the end of Lap 11 with a technical issue. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was another who had been running in the front group, but a Turn 5 crash meant he did not finish the race. He was able to rejoin but brought his Panigale V4 R machine back into the pits.
The top six following WorldSBK Race 1.
1 Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
2. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
3. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK)
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK)
5. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC)
6. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW)
Fastest Lap (New Lap Record) – Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki: 1’34.535
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Dorna WSBK Organization Srl