After a 2-week break, World Superbike was back on track Friday at TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands for the third round of the championship. Ducati factory rider Davide Giugliano was quickest in Friday’s warmer afternoon session, half a second faster than Pata Honda rider Jonathan Rea, who was the only other rider to lap the legendary 3.3-mile Dutch track in the 1-minute, 35-second bracket. Giugliano also crashed in the final moments of practice. “I was pushing too hard going into the chicane,” he said, “but luckily, I didn’t hurt myself.” Rea was confident that the team could improve his CBR1000RR. “We’re on the pace,” he said, “but I suffered a bit from a lack of front-end feeling, and the bike felt quite foreign. We’ll go back to more of a front setup from last year’s race, which I was quite comfortable with. “On the engine-brake side, we still need to make some progress because, in the later stages of my runs, I was getting pushed into the corners a bit. We’ll check the data tonight to see if that’s coming from the electronics or the chassis.” Reigning Superbike World Champion Tom Sykes, a double winner at the second round in Spain, was third quickest with a 1:36.146. Sykes’ factory Kawasaki teammate, Loris Baz, who recorded a pair of seconds at Motorland Aragon, posted the sixth-best lap.
American riders Aaron Yates and Geoff May, riding the Erik Buell Racing 1190RX entries, were well off the pace of the frontrunners in 26th and 27th places, respectively. Ducati Superbike Project Director Ernesto Marinelli was pleased his team was back at the front. “Davide was immediately at ease today,” he said, “demonstrating his fast pace this afternoon, which is very encouraging. “[Giugliano’s teammate] Chaz [Davies] improved a lot this afternoon, too, though he is still having a few difficulties through the bumpy sections, which seem to destabilize the bike more than they should.” Last year at Assen, Sykes won race 1 by more than 8 seconds ahead of Rea and Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli. In the second race, Guintoli’s teammate at the time, Eugene Laverty, beat Sykes to the line by less than a tenth of a second. “There’s still more to do tomorrow,” Marinelli concluded, “and we need to see what the weather will bring. Forecasts indicate we may have to swap over to a wet setup.”