A WorldSBK weekend of mixed feelings in Assen.
Assen. BMW Motorrad Motorsport experienced a weekend of mixed emotions at the opening round of the European leg of this season’s FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) in Assen, the Netherlands. Scott Redding from the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team claimed his best results of the season so far in the Superpole and the races. Meanwhile, his team-mate and local favourite Michael van der Mark suffered a big crash in race two. He suffered a leg injury and has been taken to an Assen hospital for further examinations after being checked in the Medical Centre. In the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team, Garrett Gerloff ended both main races in twelfth place. Loris Baz showed his fighting spirit on his return to the saddle just a few weeks after injuring his leg.
Michael van der Mark
Scott Redding produced an impressive lap on his BMW M 1000 RR in Saturday morning’s Superpole qualifying to secure fifth place on the grid. Baz qualified 13th, while van der Mark and Gerloff ended qualifying in 15th and 17th place. Redding made a good start in race one on Saturday afternoon and was running in the top five until lap 17 of 21. At one point he had climbed into fourth place. However, his front tyre then started to wear dramatically, and Redding eventually crossed the finish line in 10th place. Gerloff lost a position on lap one, but then consistently worked his way through the field to finish 12th. He was followed over the line by van der Mark in 13th. The Dutchman was lacking the confidence in the front of his bike to be able to attack. Baz overcame the pain in his injured leg to finish 17th after 21 laps of racing.
A technical issue encountered during the warm-up lap meant Baz was unable to line up in the Superpole Race. The start was delayed, and the sprint reduced to eight laps. Redding came home eighth. Van der Mark gained five positions to finish 10th, while Gerloff crossed the finish line 17th.
Michael van der Mark
In race two on Sunday afternoon, Redding immediately climbed from eighth to seventh at the start. As the race progressed, he spent eight laps in sixth place before dropping a position in the closing stages. Seventh place represents Redding’s best race result of the season so far. Gerloff dropped back to 20th place at the start, but then fought back to match the 12th place he claimed on Saturday. Van der Mark attempted to make progress from 15th on the grid but suffered a big crash on lap two and injured his leg. Baz was on course for a fine points finish until lap nine, when he too crashed out. The Frenchman was unhurt.
Round four of the 2023 WorldSBK takes place in Barcelona (ESP) in two weeks, from 5th to 7th May.
Quotes after the Assen races.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “Michael’s crash was a sad end to a weekend, at which we witnessed a few rays of hope. We made a relatively good start to the weekend and, after the test in Barcelona, lined up with some improvements. The first free practice sessions went as expected and were satisfactory. Scott secured a fine fifth place in qualifying, and a good grid position is important in this extremely well-matched field. The others had difficulties. Scott produced a very strong performance in race one and was in P4 for a long time. We took a bit of a risk with the front tyre, which unfortunately did not pay off. We learned from that for the Superpole Race and race two. The performance was good again in race two. The fact is that we are not yet among the front-runners, but Scott was still able to hold on for seventh place. He also gave us some good input, as to how we need to progress. However, it was a great shame that Michael had that big crash so early in the race. We must await the diagnosis, but definitely wish him all the best. The main thing is that he recovers quickly. Respect to Loris. It was good to see him back on the bike and, despite being in pain, he performed well. Garrett struggled all weekend to find his rhythm on the opening laps of the race. That is reflected in his results. In the final race, he set very similar lap times to Scott after lap five – sometimes even faster. However, if you are not on it from the start, then you cannot make progress later. We will soon do some testing in Misano, where we will make more changes to the bike, in order to take the next step.”
#45 Scott Redding
“I was quite happy that I could be up in the race and even more as I was able to push the bike a little bit, which was nice. But still, we are struggling in some areas and it’s difficult because you cannot get much time back on the others. But I feel like I was riding well. I enjoyed riding the bike this week which was nice for me, and I was fighting in positions where I felt we should be. Yesterday I struggled with the front tyre and today I struggled with rear grip over the entire race. But it was a better weekend, we got some good information. And now we will see if we can bring something to further improve.”
#31 Garrett Gerloff
“I feel like we had some good pace, just starting from so far back after having such a tricky qualifying was making it difficult. It was my own fault really for being so far back and that’s the most frustrating thing. Also, it was so close, as it was so tight between everybody. It would have been nice to start a few rows forward and I could have changed some things. In the Superpole Race I just didn’t have anything to make up any ground, with only eight laps it was super difficult. In race two I had a good start, but in the first corner, I got bottlenecked and had to brake and check where the guys were around me. I just had to fight to come back. It was a long day. I’m looking forward to the next round, I like Barcelona. I’ll go back there and try to have some good results.”
#76 Loris Baz
“I’m ok, but my first thought was for Michael (van der Mark), because I was right behind him when he crashed, and it was really a big one. I know what he has been through and it’s really tough seeing him in this kind of situation again. I wish him a quick recovery and hope he can come back soon. I had a good start, and I was feeling better with the leg compared to yesterday. In the Superpole Race we had a technical issue, so I didn’t do a lap. We had to change the engine between the Superpole and the main race and the new engine didn’t feel the same, so I lost some time during the first laps. Then Öttl overtook me, as he was a bit faster in the parts where I was struggling. But I was catching him in some other fast places. Coming into that last fast left, it was three or four laps in a row that I gone wide there, and I was worried about crashing, so on that lap, I really rolled early to stay on the line and I crashed there. For sure, I released the brake earlier, maybe I went too inside, it’s just strange. I feel sorry for the team because the bike is destroyed. I was feeling better, but when you don’t feel at 100% all weekend, you obviously force it a bit in some places because I couldn’t move. I was trying to get some points; I was pretty fast considering the shape I’m in. It was a rough weekend, really hard, but we keep moving forward. Scott (Redding) has shown that the bike has something more than we did this weekend. For sure, I will feel better in Barcelona. I hope I’ll be able to come back to my normal pace.”