Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) started out in his home country return in style with the best lap on Friday, as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship warms up for a thrilling weekend of racing at the legendary TT Assen Circuit.
The Dutch rider has made it clear that he is at Assen to win, and the Free Practice 3 was a good start to that promise. After a promising FP1, van der Mark didn’t improve on his best lap all through FP2 and best part of the third session. But with less than three minutes to go he recorded a scintillating run, a quarter of a second faster than Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who slowly progressed his positions throughout the day before finishing second.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) roared straight into his first Superpole 2 in only his second WorldSBK round, with the third best lap of the combined sessions. Rinaldi overcame a weaker first sector to record the then-best time of the day over Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who had previously dominated both early sessions and most of the third.
Rea, who rode more laps than anyone today on the Assen track, came in fourth, unable to improve on his best lap from FP2. His teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), second in FP2, also had to settle for his time from the second session, ending the day in sixth. Between the two was Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK), in fifth.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) overcame his retirement in Aragon with a controlled final practice session, with the seventh best time overall. Just behind him was Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), out of the Superpole 2 positions for long stretches of FP3 but who ended up qualifying comfortably with the eighth fastest lap.
The fight for the final two positions in tomorrow’s Superpole 2 was fierce, with Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) making use of the Aprilia’s pace to creep in ninth, as the final rider under 1’36. The battle for tenth was won by Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), who, while unable to run faster in FP3, made good use of his FP2 time (fifth-best in that session), just ahead of Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), the sole Red Bull rider this weekend following Leon Camier’s (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) accident last week, did not make it out in FP3 after his FP2 crash, but was declared fit and should run in tomorrow’s Superpole 1.
#DutchWorldSBK at TT Circuit Assen: Friday
1. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1:35:156
2. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.243
3. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) +0.362