Disappointing weekend for BMW at Assen

In the FIM Superbike World Championship round at Assen (NED), both BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team riders showed fighting spirit and strong performances, but came away disappointed.

The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team did not have the best start to Saturday’s FP3 session as Michael van der Mark missed the full session due to a mechanical issue, putting him on the back foot for Superpole.

Michael van der Mark (NED) ahead of Tom Sykes (GBR) during the action at Assen.

As Superpole approached the bad fortune continued, however on the other side of the garage with Tom Sykes. On his opening lap, he discovered a small technical issue which forced him to miss the majority of the session. Despite his best efforts in returning the bike to the box, he missed out on setting a fast qualifying lap by a few thousandths of a second with a lap that would have placed him on the front row in P2. Unfortunately, Tom started from the back of the grid as a result. Van der Mark struggled to match the pace of the front runners as he put himself in P9 for the start of Race 1 after trying to set another fast lap on an expired “Q-tyre.”

In Race 1, van der Mark wheelied his BMW M 1000 RR off the line but throughout the race ran a fast pace and lap by lap was climbing the leader board with 3rd position in his sights. Unfortunately, with two laps from the end, the red flag was brought out to prematurely ending the race.

Sykes had his work cut out starting from the back of the grid; however, he had the speed to battle his way through the pack. With the help from some crashes Sykes worked his way into P7 collecting a valuable nine points for his efforts.

The two riders from the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team showed fighting spirit to deliver convincing performances once again in Sunday’s race In the Superpole race, Tom Sykes (GBR) put on a thrilling chase to move up from 18th to seventh place. In the afternoon, Michael van der Mark (NED) overcame difficulties during race two to improve by five places and secure another top result by finishing sixth. After his crash on Saturday, the race doctors did not grant clearance for Jonas Folger (GER) from the BMW satellite team Bonovo MGM Racing to compete on Sunday.

After some heavy rainfall, there was still water on and around the circuit in the morning, causing the warm-up session to be postponed by 50 minutes. The start of the morning’s Superpole race was then also pushed back by ten minutes. The track was then dry, but conditions still proved to be treacherous in places. Sykes once again gave a fantastic chase. Starting from 18th on the grid, he moved up ten positions with his BMW M 1000 RR on the first lap and secured seventh place on lap four. That was where he finished the sprint race, claiming the seventh spot on the grid for the afternoon’s second race. Van der Mark also made a good start from ninth only to take a fall a short time later. This put him eleventh on the grid for race two.

At the start of the second race, two riders collided at the front in turn one – while van der Mark was able to leap forward six places to move into fifth. Sykes claimed seventh position on lap one, but then fell back a little. Van der Mark also lost some time. During the second half of the race, van der Mark and Sykes were then involved in a duel lying in eighth and ninth places, all while closing in on the top six. Events took a dramatic turn coming into the final lap; van der Mark was able to overtake two rivals and secure sixth place, while Sykes took a tumble. He was able to rejoin the race and finished 15th to score a point.

Van der mark (60) and Sykes (66) in a crowded pack during Race 1 at Assen.

Garrett Gerloff (USA) is under investigation by race officials after making contact with Toprak Razgatlioglu (TUR) – currently second in the overall standings – and knocking him out of Sunday’s race in Turn 1 of the first lap. Gerloff retired after 12 laps. Rookie Andrea Locatelli (ITA) achieved his first WorldSBK podium, finishing third behind perennial frontrunner Jonathan Rea (GBR) and Scott Redding (GBR). Rea was caught behind the Gerloff-Razgatlioglu collision and had to fight back from eighth place for Sunday’s victory, his 15th at Assen.

Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad, was at Assen to experience the race weekend on site. “It was super to be back again,” said Schramm on Sunday afternoon. “I hadn’t been here for over a year and I really missed it. It was also the first time that I had seen the new BMW M 1000 RR in action in the WorldSBK. It was great to see the BMW family again and to view the progress that we have made with the M RR. That is what made it a good weekend.”

The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team can now look forward to a first in two weeks’ time, as the Czech Republic will host the WorldSBK for the first time when the sixth event of the season takes place there 6-8 August.

“After Saturday’s race one where we were reasonably happy with the results overall and showed strong lap times, we were looking to carry those over into [Sunday]. But it was a tough Superpole Race. For sure, Michael felt he needed to be with that front group of riders which yesterday’s pace indicated he could do that. But he unfortunately crashed out which was a disappointment and set him back to 11th on the grid for race two. Tom managed to push his way through and improved on his starting position, which was perfect. Going into the race, there was a bit of a coming together at T1 which unsettled the pack, but Michael settled back into a rhythm. However, he couldn’t find the grip he was looking for. Tom was waiting for his tire to come to him but again got stuck in a battle where he was just off the leading two packs. Overall, it was a tough race. We expected a little more from the performances but all in all, we are showing the improvement of the bike and that gap to the front is getting narrower at every event. This is the target with the podium in sight. We take the positives from this weekend and move to Most where we will pick up the game from there.”

“Our achievements did not match our expectations today. Things did not go smoothly. Michael made a very good start to the Superpole race in the morning, but he crashed after letting his motivation get the better of him. The after-effects of that certainly hampered his efforts in the second race. He had a great race nonetheless, finishing sixth from eleventh on the grid. Tom had a really strong Superpole race this morning, moving up from the back of the field to seventh with some outstanding pace. That pace could have taken him to within grasp of a podium from seventh on the grid this afternoon. He fell back a little in the early stages of the race and then battled his way back together with Michael. He then slipped out over the front wheel just before the end, but was able to cross the finishing line in 15th to score a point. Overall, we definitely could have done better this weekend. I think that we have shown potential but we were not able to convert it into results as we had hoped.”

“[Saturday was] a little bit of a character-building day. We have been unlucky in Superpole and that set the scene for [the opening race]. We had a slight technical issue; fair play to the marshals who brought the bike back. The boys did an unbelievable job to get me back out there and we managed to get a lap in which was good enough for second position on the grid but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Then at the start of the race, we made an acceptable first lap and away we went. Unfortunately we had some limitations, I feel we had an issue which made it difficult for me to consistently make the apex. We will check that and again, we understand the bike a little bit more. For tomorrow we will make some changes. Overall, it was again a strong showing from BMW from a not-so-good start position. Michael rode a very strong race and it is just proof that we have been working hard.

We managed to start race two [on Sunday] on the third row which was a lot better. We got a much cleaner start to the race as the guys did a bit of work to the BMW M 1000 RR. We used the harder rear tire and just couldn’t find the grip we needed at the beginning of the race but having said that, the bike stayed very constant throughout the race. Unfortunately coming into the last corner before entering the final lap, I tried to close the line and square the corner off and lost the front. It was such a slow-speed crash, but I wasn’t able to save it. It’s such a shame, the bike today was good enough for that top-six and it would have been nice to be consistent the whole weekend. It certainly seemed we have made some good improvements including both me and Michael. A disappointing end to the weekend but we can take the positives from it, and we will focus on that and try to build on it for the next round.”

“It was a tough Saturday, to be honest. I did not do any laps, as we had a mechanical problem and so we went straight into Superpole. We thought we can do two laps with the qualifying tire but I could just do one so it was quite tough. P9 on the grid wasn’t great, and also my start was not the best. I had some wheelieing and lost some positions there, then I got a bit of wrangling with another rider going into turn one and the first lap wasn’t really clean, but then straight away I had a good pace and I managed to pass some riders one by one. At the end I had a similar pace as the guys in front of me who were fighting for the podium but I just could not get any closer. We need to find a little bit of extra grip to have the pace so I can battle with them.

[Sunday’s] crash was a stupid mistake by myself. I really wanted to go for it, and on the fastest corners of the track I tried to go even faster which was a silly mistake on my behalf. In race two, I had an OK start. I had a bit of luck at T1 starting in P11 and by the end of lap one I was in fifth but I didn’t have the pace or the grip I was hoping for. I was struggling to keep the bike on track and I just didn’t have any more to give so it was quite tough. But at the end of the race I found a little extra pace and managed to catch and pass Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Alex Lowes, so P6 wasn’t too bad in the end. But I really wanted more.”