Assen WorldSBK: Reiterberger twice has the measure of Sykes

Picture: GeeBee Images

BMW’s Markus Reiterberger had a tough re-introduction to WorldSBK racing last winter, finishing over two seconds off his new team-mate in the early stages.

He regrouped and on what is clearly a strong WorldSBK package now, and will be even stronger in the future to the point that at Assen, Reiti beat his illustrious team-mate Tom Sykes in not just one race but two.

Third off the grid, and with some engine updates as he had in he Motorland Aragon round, Reiti held second place in race one until lap eight, then slowly dropped back to sixth. He would then follow that up with second sixth place, with Sykes right with him across the line, but only 0.018 seconds behind.

A real sign of progress from Reiterberger – and he thought his could be a good weekend for him, just not quite this good. “I know Assen is a good track for me and I expected a lot from here, but to be honest I was hoping for a top ten because the first few races were really difficult for me.

We made a big step in Aragon but we had a lot of bad luck in the races. I thought I would have been able to do a top ten here. Top six is even better.”

Beating Sykes must have been good for the tall German rider’s ego though? “Yes sure but the second race was really close and I just tried to survive,” said Reiterberger about holding on for sixth for the second time.

“The last laps I did not feel so good with the rear when I lost some time behind Haslam. But it is a good direction and the bike is working on the same level for both riders, for me it is really important to be close to Tom.

“Sometimes when I can beat him it is even better, because for sure he is a really strong rider. Sometimes we are on the same level and most of the time he is faster than me in the sessions, so I have to improve there and be as close as possible to him or the next step.”

Reiterberger made bike changes between the Sunday race one and race two. “From first to second race we made a small change in the balance of the bike and my consistency. At the end Haslam was doing one or two slow laps and I could not pass him so fast, so I nearly lost my sixth position.

“It would have been interesting in the end to fight with Davies for the top five. The track was working good but we just have to help the tyre for race distance with the setting of the bike. In the morning it was really cold and it was a big risk to use the soft tyre but I felt really good in the Superpole we did.

In the middle of the session I struggled a lot on the entry with the rear grip, which we improved for the second race but the start in the second race was not so good. We are making small steps in the right direction, but sure now it will be difficult for the next steps to be into the top five next time.”

Losing a lot in one of his starts, Reiterberger is keen to get that sorted between himself and his team. “The first start was really good and I was one of the first releasing the clutch but in the second one I got a small wheelie the revs came down and it was not a good start,” he said.

“We have to work on the launch control for the future to take the first really important step for the race. Maybe I must train more in practice on my starts. Maybe we need to spend one day in starts?”

After new electronics and a first engine tune of the season, Aragon was an improvement, Assen a jump, but for Reiti the immediate area to focus on to continue moving forward now is clear.

“We still have to improve, let’s say, our rear load,” he stated, meaning the load exerted through the rear tyre. “Especially with the tyre in entry because I have a lot of slides so we are working on the engine braking and chassis to get more load on the rear, to get the bike stable until the mid-corner and for sure then the corner exit will be better, and the acceleration. We have to improve our acceleration to then improve our top-speed.”

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