The first 14-lap race of the Assen weekend, on Saturday 23 April, was eagerly anticipated as there was much of interest to see at the very front of the action, for both the local fans and the watching world.
An early breakaway from eventual Race One winner Victor Steeman (MTM Kawasaki), who had earlier taken a popular pole position at his home round, looked like it would be a lonely ride for a time. Eventual second placed rider Samuel Di Sora (leader Team Flembbo Kawasaki) had different ideas.
He broke away from the chasing pack behind Steeman and clawed his way into his fellow Kawasaki rider’s slipstream. Samuel eventually passed his Dutch opponent when he made a mistake, but Steeman just shook his head and upped his pace to catch Di Sora again.
Di Sora made a tactical move to let Steeman through to lead near the end but Victor made a bigger than expected gap on him as they approached the final chicane on the last lap.
Di Sora tried his best to get close enough as Steeman ran wide in the final chicane but the Dutchman took his first 2022 season WorldSSP300 race win by just 0.038 seconds.
It was a joyous first race day for the local fans and Di Sora was also satisfied to get a first podium of the year under his belt.
Behind the breakaway duo, Yuta Okaya (MTM Kawasaki) had battled his way forward to third place as the flag approach, having qualified in only 13th place on the starting grid. He was to lose out in the final chicane battle for track position, finishing in fourth place.
Hugo De Cancellis (Prodina Racing Kawasaki) was fifth, just 0.060 seconds from Okaya. His result placed four Kawasakis in the top six places in Race One.
Another local rider, Ruben Bijman (MTM Kawasaki) was eventually ninth across the line and Bruno Ieraci (Prodina Racing Kawasaki) tenth. Their positions were eventually swapped when Robin took a penalty of dropping one place when he exceeded the track limits on the final lap
In Race Two, also run over 14 laps, the final starting time was delayed when Bijman crashed on the warm-up lap and a red flag was shown to stop the action while he was attended by the medical teams.
The second race started 15-minutes later than planned, but from the very start it was clear it was going to be a special event.
With no-one able to break away the leading group of riders numbered 17 in all, with passes and re-passes being attempted from the first curve to the last.
Only 1.5 seconds covered the leading bunch at half race distance and even at the end the top 13 riders were covered by 1.391 seconds. The top 19 riders were within 5.478 seconds.
The podium positions changed with bewildering frequency but on the run to the finish line there could have been an almost infinite number of top three combinations.
In the end De Cancellis took his first ever WorldSSP300 race win, having taken four previous podiums. His margin of victory over Alvaro Diaz was just 0.002 seconds. He was rendered almost speechless in his post race victory interview in pitlane, such was the effect finally winning a race had on the 20 year-old Frenchman.
Okaya was on the podium in third place, a mere 0.109 seconds from the win, but scoring his first podium of the 2022 campaign.
Ieraci was fourth in Race Two, Di Sora seventh and Steeman eighth, despite finding some issues in the race and dropping back from a lead he had on the end of the first lap.
Such was the ferocity of the battle for the top positions in Assen that Sylvain Markarian (Leader Team Flembbo Kawasaki) would fight for the lead at one stage, but finish 11th - and yet within one second of the race winner De Cancellis.
Kevin Sabatucci (Kawasaki GP Project) placed 15th in Race Two, the final points scorer on the final day of Assen action.
After another breathless and intense race weekend in the WorldSSP300 championship Steeman is the highest ranked Kawasaki rider; third in the championship.
In the points standings after two rounds and four races Alvaro Diaz leads with 70 points, Marc Garcia is second with 62, Steeman has 46 points and Lennox Lehman the same. De Cancellis and Mirko Gennai share a 44 point total, with Di Sora and Okaya seventh and eighth respectively, each on 40 points.
The next round will take place at Estoril, in Portugal, between 20 and 22 May.
Victor Steeman (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “The Superpole went super well! I am very satisfied with the lap time I could do despite the wind. Of course to take pole in Assen is nice. Before the first race I had a plan to ride away, and it worked. Only one rider could stay behind me, so it was a fight. Overall I felt very strong and won the race. It can't get any better! On day two I was a little bit disappointed because of some technical problems - but thanks to everyone for coming to watch.”
Yuta Okaya (MTM Kawasaki ), stated: “Due to a mistake in the last laps of race one I just missed the podium. I had a good pace so a top three place was definitely possible. From the first laps I was able to pass many people. But, all in all, I can be satisfied with gaining fourth place. Sunday was a new start; for Race Two we went for better! It was a difficult race. Many riders hit me so I often thought I was going to crash. But, in the end I got my first podium this year. I am very happy but in Estoril I want to do my best again to win!”
Ruben Bijman (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “After Friday we were very happy and we couldn't wait for Saturday. In qualifying I was unlucky, my fastest lap was cancelled. I had to swerve to avoid another pilot and just crossed onto the green. As a result, I had to start from P12 on the grid. In the first race there was a long lap waiting for me. After a good start, I won back many places and was able to take the long lap on the second lap. As a result, I dropped back to P19. In just two laps I managed to make up the lost ground and moved up to P6. After that, I encountered some problems and lost the connection with the group. We managed to limit the damage with a ninth place. During the second race I had technical problems, which caused me to go straight on in the warm-up lap and jump off the bike. I'm okay, just a little pain in my knee. On to the next race, with better results!”
Hugo De Cancellis (Prodina Racing Kawasaki), stated: “I'm very happy because I took my first victory in this championship. There are not words to describe the emotion I am feeling. I want to thank all the Prodina Team, this victory is also thanks to them. They provided me with a perfect bike!”
Samuel Di Sora (Leader Team Flembbo), stated: “In Race One, starting from the fifth row of the grid was a bit strange for me. But, we managed to escape with Victor, which was a very clever strategy for us both. We had a little bit more pace than the others and that speed let us escape from them. In the last lap I wanted to let Victor pass me but I went a little bit too wide and I could not make it back into the slipstream. Anyway, second place, racing at the front, fighting for the win… is where I want to be.”
Bruno Ieraci (Prodina Racing Kawasaki), stated: “In Race Two I believed in the podium, we had the pace and the pace to stay there in front. Unfortunately after half race distance someone touched me and I lost time and positions, but I'm still happy to have been able to come back to the front. Now we look at Estoril with the awareness that we are able to do well and be competitive.”