It threatened to rain at Assen, but the weather behaved for once. A cold morning, 16ºC and drying from overnight rain, gave way to a warm afternoon, reaching 24ºC for the second Superbike session.
The shadow of Carl Fogarty and Ducati is long over the cathedral of speed. Traditionally, the Assen track suited the punchy V-twin bike and the corner-to-corner style that Fogarty bred into the Ducatis, but the Panigale disappointed for most of last year, even getting terrible results at its most favoured, on paper, track. The weight of history didn't seem to slow Davide Giugliano down much, as he left Friday the day's fastest rider, taking advantage of the warmer afternoon session only crashing a little bit after setting his time. He can't rest on his laurels though, as provisional pole is all well and good until Tom Sykes gets the qualifying rubber on. Giugliano's teammate Chaz Davies was fifth quickest, adding to the hopes of fans of red bikes.
The local Ten Kate team, running the Pata Hondas in Supersport and Superbike, topped the first of each session, with Jonathan Rea and Michael Van Der Mark keeping the team happy. Leon Haslam only managed tenth place, but if the rains come tomorrow, that will put him in good stead for Superpole. Both Honda riders are still trying to tune their engine braking, but Rea should be on for a front-row start if he continues the pace he's demonstrated so far.
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes, third fastest in spite of being three quarters of a second behind Giugliano's Ducati, wears the number one plate, leads the championship and is the favourite for the title, and he's got a teammate in Loris Baz that seems to be learning Tom's bike to back him up. Sykes won race one last year, only losing out on the double to Eugene Laverty on the Aprilia.
Laverty's teammate Alex Lowes is finally racing on a track he knows. The British Superbike champion gained experience at Assen from the oddity of the track being considered a British track for reasons of popularity, and convenient ferries from the UK of course, for the British series. Lowes was fifth fastest ahead of Eugene Laverty.
Having been caught out in Aragon, the Aprilias of Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri spendt both sessions testing tyres. While they claimed to be testing tyres last race weekend, one suspects this time round they will actually take note of how the two distinct temperatures affect their bikes. Of all the teams caught out by the shift in schedule, it's fair to say Aprilia paid the highest price.
Fastest Evo bike? Niccolo Canepa on the Ducati Panigale; The cathedral will be full of red-robed cardinals praying on Sunday.