2014 Assen World Superbike Sunday Roundup: A Fine Balance Between Safety And Entertainment

Everyone knew the rain was coming eventually, but the volume of water that turned up to watch the afternoon's race was more than expected.

We also got more of an insight into how safety is handled in tricky conditions, with the WSBK Safety Commission stared by Marco Melandri, without a hint of irony, in 2013 being heavily involved in deciding whether or not the waterlogged circuit was safe to race on. The four World Superbike riders in the commission are Marco Melandri, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty, a 2014 replacement for Carlos Checa, and they were the riders chauffeured around the track in the Alfa Romeo safety cars. The decision to stop the race at the end of lap three of race two was taken by Race Direction when Sylvain Guintoli notified them that conditions were unsafe.

If everyone had completed three laps, half points could have been awarded if a restart were impossible, but only Guintoli completed the third lap. The rules also meant that the grid would reform as if it were a complete restart as opposed to a continuation of the first attempt at a race.

1.26.3 If three laps or more have been completed by the leader of the race and all other riders on the same lap as the leader, but less than two- thirds of the original race distance, rounded down to the nearest whole number of laps, then the race will be re-started according to article 1.27.4. If it is found impossible to re-start the race, then the results will count and half points will be awarded in the Championship.

At the end of race one, Race Direction brought out the red flags after a bike that was not in the points was spewing smoke from its engine, ending the race at a critical moment that had the potentisal to effect the points scored by riders at the front, and this may have been premature, but safety is a serious issue and none of the riders or teams seemed bothered by the call, and when the rain delayed the start of the second race, for a moment it looked again like an over-zealous Race Direction, but events showed that they were absolutely right to make that call.

Safety is being taken very seriously these days, particularly after the death of Andrea Antonelli that fuelled Melandri's drive to form the safety commission, and what may seem like an inconvenience for the fans at home, or indeed the cold fans wrapped in plastic sheets at the side of the wet track, could be a life-protecting measure for the riders. The balance between safety and entertainment is a fine line that is tightroped every year the regulations are drawn up and every time a rider puts his helmet on. If it's too safe, it's not entertaining, and what can be perceived as entertainment is sometimes a risk too far. 

And entertainment is what the ten-lap dash at the end of a long wait was. Jonathan Rea, while he might not have the package to win a title on, continued proving that he's a contender with a decent team without a decent bike. Sylvain Guintoli's race one victory allowed him to close the gap in the championship to Tom Sykes and pass Loris Baz, and his lapse of grip in race two meant that he couldn't catch Sykes in the title chase. 


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I was YouTube browsing racing videos recently and came across a piece called "The Golden Era of F1" or something like that from the early 1970s. It was a bloodbath. I couldn't watch for more than five minutes.

Safety is integral to the popularity of the sport. It's not entertaining to watch riders die.

I will echo the comment that every call Race Direction made this time was spot-on. The fact that not even the Kawasaki team was upset about the Race One-ending red flag illustrated the severity of the threat posed by the exploding EBR.

Melandri and the others should be applauded for their work, and the Race Officials who give the authority to the riders to determine if and when to call a race to a halt also deserve applause.

What a far cry from the MotoGP travesty in Australia.

By the way, the racing was excellent. It's going to be a good year in WSBK.

Nice article Jared and I completely agree with your summation regarding the balance between entertainment and safety.

Amsoil runs a few ads and one has EB stating that he was having engine longevity & reliability problems and the solution to those problems was to switch to Amsoil engine lubricant instead of redesigning the engines or engine components. If you got to see the broadcast on beIN sports, Martin & Green were noting #99 Geoff May "smokin' it up" or something in pit lane after the race had been red flagged, because of his bike.. I almost fell off my chair laughing.. I'm American & I love the effort by Team EBR but they still have a few bugs to shake out or a different development direction to pursue... I wish them and all the other teams good luck this season & hopefully not so many high sides in the upcoming rounds :)

EBR were wise to sit out the second race, reinforcing the idea of safety first. They're having a tough time and I hope they get some improvement soon as they're a welcome sight in the paddock.

But please... just a few words on supersports and a Dutch guy's maiden win, on home soil?

Apologies, but I thought I covered that adequately in 2014 Assen World Supersport Race: Still No Rain, Lap Record Falls and I didn't want to retread old ground, but you're right, it was an achievement that deserved more of a fanfare.

There's no doubting that Van Der Mark is the real deal and that he is a serious contender to the championship. Last year proved to many of us that he is one to watch, right from his debut, but this is the year where he, and others, are proving that Sofuoglu won't have it as easy as he'd thought. 

The calls made this time were spot-on and as a fan it's no inconvenience to wait for the conditions to be right for the riders to race at an acceptable level of risk.

I would also like to see some authority given to, say, the Superbike riders who have raced during worsening track conditions the authority to veto sending the following (Supersport or Superstock) race out if they believe the conditions have got too bad by the end of their race. Sadly nothing can bring Andrea back - and it's futile to go into what went wrong that tragic day in Moscow - but something along those lines may help in future.