Drama bookended Race 1 at a sunny Assen TT circuit on Saturday, with championship leader Josh Day (HOST-IT.co.uk Racing Team) having a nightmare start to his race from 4th on the grid, while race leaders Rob Guiver (Premier Security / Ducati Romford Racing) and Luke Jones (Highsparks Motorsport) faced a last lap disqualification.
The front row of the grid comprised of Guiver, Jones and Sean Neary (SMC Racing) who all got away well to lead the race. But just behind them, championship leader Josh Day was unable to select first gear and by the time he got to the first turn found himself in last-but-one.
Guiver, Jones and Neary made an immediate impact to move away at the front, with another trio of riders made up of David Shoubridge (Old Garage Legends), Josh Wainwright (BPS Racing) and Phil Atkinson (Art of Racing / Dijon Home and Flooring) also breaking free from the pack behind them.
Meanwhile, Day was charging through the field, claiming 15 places alone on his opening lap.
As the laps piled on the race was building to a thrilling finale between Guiver and Jones, but it was not to be. Matt Stevens (Tech 5 Racing) crashed out after his bike suffered a fluid leak and the red flag subsequently came out. Locked in their battle for victory, Guiver and Jones were oblivious of the flag situation until they came back onto the start/finish straight.
Despite standing on the podium with Neary in 3rd, both Guiver and Jones were subsequently disqualified from the race. This promoted Shoubridge to 2nd and Wainwright to 3rd, with Neary taking his 5th win of the season.
Atkinson finished 4th, with Day taking an impressive 5th to further extend his championship lead.
Starting from the front row in 3rd, Jones got the holeshot to lead Guiver and Neary as Sunday’s race got underway.
Action was briefly paused after Dave Sellers (True Heroes Racing) crashed out from 10th on Lap 7 with safety car coming out, but Jones was able to time his charge perfectly when the car came in to pull a small gap at the front.
As the race neared its conclusion, Guiver was looking to set up a move on the race leader on the last lap until tyre woes meant he had to settle for position.
Jones took the chequered flag - his maiden Ducati Cup win, and the first win of the season for the Highsparks Motorsport team. Guiver took 2nd, with Saturday’s race winner Neary claiming the final podium position.
Day finished 4th and now heads to the final round of the season at Donington Park with a 22-point lead at the top of the championship. Guiver moves back up into 2nd place with a total of 220 points with Neary just 2 points behind the 2018 Ducati Performance TriOptions Cup champion in 3rd.
Luke Jones (Highsparks Motorsport #82) – Race 1, disqualified – Race 2, 1st
“It was definitely a shame about yesterday. Me and Rob are probably the most experienced guys out there and we didn’t see the flags. When it comes to a battle like that, I was obviously tucked in behind Rob and my focus was just on his back wheel. The first I’d seen of it was through the back chicane. I sat up straight away but obviously we’d passed a few flags by then. I put my hands up, I think the punishment was fair. For me, I’m not in the championship, it doesn’t matter. I just feel for Rob, he’s worked all year for this.
Today was good. We made some small changes and getting it better. Still not where I’d like it but definitely improving every time. I just wanted to lead from the front like I was yesterday. In Race 1 I got caught out and got a little bit flustered by some of the backmarkers which allowed Rob past. I wanted to make amends for that today by leading from the front and putting in fast and consistent laps which is what I did. Rob was sticking in there but obviously had a problem with his tyre on the last lap, which was unfortunate for him, but I was ready for him. Considering I’m meant to be just sat at home and watching it was fun to be here.”
Rob Guiver (Premier Security / Ducati Romford Racing #1) – Race 1, disqualified, Race 2, 2nd
“It was a good race to be fair. I messed up a little it with the safety car, Luke sort of caught me off guard really. But I was quite comfortable. I was quite happy starting the last lap. I knew exactly where I was going to get him, and I knew what to do to defend as well. But starting the last lap, around the long loop, my tyre delaminated. A great big chunk came out of it and I lost all traction on the right. There was just nothing I could do from there, I just had to nurse it home. I got back and it was a lot worse than what I thought. A 3-4 inch chunk was out of it. It just wasn’t meant to be for me this weekend. I love Assen. It was great to ride again but I’ve had back problems this weekend, I’ve had a bit of everything really. It is a shame, but great to race with Luke again. He’s a top-class rider and raised the bar a little bit which was good. We’ll go to Donington now and see what happens.
Sean Neary (SMC Racing #10) – Race 1, 1st – Race 2, 3rd
“I wanted to win that race but do I come away from Assen as top point scorer. At the end of the day, it’s all to play for. A few rounds ago I think I was 72 points behind Josh and now it’s in the low twenties. It’s not going to be easy but it’s his to lose now. Anything can happen. The bike was running really good in 3rd. Luke anticipated the safety car. It was class from him to be fair and he got quite a gap then at the front. In the end and with a couple of laps to go I just didn’t have enough to get past Rob and settled for the points again. Big thanks to the SMC Racing team and well done for Luke for coming in an doing the win for Highsparks. We’ll go again at Donington. It’s my strongest track so I can’t wait.”