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.