For one Kawasaki rider, Petr Svoboda (Füsport - RT Motorsports by SKM Kawasaki) it was to be a positively dream start as he was eventually presented with not one but two race winner’s trophies.
Around half the field are competing on Ninja 400s this season, building on years of success for previous Kawasaki riders.
This is the seventh season of WorldSSP300 racing and the competition is as closely matched and exciting as ever. The classic 4.542km long Assen circuit, with its unique flowing layout and many opportunities for slipstreaming, ensured that each race would feature a leading group containing several riders.
Samuel Di Sora (Prodina Kawasaki) made a great start to his pre-race preparations on Saturday when he qualified third in a wet and changeable Superpole qualifying session, earning himself a front row start.
Mattia Martella (Prodina Kawasaki) was fourth and five Kawasaki riders in total filled the top nine grid slots. Soon-to-be double race winner Svoboda was 11th on the grid after Superpole qualifying.
The opening race of the 2023 season, held in dry conditions, was littered with crashes and incidents in the leading group and in the end the path was clear for three Kawasaki riders to lock out the entire podium - only for one of them to be ultimately demoted by the officials.
First time race winner Svoboda also became the first Czech rider to win a WorldSSP race. He kept his head in the final few corners and avoided exceeding the track limits as the riders behind pushed and elbowed their way into the final chicane. Di Sora was second, just 0.481 seconds behind his rival. Unfortunately, Di Sora’s team-mate Martella fell in Race One.
Originally classified third, Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing Kawasaki) was dropped to fourth place for overtaking under a yellow flag.
Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki), the world champion with Kawasaki in 2020, finished an eventual eighth, after losing one finishing place for exceeding track limits. His team-mate Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki) suffered a similar fate with a penalty to finish ninth.
Fenton Seabright (Kawasaki GP Project) was the final Kawasaki rider in the top ten after 14 hectic laps.
The top six riders finished within 0.8 seconds of each other, while the next 14 finished (around ten seconds back from the winner) within three seconds of each other.
In Race Two, again held in dry but slightly cooler conditions compared to Race One, Svoboda was originally ranked third after another close and combative fight.
The last lap filtering of riders into the final chicane at Assen - often a place of high drama - proved to be over exuberant for some. The two riders ahead of Petr on the original podium results were penalised to drop one place each for exceeding track limits on the final lap, and thus Svoboda was promoted to make him a double race winner.
Perez Gonzalez finished fourth again while Di Sora was another penalised rider who would end up sixth.
Proven WorldSSP300 force Kevin Sabatucci (Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki) was ninth in Race Two and Seabright added an 11th place finish to his race one top ten finish. Eleven of the top 20 Race Two finishers were mounted on Kawasaki machines.
In the overall championship standings, after one round and two races, Svoboda leads by 20 points already, with a perfect total of 50. Humberto Maier is second with 30 points, a tally which he shares with Di Sora. Perez Gonzalez is fourth, with 26 points.
In the early Manufacturers’ Championship ranking, Kawasaki has 50 points, Yamaha 31 and KTM 25.
The next exciting round of WorldSSP300 racing takes place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, between 5-7 May.
Petr Svoboda (Füsport - RT Motorsports by SKM Kawasaki), stated: “The first race was difficult for me because I struggled in Superpole in the mixed conditions. I wanted to be in the first group as soon as possible from the start. I made up some places and found some pace and then waited for the last five laps and managed to win. I didn’t expect this, but the win came to me. I was second on the last lap but Samuel Di Sora made a mistake and I managed to overtake him on the back straight. Then I could stay in P1 and finish it. The second race was crazy, like always. This season my target was to finish every race in the top ten, maybe top five, every race. So I did not expect this weekend. It was amazing.”
Samuel Di Sora (Prodina Kawasaki), stated: “I led the way for most of the first race, so I’m a little disappointed I didn’t win. Unfortunately, in the congestion of the final turns, I made a mistake and wasn’t as incisive as I could have been in the final push to the line. The bike is very fast, and for this I have to thank the team - they’ve all worked so hard. I also want to thank the sponsors and everyone who supports us.”
Jeffery Buis (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “It was a hard weekend for us, first of all because this was my first race back in WorldSSP300 and I had to get myself used to this category again, which wasn’t easy. I was really fast with my pace on my own, but unfortunately we know with slipstreaming it was impossible to make the difference when we have to fight in the group. A P8 finish and a highside in Race Two were not our targets, but we are strong and we can recover - starting from Barcelona next time out.”
Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “My first race weekend in Supersport 300 was really great, even if we finished not in the way we would have wanted. I was fast and I felt really good with the bike, so I’m confident about our potential and really happy with the result we got in Race One. I was fighting with the top group and I felt really good. In Race Two, unfortunately, a crash after a contact with another rider ended our race. But, overall, I’m happy about the weekend and I’m ready to learn even more at Barcelona, a track at which I have tested. I’m confident we can achieve something good. I want to thank my sponsors and all the people who came this weekend, it was amazing.”
Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing Kawasaki), stated: “Race One was very good but the last lap was very difficult. Thank you to my team and family. I thought it was possible to win on Sunday but I was fourth again.”
Mattia Martella (Prodina Kawasaki), stated: “I was able to score an important second row start in qualifying, considering this is my debut season. In the first race I started strong and was part of the leading group. And I had good feeling with the bike, considering this was my first visit to the track.”