You just couldn’t script it…

I suppose it had to happen eventually, didn’t it? With the amount of contact made last year between Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu, it was inevitable that the two of them would end up on the floor together at some point. I must be honest, though…I didn’t expect it to be at Assen last Sunday!

Greg Haines writes from Barcelona

Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog! It’s been a truly non-stop start. So far I’ve had three weekends of travel in a row: Aragon WorldSBK, Silverstone BSB and Assen WorldSBK. Now I’m back at home in Spain before heading off again on Saturday towards Oulton Park for BSB. Then I’ve got something I haven’t had at this time of year since 2019: two consecutive weekends in my own home without a lockdown! Would you believe it?! Looking forward to that! I’m also very much looking forward to the BSB Bank Holiday weekend, though, and I expect we’ll have a massive crowd at Oulton Park. Let’s hope for great weather as well.

World Superbikes has been pretty much the best possible start we could have hoped for. Alvaro Bautista has done exactly what we expected of him – although perhaps we expected a crash in there somewhere, so hats off to Alvaro for avoiding any in the races. As for Rea and Toprak, the consensus seems to be ‘racing incident’ but I think it was totally avoidable. Easy for me to say, I suppose. Toprak triggered the whole thing by running wide and coming back in, although quite a few people think Rea could have left him more room. Inevitably, they contacted and both lost a possible 25 points. Bautista must have been laughing his head off! Whatever your opinion, now that we know both riders are okay (which was apparent very quickly), I think it’s fair to say the coming together is great for the championship in the sense that interest has hyped up again. Does this take the rivalry to a new level?

For the first time since I joined Eurosport at the start of 2017 (making this my sixth season with the team), this is the first time I’ve gone into the year knowing I have a full-time co-commentator for World Superbike! Working with James Toseland is a pleasure. We’ve had a lot of great laughs both on and off the track. Our drives to and from the venues seem to spark up hilarity as, for some reason, JT bursts out laughing at me speaking my mind. In Aragon it was because I voiced my opinion on expecting to see a fox by the side of the road early in the morning amid the Aragon fog, whereas in Holland he thought it was amusing that I commented on the vast amounts of open countryside and the opportunities for future developments. If you want clarification, feel free to tweet him…

I’ve got a new co-commentator at BSB! We won’t do all of the rounds together because he’s busy as Team Manager for the VisionTrack Academy in Moto3 but, whenever he can make it, my partner in crime for the Honda British Talent Cup is Taylor Mackenzie. It’s always nice working with new people and I’ve got a good feeling about the season. Commentary is all about chemistry – whether it’s there or not, it shows very clearly! How can you inform and entertain your viewers if there’s not a good feeling between the people broadcasting the race?! Ironically, with Taylor not able to be at Oulton Park this weekend (he’s in Jerez), I’ll be commentating with his dad, Niall. Can’t escape them!

Other random thoughts, then. I was very pleased to see Scott Redding finish sixth on the road in Race 2 last Sunday – which became fifth when Axel Bassani was penalised. Oh, talking about penalties…how absolutely ridiculous was the Alvaro Bautista incident? His tyre didn’t even touch the green paint, it just hovered (very fractionally) over it on the raised kerb. It’s all very well trying to be MotoGP with these ‘green paint’ penalties but, unlike MotoGP, WorldSBK doesn’t have pressure pads in selected kerbs. It’s based on a human being’s judgement. These silly punishments for ‘crimes’ that haven’t even benefitted a rider are making the sport look silly. JT has suggested only giving out penalties if the whole tyre touches the green, whereas James Whitham says to dig up the green areas completely and replace them with nice flower beds. Either solution is better than the lunacy we witnessed on Sunday as well as what happened at the same Assen chicane with Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli last year, plus of course Magny-Cours last season.

I end this blog on a sad note. I would like to say what a lovely man John Denning was. I write this on the eve of his memorial service over in England. Not only was John the modern-day founder of Crescent Motorcycles and the man who contributed so heavily to son Paul’s racing career before Paul himself became a leader of Crescent, but I was so lucky to be able to spend a full two days with John earlier this year at the Portimao test. The two of us, with friend in common Roger Morse, walked by the Atlantic Ocean and drove all around the service roads of the Algarve circuit in my car. I will never, ever forget the moment – knowing we were stood there – Toprak put a pass on Jonathan down into Turn 1. It was the first time that session that I hadn’t been filming, so that moment remains engrained on my mind forever. It was me, Roger and John watching Razgatlioglu overtake Rea right in front of us. Absolutely spectacular. I’m just very sad John is no longer with us to enjoy more moments like that. Over that test he also spoke of how he’d call his good friend, Murray Walker, to pick him up from his home in the New Forest and take him to watch BSB at Thruxton. They’d walk into the grandstand at the Club Chicane to rapturous applause for Murray. Now it’s hard to believe that neither are with us anymore…but imagine the amount of ‘FANTASTIC’ conversation that’s going up on there!