CHRIS Burns grabbed his maiden ONK Dutch Superbike podium after powering to third at Assen.
The Westerhope rider was spraying the champagne on Sunday afternoon after crossing the line third, finishing as first Honda and first of the Dunlop runners.
Burns’ result comes after a sixth at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last time out, and marked the first podium finish of the year for the GS Racing Honda outfit.
Since the last round, the team had worked flat-out on the CBR1000RR bike, fitting a new engine, exhaust, suspension and electronics, which Burns got his first taste of during Friday’s free practice sessions at the famous Netherlands circuit.
Ending Saturday’s first qualifying session fifth fastest, his hopes of climbing onto the front row were dashed when oil was spilt by a rider in another class. Despite a big clean-up operation, the track was still slippery in places as the Superbikes poured out for second qualifying.
Although the Newcastle rider posted the second fastest lap of the session, the times set earlier were quicker, and those were the ones used to determine the grid for Sunday’s race.
At the green light he got a clean getaway from the top of the second row, and pulled alongside the BMW of series leader Arie Vos as the pack headed down to the first corner.
“I got away well and was second as we headed down to Turn One,” he told The Journal last night. “I was level with Arie as we got to the end of the straight but he just got it under braking.
“I was holding second for a few corners but then on the fifth or sixth I missed my gearing, and went through in third instead of second. This gave the guys behind me all they needed and four bikes went through.
“It was my own mistake, I was fuming at myself. I’d got such a good start and then thanks to a tiny error I was sixth at the end of the first lap. I knew I had some work to do so just had to get on with it.”
Burns put his head down and clawed back two places within a couple of laps, and then set his target on the bike in third place. “I was getting closer and closer to him but then he just outbraked himself on the straight and ran off.
“I have to say I was kind of gifted third, but I had worked hard to get back up there, so I was more than happy to take it. After that I just tried to catch the two guys ahead, but didn’t have enough time.
“I ended up about half a second behind Raymond Schouten who was second as we crossed the line, and four seconds off Vos, who won it.”
Not only does Sunday’s result mark Burns’ first podium since joining the hard-fought series, it marked a turning point in the development of the Honda.
“The team worked incredibly hard on the bike and the results just speak for themselves. The graft has paid off,” he added. “To put into some perspective, last time we came here Vos beat me by 21 seconds. Now we’ve got it down to just four. That’s testament to the hard work we’ve put in as a team between races.
“I went to Assen chasing a top four, so to get top three is just fantastic. I’ve got to thank everyone in the team for working so hard to give me a bike that’s capable of fighting near the front.
2My next challenge is to get up to the next step of the podium, and perhaps I’ll even manage to beat Vos too.”