IDM Assen: Back in the title race with a brilliant performance

Summery conditions prevailed at the International German Motorcycle Championship IDM last weekend. The BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team, led by Werner Daemen and Andy Gerlich, together with their riders Ilya Mikhalchik (Ukraine), Philipp Steinmayr (Austria), Max Schmidt (Germany), Bálint Kovács (Hungary), Kamil Krzemien (Poland) and wildcard rider Pepijn Bijsterbosch (Netherlands) made the journey to the TT Circuit of Assen in the Netherlands. The penultimate of the seven IDM weekends in 2023 took place there.

Ilya Mikhalchik was absent at the last IDM race at the Red Bull Ring, as the Ukrainian was racing on behalf of BMW Motorrad at the World Endurance Championship in Suzuka, Japan, where he finished sixth together with his teammates, making them the most successful team from Europe. In Assen, Mikhalchik was back on familiar IDM terrain and showed what was what in both the free practice sessions on Friday and in qualifying. With a whopping lead of eight tenths of a second, he confidently secured pole position. “I’m not thinking about the championship any more,” he said after his best time. “I simply had too much bad luck at the beginning of the season. But of course I want to show what I can do now. I was close to the track record, but unfortunately there was a bit less grip than in the last years.” In the warm-up on Sunday morning, the BMW driver once again shone with the fastest time.

The race Sunday then became a one-man show for the Ukrainian. Whether from pole position in race 1 or after the reverse grid from 9th place in the second race, in the end the winner was Ilya Mikhalchik. “It was nice,” commented the BMW driver after his first win. “I was expecting Toni Finsterbusch. I was struggling a bit with grip and I looked to save my tyres. That was enough to win. But I was not on the last groove. In the second race you had to ride with brains. We had made a few more changes to the bike that didn’t quite work as expected, but I always tried to keep the pace up.” Perhaps Mikhalchik should take a quick look at the standings before the next and final races of the season. After all, his brilliant performance in Assen has brought him to within 36 points of the leader Florian Alt. And 50 points are still up for grabs.

Philipp Steinmayr had made the longest journey of the year from Austria to the Netherlands. After his successful performance at the Red Bull Ring at home, where he had collected the maximum number of 50 points, he was back on less familiar territory at the TT Circuit. It was his first outing on the GP track with the BMW. “I lacked a bit of riding time here in Assen,” he described after starting 11th. “In the first free practice I had a problem with the engine, then it was changed and I had to run in the second one. Then on Saturday the second quali was wet.”

“Disappointed,” was then his Sunday conclusion after finishing tenth in both races. “In the first race, the start was good and I was even seventh for a short time. But then you could already feel the little driving time. I also started well in the second race, but then Bálint Kovács and Florian Alt crashed right in front of me. I had to take evasive action and that opened up a huge gap. I worked my way back up and then my front wheel collapsed in the hairpin and I was in the gravel. I’m sure six or seven people passed me again. I was then able to continue and even scored points. At least I wasn’t far away, but all in all, too much went wrong this weekend”.

Max Schmidt had his home race in Assen, the Netherlands. And it was to be a weekend of ups and downs for the man from Wuppertal. A slip in free practice cost the BMW driver important metres on the track, but he didn’t let it throw him off his game. Even after the rainy second qualifying session, Schmidt kept his nerve and planned his race from 12th on the grid.

In race 1, as usual, there were some scuffles after the start, but Schmidt bravely held his ground and regained his place. In small but constant steps he worked his way up to Vladimir Leonov and in the last lap snatched eleventh place and five championship points away from the Russian. Race 2 was similar to the morning race and again Schmidt made good ground after a turbulent start. He caught three rivals under his own steam, while three others crashed out of the race. “Then I suddenly found myself in eighth place,” reported Schmidt, who tried to close the three-second gap with a lot of bite. “I got close to Leonov and again the showdown took place on the last lap.” The ambitious Schmidt’s front wheel collapsed right on his opponent’s rear wheel and the dream of 7th place was over.

As always this year, Bálint Kovács had his sights set on the top ten and had secured tenth place on the grid with his time from the first qualifying session. In the afternoon he could not put his plans into action. A rain shower had fallen on Assen during the lunch break and even though the track had partially dried again for the second qualifying practice of the IDM Superbike, fast laps were out of the question. Therefore, the Hungarian had to settle for 10th place on the grid for the first race on Sunday.

In the first race, the Hungarian did well and not only achieved another top ten result with 7th place, but was also able to start the second race from the second row after the reverse grid. But it turned out to be a short-lived pleasure, as Kovács crashed after a few laps and was also unable to resume the race. “That could have been my best weekend so far,” he judged afterwards. “My qualifying lap wasn’t the best, but I thought my race pace was good enough to keep up with the top guys. And that’s how race 1 went, I was competitive and finished 7th. From 4th on the grid I was hoping for a good result but my race was over early. Luckily I’m doing well and I’m really happy with my pace.”

Kamil Krzemien again had a bad hand with the weather gods in his Assen appearance during Saturday’s practice. “The first qualifying didn’t go so well,” explained the BMW rider. In the second qualifying session, there would certainly have been more in it for the Pole, but there was nothing left for him after a rain shower before the start of the practice. “Due to unfavourable weather conditions, I was then unable to use the practice session,” he explained, “and for the race Sunday it became grid position 16.”

“Race 1 didn’t go too badly at first,” he describes his Sunday. “I was in the fight for 12th place, but in the second half of the race I couldn’t keep up, I somehow didn’t have the right feeling for the front tyre. So of course I wasn’t happy with 15th place.” In race 2, Krzemien really put his foot down and got off to a flying start. “But I noticed straight away that the conditions had changed quite a bit compared to race 1. I knew that I could easily make a mistake.” The Pole had worked his way up to ninth place. Then his front wheel collapsed and he crashed in the final metres. “That came without warning for me,” said a disappointed Krzemien, “so my race ended in mud. Now I’m looking towards Hockenheim, where I want to end my season with a positive result.”

Pepijn Bijsterbosch had ably stood in for team boss Werner Daemen at the last IDM weekend at the Red Bull Ring, who had travelled to Suzuka in Japan for the World Endurance Championship. But after switching sides at the beginning of the season and now being active behind the scenes instead of letting off steam on the race track, Bijsterbosch wanted to compete in his Dutch homeland. “It felt good to race in the IDM again and I enjoyed it,” explained the Dutchman after finishing the races in 13th and 9th place. “It was nice to welcome all the guests to the track on Sunday. I am happy with the performance on the track. If I had had more rhythm, of course I would have aimed for a better result. It was nice to end the weekend with a top ten finish.”

After the exciting weekend with highs, but also lows, the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team now has four weeks to sort itself out again and regroup in order to then put in a successful finale at the Hockenheimring from 22 to 24 September 2023.


Results IDM Assen Superbike Q1 + Q2

1. 1.37,563 min Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2. 1.38,390 min Toni Finsterbusch (D/BMW)
3. 1.38,486 min Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW)
10. 1.39,447 min Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
11. 1.39,460 min Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
12. 1.39,645 min Max Schmidt (D/BMW)
14. 1.40,138 min Pepijn Bijsterbosch (NL/BMW)
16. 1.40,711 min Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)

Results IDM Assen Superbike Race 1

1. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2. Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW)
3. Florian Alt (D/Honda)
7. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
10. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
11. Max Schmidt (D/BMW)
13. Pepijn Bijsterbosch (NL/BMW)
15. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)

Results IDM Assen Superbike Race 1

1. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2. Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW)
3. Jan-Ole Jähnig (D/BMW)
9. Pepijn Bijsterbosch (NL/BMW)
10. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
Bálint Kovács DNF
Max Schmidt DNF
Kamil Krzemien DNF

Overall Standings IDM Superbike after 12 out of 14 Races

1. Florian Alt (D/Honda) 197 Points
2. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW) 161 Points
3. Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW) 157 Points
6. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW) 127 Points
8. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW) 89 Points
11. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW) 62 Points
12. Max Schmidt (D/BMW) 65 Points