The eight-hundredth race in the history of the Superbike World Championship took place in Magny-Cours at the eleventh round of the 2019 season, as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) took his maiden victory in the Superbike class.
The Turkish rider started well, recovering from a poor starting position of sixteenth – obtained in Saturday morning’s wet Superpole session – to end the first lap in seventh place.
Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) was another rider who made a strong start to the race, coming from eleventh on the grid to lead on lap three before a mistake dropped him back to fourth. It was in trying to recover from this mistake that Davies crashed, nearly taking out Razgatlioglu in the process. It was a strange incident, at the penultimate corner, where Davies never seemed interested in making a move but rather seemed forced into diving to the inside to try to avoid the Turk. A similar incident later in the race for Davies’ factory Ducati teammate, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), pointed towards perhaps a characteristic of the bike pushing its riders into these errors. Either way, it wa s abig shame for Davies who looked capable of fighting for the podium and perhaps the win.
The incident between Davies and Toprak split the pack a bit. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorlsSBK) was out front from Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) while Razgatlioglu was fourth.
On lap five Sykes began to suffer more with the handling of the BMW, coming under pressure from Rea who in turn was under pressure from van der Mark.
Of the three, it was van der Mark who seemed the most comfortable with the setting of his bike, while in comparison Sykes seemed to be suffering in the braking and Rea had some problem with the front of his bike, running on several times into turn eleven.
As the two in front began to struggle more with the pace, van der Mark began to take advantage, taking second from Rea on lap six and one lap later relieving Sykes of the lead.
One lap after Sykes had lost the lead he was down to fifth, as Rea, Razgatlioglu and Loris Baz (Ten Kate – Yamaha) all passed the #66 on lap seven.
Over the next laps, the two Kawasaki riders, Rea and Razgatlioglu, started to pull away from Baz – who eventually dropped back in the end and fought with Sykes. The stablemates, however, were unable to make much impression on van der Mark who was consistent out front, making few mistakes aboard his Yamaha.
Once Rea found his rhythm, however, the gap started to come down to the leader. The pressure was growing on van der Mark, and finally Rea forced the error in the Adelaide Hairpin. Van der Mark lost the front on the entry having found himself in slightly too deep, and when it folded there was no way for him to save it. Rea inherited the lead as a result, and found himself with an advantage of over one second with just over two laps to go.
It seemed a tall ask for Razgatlioglu to reel in Rea in the time he had left, even going onto the final lap the gap was close to one second. But the #54 was able to make a strong first half of the last lap , and going into turn eleven, where Rea had been having so many problems throughout the race, Razgatlioglu was able to dive on the inside of the World Championship leader and squeeze through. It was a tough move, but fair, one which Rea would have been delighted with had the roles been reversed. Not only did Razgatlioglu manage to get passed, but he also got a strong enough exit to ensure that Rea had no way to respond in the remaining four corners.
👏IMPRESSIVE @toprak_tr54 takes his first #WorldSBK race victory🏆
From 16th to 1st! #FRAWorldSBK 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/WOfcnvvjtu
— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) September 28, 2019
It was a well-deserved and arguably overdue victory for Razgatlioglu, who has looked likely all season to take a win. The emotions were mixed in parc ferme, as team owner Manuel Puccetti both celebrated his first triumph in the premier class of production derived motorcycle racing, but also pondered the future in the knowledge that the rider who brought him this victory would be leaving next season.
Second place for Jonathan Rea could quite easily have been much less, his lack of comfort with the bike making things complicated for the reigning World Champion. On top of that, the race was hectic, and especially in the beginning there were many overtakes, and a lot of them were on the limit. It was a fantastic race, one fitting of the eight-hundredth in the history of the series, but no doubt one which Rea will be as glad to survive as he was to step once more on the podium. The Northern Irishman’s points lead now stands at precisely one-hundred points, meaning the title possibilities remain open for tomorrow should results go his way.
Tom Sykes was able to rebound in the second half of the race after fading in the back end of the opening ten laps. Loris Baz began to drop off once he lost the carrot of the two Kawasakis ahead of him. That dropped the Frenchman back to his ex-teammate who was able to take advantage and claim his first podium in a full-distance race since the second race in Donington.
It was a shame that Sykes’ success had to come at the cost of a podium for Loris Baz in his home race. The Frenchman had a strong opportunity to be on the podium in his home race, and although he missed it the fact he was there proves the progress the Ten Kate team are making with the R1.
Rounding out the top five was Alvaro Bautista on the Spaniard’s first trip to Magny-Cours. It was a tough race for Bautista, who spent much of the twenty-one laps alone and was close to crashing in an almost identical incident to his teammate, Davies, when trying to pass Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK). The world title slipped further still from the #19’s hands in this race, but his souring relationship with Ducati management means that his focus is likely already heavily towards 2020 when he goes to HRC.
Lowes ended up sixth, almost six seconds back of Bautista. Behind the Yamaha rider was Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who had a good ride on his return to racing having been out since Imola in May, the #2 coming home in seventh, a couple of seconds ahead of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha) WorldSBK). Eugene Laverty (Team GoEleven) was ninth, ahead of Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who completed the top ten.
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) was eleventh ahead of Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) in twelfth and Michael van der Mark who remounted after his crash to finish thirteenth. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) was fourteenth after starting from the second row, whilst Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) took the final point in fifteenth.
It was a difficult race for Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who, whilst his teammate was finishing on the podium, came home in sixteenth ahead of Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who was the final classified finisher in eighteenth.
There were only two retirements, the first being Chaz Davies, and the second being Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who had a nasty high side on the exit of the final chicane but appeared to be mostly unhurt.