In a surprise twist to the British Superbike silly season, championship winning OMG Racing Yamaha have announced former Superstock 600 Champion, Ryan Vickers will be joining them for the 2023 and 2024 seasons in a 2-year deal.
After a frustrating season aboard FHO’s BMW M1000RR Vickers has surprised Superbike fans by bagging what many believe to be one of the best and most sought-after rides on the grid. With newly crowned BSB Champion Bradley Ray rumoured to be stepping up to the World Superbike Series next year, Ryan Vickers, his personal team and OMG Racing have pounced on the opportunity to put themselves in the spotlight again and have some big boots to fill.
Riding alongside 2022 race winner and 6th place finisher overall Kyle Ryde, I’ve no doubt the pairing will be expected to perform from the get-go after the team have become accustomed to British Superbike success. Ryde more so than Vickers as there will be an adjustment period to be taken into account, hence the 2 year deal to allow Vickers to settle in a find his feet. You also have to bear in mind the calibre of riders he will be up against next year in British Superbikes. Staying on the bike and being inside the Top 10 has to be Vickers’ first priority in year 1. If he can regain the confidence he oozed in his days with the Lee Hardy Racing team, where Ryan was a regular runner inside the top 6 during races, success, podiums and potential race wins will come at some point.
Vickers has experience on Yamaha machinery from his championship winning season aboard an R6 in 2018 before debuting in Superbikes, though personally I’m unsure as to whether data and riding styles from a stock R6 can translate to a British Superbike spec R1 with instant results. Stranger things have happened. We have seen high calibre riders struggle on BMW machinery due to the integral characteristics of the bike whereas the R1 has long been seen as the friendliest bike to ride being it’s such an allrounder, it could just be that this is the move Vickers needs to settle things down, renew his confidence and start bringing some BSB trophies, if not in 2023 then definitely in 2024.
The one thing Vickers has been universally commended on, when life became tough in the FHO Racing BMW camp, his attitude towards the team, improving himself and the bike were never in doubt. On and off the bike his character has shone through.
Good luck to him I say. Kudos on his negotiating skills and well done that man for being brave enough to go even further down the rabbit hole to find himself and chase his dream. Vickers could easily have gone back to a series he has had success on (i.e. 600’s) but it takes a brave man to dig in and crack on for another year. Congratulations to both Ryan and OMG Racing for putting together what will hopefully be a belter of a lineup for 2023.
On the move, Vickers said: “I’m so pleased to be given the opportunity to ride what I and many others perceive to be the best bike on the Bennetts British Superbike Championship grid, with a team have that have impressed a huge number of people by winning the championship.
“My love of Yamaha stems from my Superstock 600 Championship win onboard an R6, so I’m looking forward to gelling with the R1, and being able to deliver OMG Racing the level of success they’ve become used to.
“I can’t thank Alan [Gardner] and Paul [Curran] enough for their belief in my abilities, and I’ll be working harder than ever to give them the results the team deserve. I appreciate that to step into the boots of the Championship winner is a big ask, and Brad has set the bar high, but I relish the challenge and I’m excited for what I’m hoping will be my best season yet.”
Alan Gardner, OMG Racing Team Owner said:“Ryan is a rider that OMG Racing have had their eye on for quite a while and has really impressed with both his performance on-track, and his attitude off it.
“He’s a well-known and liked character within the paddock and has proven himself to be a rider that will go above and beyond to constantly improve and better his lap times and ability, and that fits perfectly with us and our goals moving forward.
“We plan on pulling no punches in our pursuit of our second championship victory in 2023, and with both Ryan and Kyle on board our Yamaha R1s, are feeling strong as we move into our sixth BSB season.”
Paul Curran, OMG Racing Team Principal commented: “I’m really looking forward to working with Ryan, and he’s a rider that I’ve admired for quite a while. His success on the R6 in the Superstock 600 Championship back in 2018 demonstrates his comfort on Yamahas, and from experience we know this normally translates well to the R1 – you only have to look at Brad [Ray]’s results and progression to see that.
“His drive and positivity will see him slot perfectly into the team, and I’m confident he’ll be at the sharp end of the grid from the off.
“We head out to Cartagena in a few short weeks, and we’re all looking forward to giving both Ryan and Kyle the opportunity to get some track time under their belts. I have no doubt that Ryan will get his head around the bike very quickly and we’re really looking forward to seeing what he can do.
It’s the last dance. Who would snatch victory in the last race of the season?
The earlier superpole race saw the new world champion, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), take a gamble with slick tyres on a wet track that was drying out, a gamble which paid off. Bautista clinched the win, followed by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha), and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki KRT).
Conditions for race 2 were dry, if not cold, with air temperature only about 15 degrees Celsius.
Lights out then for race 2, and it was Bautista with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea and Redding (BMW Motorrad) who got a great start from 6th on the grid. Massive drama then for Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) and Vierge (Honda HRC), the Texan clipped the rear end of the former Moto2 rider into turn2, sending both of them careering off track. Both their seasons were now over. Meanwhile Rea was looking to make an early impact, and took over the lead into turn 3, diving under Bautista, Redding sensed an opportunity, and so to also passed Bautista.
Next lap and positions were: 1. Rea 2. Redding 3. Bautista 4. Toprak 5. Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) 6. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 7. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 10. Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) 11. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW). As he had been all weekend, Lowes was looking quick, and set the new fastest lap with a 1:30.991, going around the outside of Bautista in the process, and into 3rd.
With 18 laps remaining Bautista blasted past both Lowes and Redding down the straight and into turn 1 to take over 2nd. Toprak moved up to 3rd, with Lowes in 4th, and Redding bumped down to 5th.
Next lap, and Rea was riding defensively, as Bautista was looking to retake the lead, and was applying pressure. Locatelli was next to get through on Redding, and he moved into 5th, with Scott now in 6th. Meanwhile in the lead Rea held a gap of 0.2s.
Next lap and Bautista made his move on Rea, powering past the ZX-10RR down the straight and into the lead. Toprak was 3rd, Lowes 4th, Locatelli 5th, Redding 6th, and Rinaldi 7th. As was the story in race 1, the leading 4 were pulling away from the rest, and there was a sizeable gap now.
With 15 laps left to go, Bautista was looking to make it two wins out of three, and posted the new fastest lap with a 1:30.2. Lowes held a gap of 2.1s to Locatelli behind in 5th.
With 12 laps remaining, Rea wasn’t giving up and was pressing Bautista, and looking for the pass. Toprak in 3rd, was starting to lose contact with the two ahead of him, as the pace was ramped up. Lowes was still in 4th, and looked to be managing his tyres better than Toprak.
Just over half race distance, and Bautista looked to be suffering from rear tyre grip issues, with the back of his Panagale sliding out into most corners. By contrast Rea looked to be managing his tyres perfectly, and the Kawasaki looked to have the better drive out of corners. The gap between them was 0.4s.
Meanwhile further back, it was Redding 6th, Rinaldi 7th, Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 9th, Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) 12th, and Laverty 13th.
With 8 laps left, Lowes got the better drive out of turn 12 and down the straight to come through on Toprak, and take over 3rd. The gap to his team mate in 2nd was 1.7s. Meanwhile Rea had cut the gap to Bautista to 0.2s and was looking to make the pass.
With 6 laps to go, Lowes had lost time and the gap to Rea was now 2.7s. Toprak was in 4th, Locatelli 5th, and Redding 6th.
Then with 5 laps remaining, huge drama as the race is red flagged due to a crash between Laverty and Xavi Fores into turn 1. Both riders were conscious, but it was a high speed crash, and precautions were rightly taken. As 2/3 of the race distance had been covered, the positions at the end of the previous lap were taken as final. That meant Bautista won the final race of the season, to cap off an already impressive season.
Season finale here in the land down under. With Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati) already crowned world champion, it would fall to the others to fight it out for the last 3 races of the season.
Superpole saw Bautista claim pole with an unbeaten time of 1:29.813, followed by the Kawasaki KRT team mates of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Conditions were mixed for race 1, with the track still wet from earlier rainfall, most of the riders went for full wet tyres.
Lights out then for race 1, and it was Bautista with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea and Toprak (Pata Yamaha). Lowes ran wide and was able to rejoin in 4th, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) was 5th.
Next lap of the 22 lap race, and positions were: 1. Bautista 2. Toprak 3. Rea 4. Lowes 5. Bassani (Motocorsa Duacti) 6. Locatelli 7. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) 8. Vierge (Honda HRC). Bassani had a sensational start after only qualifying down in 14th, he was now up to 5th and looked quick.
With 20 laps to go, Rea made a move on Toprak blasting past the R1 down the straight and into turn 1 to take 2nd, and then cut up the inside of Bautista a few corners later to take the lead. Rea looked like he had good pace, even in the tricky conditions, as the track was starting to dry out. He held a gap of 0.6s to Bautista in 2nd.
Next lap and Rea put in the new fastest lap with a 1:43.070. Toprak then came through on Bautista to take 2nd, next was Lowes to relegate the new world champion down to 4th in a few corners. Both the Kawasakis were looking quick, and looked to have their set up dialled in. The leading four riders were now clearing away from the others.
With 17 laps to go, it was the turn of the former champion Toprak to put in the new fastest lap with a 1:43.014, and then made his move on Rea on take over the lead. Positions were as follows: 1. Toprak 2. Rea 3. Lowes 4. Bautista 5. Bassani 6. Locatelli. Lap times continued to drop with Lowes next to set the new fastest lap with a 1:42.8. The English rider then came through on Toprak into Doohans corner to make it a Kawasaki 1, 2.
With 15 laps to go, Lowes then took the lead down the straight, flying past his team mate to take the lead. Lowes was looking quick and was out to take his 1st win of the season. Meanwhile further back it was Gerloff 8th and Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) 10th. At the front end, Toprak ran out wide, and allowed Bautista to come through into 3rd.
With the track fairly well mostly dry now, several riders decided to come into the pits to change for slick tyres. These included Rea, Toprak and Bautista. Lowes decided to press on with his wet tyres, so to did Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad) and rookie Kyle Smith (Pedercini Kawasaki).
Half race distance now, and Lowes, currently in the lead after the others had pitted, was struggling with grip as his wet tyres were tearing up. Behind him then was Redding and Kyle Smith in 2nd, and 3rd respectively, Rea 5th, Toprak 6th, Bautista 7th, Locatelli 8th, and Bassani 9th. Lowes then decided to pull into the pits for a tyre change.
Next lap and Rea who had brand new slicks on was looking quick, and moved into 4th, setting the new fastest lap with a 1:33.311 in the process. Redding was still in the lead, but setting lap times around 8s slower then Rea, and would no doubt get caught.
With 9 laps to go Rea continued to slash the lead of Redding at the front, and set the new fastest lap with a 1:32.7. Meanwhile Toprak was in 4th and had a gap of 5.8s to Rea. Redding then decided to pull into the pits for a tyre change, which meant that rookie Kyle Smith, the Huddersfield local lad, lead his first WorldSBK race.
With 8 laps to go, Rea had now caught Smith, passed him, and immediately pulled away. Rea was looking good for his first win after a long win less drought of 24 races. Positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Smith 3. Toprak 4. Bautista 5. Locatelli 6. Lowes 7. Bassani. Toprak then blasted past Smith down the straight like he was riding a 250cc bike, moving into 2nd, and setting the new fastest lap with a 1:32.3. Lowes then moved into 5th after getting through on Locatelli.
With 6 laps left to go, Rea was showing no signs of slowing down, and set the new fastest lap with a 1:32.203, and held a gap of 5.7s to Torpak. The Turk had a gap of 8.3s to Bautista in 3rd. Lowes then pulled off an audacious pass on Bautista, taking him around the outside of Lukey Heights to move into 3rd. Lap times continued to drop, and Toprak was next to set the new one with a 1:32.005.
Next lap and it was Locatelli to take Bautista and move into 4th. Bautista was in 5th, and held a sizeable gap of 12s to Bassani in 6th.
With only 3 laps left positions were: 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Lowes 4. Locatelli 5. Bautista 6. Gerloff 7. Bassani 8. Vierge 9. Smith 10. Baz.
With 2 laps left it was Lowes with the new fastest lap, a 1:31.8. Drama for Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) who had a big crash into turn 4, lost the front of his BMW and sent it catapulting into the gravel. The bike completely totalled, and his race was over.
Last lap and Rea broke his win less streak. Toprak 2nd, Lowes 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Bautista 5th, Gerloff 6th, Bassani 7th, Vierge 8th, Baz 9th. Smith 12th.
That 5th place finish for Bautista, also meant Ducati won the manufacturers championship, their first in 11 years.
The final race of the 2022 season took place in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit, the most expensive F1 facility in the world.
With four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking part in his final GP, can he make it Q3 for the final time in his illustrious career? It was also the final qualifying session for now for Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo, who has a three place grid penalty for his incident in the race last weekend. Surely they will want to make a good impression for their chances of making a comeback in 2024.
Q1 began with half the field immediately coming onto track. The first driver to set a time was Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri with a 1.26.135, followed by Mick Schumacher just 0.130 behind him.
The first of the front runners to start a flying lap was Leclerc in the Ferrari, immediately setting purple sectors. He set a 1.25.211 to go quickest but was very close to exceeding track limits at the final corner. He was then beaten by Perez in the Red Bull by almost four tenths.
Lando Norris put his McLaren in P4 with his team mate Ricciardo directly behind him. The Mercedes finished their laps last and ended 4th and 6th, quite a way off the pace, surprising after their showings so far this weekend. At the top Max Verstappen was 0.066 ahead of his team-mate, who is hoping to secure second in the championship this weekend.
With just under four minutes left in the session the final runs began. Vettel first to cross the line put his Aston Martin in fifth. As they all cross the line, the five drivers eliminated are Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon and Latifi.
At the start of Q2 Mercedes decided to do their first runs on used soft tyres, clearly wanting to keep fresh sets for Q3 and tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first with a 1.25.772, but was then beaten by his team mate George Russell with a time of 1.25.363.
The rest of the field were now on their first runs. Both Ferraris and Norris in the McLaren were setting quicker sectors than the Mercedes pair. All three of them went quicker to take the top three positions on the timing screens. Then came the Red Bulls, for once led by Perez who was some four tenths quicker than his team mate.
The Mercedes put fresh softs on and Hamilton moved his car up to P2 just three tenths behind Perez. Russell crossed the line with a time of 1.24.940 and into P4. The Mercedes were out of sync with everyone else.
Leclerc in his Ferrari managed to find some pace to end Q2 just 0.098 away from the leading Red Bull. Sainz was P3 and Verstappen P4. Out of qualifying at the end of Q2 were Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll and Zhou. Vettel did indeed get through to Q3 for his final weekend in F1 after a great lap in the Aston Martin.
Q3 was contested by both Red Bulls, both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both McLarens, and Vettel and Ocon. Once again the Mercedes cars were first onto the track. Hamilton completed his lap with a 1.24.678, with Russell next just 0.016 behind.
Both were then beaten by Leclerc and Sainz, the Ferrari drivers some four tenths quicker than the Mercedes. Then came the Red Bulls, Perez making a mistake at the final corner losing time and only making P2. Verstappen came next with a time of 1.23.988 to take provisional pole position.
Vettel decided to do his lap with no cars on the track. He made it to P7 some 0.973 away from the leading Red Bull. With 2 minutes to go the final runs of the season began.
Leclerc improved to P2, and Verstappen improved again to 1.23.824, followed by his team mate Perez. The second row was an all Ferrari affair with Leclerc ahead of Sainz, then the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. 7th was Norris in the McLaren, then Ocon in the Alpine. The final two places in the top 10 were taken by Ricciardo and Vettel.
The race is all set up tomorrow to decide who will take second place in the World Championship. Who will come out on top, between Perez in the Red Bull and Leclerc in the Ferrari?
Another piece of the 2023 jigsaw has fallen into place with Oxford Products Racing Ducati announcing the signing of British Superbike veteran and multiple race winner, Christian Iddon.
Having previously rode for the Vision Track Ducati PBM Team in the 2020 and 2021 season, where Iddon took 21 podium finishes, including 3 race wins, there is certainly enough evidence to suggest a title challenge is more than on the cards. Iddon has everything he needs to mount a successful campaign next year.
Riding for a team with years of experience running the Ducati V4-R, albeit a new version is being released next year. Rumour has it the new bike isn’t much of a change for the team as they are currently running parts on their current bike that are being integrated into the new V4-R next year, so hopefully it will be a case of small setting adjustments, but the aim has to be race wins straight out of the box.
The major positives are the team has a whole wealth of data to fall back on after 4 years with former Oxford Products rider Tommy Bridewell. Christian Iddon also has 2 very successful years under his belt aboard the Ducati with the PBM team, so much so that Iddon was very surprised to be dropped from the team early in 2022 leaving him adrift before finding a last-minute home in the Buildbase team, which unfortunately (and Christian would be the first to say) was a season of frustration on both parts for one reason and another. Iddon was very positive about the Hawk Racing team when I interviewed him during the summer (which you can read here) He did not have a bad word to say about them but it’s clear for all to see, he absolutely suits the characteristics of the Ducati V4-R and I cannot blame him for grasping this opportunity with both hands.
Iddon joining Oxford Products Racing Ducati also puts to bed the sensational rumours that Danilo Petrucci would be joining the British Superbike circus after team owner Steve Moore neither confirmed nor denied rumours recently that he was in talks with the multi skilled ex-MotoGP race winner. As you can see in the below statement, Moore confirms a one rider team again for 2023.
The press release comments: –
Iddon said: “Ducati is the manufacturer that I have had the most success with when I had two fantastic years on the bike previously. My 2021 season was much better than my 2020 season but the end result didn’t reflect it, it was circumstance that did. I felt I was getting stronger all the time on it so it feels great to be heading back to Ducati and to a new team for me with Oxford Products Racing Ducati. Moto Rapido is a team that I have kept an eye on for a while, I have always been pals with the Team Owner, Steve, so hopefully that stays! It is a team that has always had success, but in the last couple of years, they have had even more. They have really stepped up with the combined effort of rider with Tommy [Bridewell] and the team in recent years. Certainly last year they were the Ducati team who had everything required to take the fight for the championship and that is the important part for me. They are a team who are constantly developing and very technically minded which I believe will suit me. I am really looking forward to the challenge and what it may bring. I am coming off the back of what I think has been my hardest ever year in the championship. I have had worst seasons with injuries, but I have never had one where the effort and the possibility was so contrasting to the actual result that we actually got because I believe we had the potential. That is the nature of the beast and that is racing and sport. I am really looking forward now to trying to right those wrongs and get back to where I believe I should be and setting my sights back on my goal, which is to be British Champion.”
Team Owner Steve Moore commented: – “Firstly, thank you to Oxford Products for their continued support. We have gone from strength to strength with their help and we look forward to continuing to reward them with another fantastic season in 2023. They are a company with racing in their heart and they have become an integral part of our racing. Thanks to the boss Andrew Hammond for the continued and increased support even in these uncertain times. I know BSB fans will be sure to pick something from the Oxford shelves in their local dealerships too. I’m also very pleased to welcome Christian to the team; he was the number one choice for me. His experience of Ducati and the great form he had on the V4-R before is confidence inspiring. The bike has developed substantially since he last rode it, so I can’t wait to get him on our bike and begin making it work for him with the 2023 updates. I am sure he will thrive with the focus of being in a one rider team. I’ve already had many technical conversations with him and we seem to be on the same page – he’s as nerdy as me with the technical details so we do get along really well and that’s key to the racing family ethic in our team. He even seems to have a sense of humour too, which he’ll need!”
I’m sure I speak for most of the British Superbike fans when I say next year is going to be phenomenal and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Iddon going into the final race of the year with a chance of becoming British Superbike Champion.
Get the trophy cabinet extended Christian, you are going to need it!
The first full day of action would encompass 130km’s over six stages. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Katsuta, Ogier, Breen, Sordo, Greensmith.
The first morning stage then and the second of the rally, SS2 Isegami’s Tunnel 1 – 23.29 km was won by Kalle with Thierry and Elfyn second and third fastest. All three of them jumped up into the top three overall positions. Those to fall down the order were Ott, Craig and overnight leader Seb, who suffered a puncture in this one. He did not know where he picked this up and sounded very unhappy already. In the WRC2 category, Kajetan crashed out at the exit of the tunnel and his hopes of this year’s category title were gone, as his Skoda had very heavy damage. Emil Lindholm was now leading the category. It was far worse though for Dani Sordo. Just after the section with the tunnel, he stopped as there was smoke in his car. He and Candida found that the car was on fire, and whilst attempting to put this out, Gus arrived at the scene, but unfortunately despite their best attempts, they could not put it out. The stage would then be red flagged.
The next stage SS3 Inabu Dam 1 – 19.38 km which was cancelled, as the cars were all not able to make it to the start line.
Next up then was SS4 Shitara Town R 1 – 22.44 km and Elfyn was fastest from Seb and Thierry. Former leader Kalle could only manage sixth fastest and fell to third overall. Elfyn and Thierry held the lead, having so far set the same overall time after these stages. Sadly, the day was over for Craig and his new co-driver James. They hit a barrier and damaged their Puma, putting them out for the rest of the day. All was not well with their teammate, Gus and Jonas either. They were suffering with a broken driveshaft, a problem that they’d been dealing with all morning, but at least they could get back to the service and get the car fixed.
After service, SS5 Isegami’s Tunnel 2 – 14.33 km, massively shortened due to the fire in Dani’s car (it finished at the tunnel entrance) was won by Elfyn with Thierry second fastest and Seb third. The Welshman took the lead by 1.1 seconds over Thierry. With his driveshaft replaced, Gus moved back into sixth overall, moving ahead of Emil and Reeta who were still leading the WRC2 category.
The following stage, SS6 Inabu Dam 2 – 19.38 km, was taken by Kalle, from Elfyn and Ott and now Elfyn’s lead over Thierry was three seconds. Things were going well for the Toyota crew. There were changes in the WRC2 leaderboard though, with Teemu going fastest from Sami and Heikki Kovalainen (yes, the former McLaren F1 driver). Sami now assumed the lead of the category, from Teemu and Emil was now in third.
The final stage of the day SS7 Shitara Town R 2 – 22.44 km was cancelled, due the damage sustained to the barrier following Craig’s incident.
Let’s take a look at the standings and hear from the drivers.
Classification after Day One
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Ford Puma Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Elfyn Evans (1st)
“It’s always nice to be leading at the end of the day but there’s still a long way to go, so it doesn’t mean too much just yet. The morning’s first stage was very demanding and a proper wake-up call. We lost a bit of time in there but then we had a good run through the second stage that we did, and we’ve followed that up with a decent afternoon as well. It’s still been pretty difficult, very twisty and very technical, and the grip levels have been changing all the time. The character changes within stages so we need a car that works well in many different scenarios. Again, there will be a bit of everything tomorrow but we’ll give it our best as always.”
Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)
“It’s has been not too bad today and it’s still fairly close, so we can be somewhat happy. It definitely wasn’t easy driving these stages, with a lot of corners all the time. Without testing and going onto fully new roads, it’s not easy to have everything feeling 100 per cent straightaway – especially on these types of roads, as I like to have the balance a bit different to the others. We made some changes at lunch and it was better this afternoon. If we can find a bit more precision with the car, I will be able to push harder tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier (10th)
“Unfortunately for us the hope of a top result here ended very early this morning with this puncture in the first stage. It’s very frustrating of course, and we’re not sure why it happened but we had to stop to change the wheel and lost over two-and-a-half minutes to the lead. Now the excitement is not quite the same when you’re no longer fighting for victory, but of course we’ll try to keep pushing and to keep enjoying these stages. It’s also an opportunity to work with my new co-driver Vincent who is doing a very good job so far, and also to work with the setup of the car. These roads are very unique and the feeling is not yet at the optimum like we had in Spain on roads we knew very well.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“Despite a shorter day than we expected, it was still a tough challenge out there; a lot of hard work for the drivers and the co-drivers. We managed our day quite well, I think. It was a bit up and down because of the characteristics of the road, and some changing conditions. It’s difficult coming to a brand-new rally because we have to start from zero; you have to go through different options and settings. We prepared as well as we could, but we didn’t expect so many grip changes. We need to find the right compromise and we’re fighting with that a bit at the moment. At the end, we’ve done a good job, and we’re near the front and with some good times. We will do our best to continue in this way.”
Ott Tänak (4th)
“We managed two stages in the morning; the first one was very demanding with many grip changes and overall, it wasn’t easy to drive. On the following one it was almost the opposite, with high grip but tricky with the visibility and we also had some issues with our diffs. The afternoon felt a bit better, gaining in some places and losing out in others; but altogether it was an improvement. It’s been hard to find a confident feeling on tarmac, but we are there or thereabouts. It’s challenging, of course, but if the grip levels are higher then it’s OK. Tomorrow’s stages are more or less the same as today, the first one quite slow and twisty, but the other ones a bit more ‘racey’. We are still in the fight; there is a long way to go, so let’s see what the rally looks like at the end.”
Dani Sordo (DNF)
“At some point during SS2 we started to have a lot of smoke in the car, and it all happened really fast. I stopped, and we used the small extinguisher to try and put out the fire. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do more; I was trying all that I could, but it was impossible. I’m so sorry to the team to lose the car. I have never seen anything like this before. It is definitely something we all have to look into and learn from.”
The second day would see 80km’s over seven stages. The startlist would now be the reversed top ten, with Craig opening the stages and Elfyn being the final car through.
The Welshman would make a very good start to the day, winning SS8 Nukata Forest 1 – 20.56 km from Thierry and Seb third. Elfyn’s lead was now up to 5.9 seconds over the Belgian crew, whilst Kalle went wide on a corner and suffered a puncture, the result being that the new world champions dropped three places falling to sixth overall. The fight continued for the WRC2 win, with Emil moving back ahead of Teemu.
Seb took SS9 Lake Mikawako 1 – 14.74 km from Thierry and Elfyn. The gap narrowed a little between the top two overall crews, but Elfyn remained in the lead by 4.7 seconds. Seb’s pace had now brought him ahead of Kalle, who was now down in seventh overall. Emil remained the leader of WRC2 and was holding eighth overall as well.
Ott took his first stage win, in SS10 Shinshiro City – 7.08 km from Seb and Takamoto. Meanwhile, Elfyn, who was fourth fastest increased his lead over Thierry who was sixth fastest. Kalle took a penalty of a minute due to being six minutes late to the time control. The Finn fell down to 12th overall.
After lunch time service, Seb won SS11 Nukata Forest 2 – 20.56 km from Thierry and Elfyn. The Frenchman’s pace took him ahead of Gus and into fifth overall. The Brit was suffering with an intermittent powersteering problem and this was really affecting his ability to push hard on these twisty stages. Emil and Reeta remained in control of WRC2 with a lead of 46 seconds over Sami and Enni.
Into SS12 Lake Mikawako 2 – 14.74 km and Seb took another stage win from Thierry, with Elfyn third fastest. Elfyn lost the lead to Thierry and was now two seconds behind the Belgian. Top three in WRC2 was Emil, Sami and Gregoire.
SS13 Okazaki City SSS 1 – 1.40 km was cancelled due to delays getting it underway.
The final stage then, SS14 Okazaki City SSS 2 – 1.40 km and Thierry showed that as always, he’s the super special stage specialist, winning the stage from Ott and Seb. Elfyn was only sixth fastest, setting the same time as Teemu.
Let’s take a look at the standings and hear from the drivers.
Classification after Day Two
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Ford Puma Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Elfyn Evans (2nd)
“We got off to a good start this morning. Everything was working well in the car and we managed to extend our lead. Then this afternoon we were not performing as well as we would like. I was still trying but I was struggling to find the same feeling and deliver the stage times. We’ll need to have a look tonight and try to understand why that was. It’s unfortunate to be in this position now after the strong morning we had. But it’s still pretty tight – like it has been for the whole rally – and there are plenty of kilometres left in which to fight back, and if the rain comes as expected then it could be a complicated day.”
Sébastien Ogier (5th)
“It’s been a positive day for us. To be fastest over the day is always good and it’s been enjoyable in the car with a good rhythm. We’ve been working on the setup, trying to make the most of this opportunity and we now have a better idea on how we should set-up the car for conditions like these. It’s also working well with Vincent, who is doing a great job. Unfortunately, we’re not fighting for so much anymore in terms of positions, but we managed to get into the top five which was the maximum we could do on speed. But tomorrow will be a long day with rain expected and many things can still happen.”
Kalle Rovanperä (11th)
“Things got a bit tricky for us straightaway in the opening stage this morning. I got caught out in a slippery braking area which I didn’t have in the pacenotes and we went a bit wide and broke the wheel. We had to stop and change it, so basically, we lost the chance to fight for the podium right there. This afternoon was more positive, not necessarily in terms of pace but we were trying some new things on the car and learning a bit about the setup. There is nothing for us to fight for now so it’s just trying to manage everything. Let’s see how the rain is tomorrow but it seems like it will be a big challenge.”
Thierry Neuville (1st)
“The target at the start of the day was to stay close to Elfyn and to keep the gap behind. He had a great morning loop, and we were generally looking for a better balance with our car. We just drove to our rhythm and pushed when we could. We got it right for the afternoon with a good tyre choice, and a soft for the final stage, which allowed us to take and increase the lead. Tomorrow is going to be another difficult day, just as it’s been all event, and with extra excitement. To finish the season with a victory would be great.”
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“It’s good to end the day in the provisional podium positions but it’s not over yet. We had a generally clean day, with no trouble; everything worked well. We weren’t far off the pace but the cars at the front were able to find a bit more and go faster than us. Stage 10 was a bit different, and we could set the fastest time. It was a very “racey” stage, so we stiffened the car a bit and it was a big improvement. Tomorrow looks set to be trickier with more challenging stages. Let’s see what it brings; we’ll do all we can to bring home a good result for the team.”
The final day of the rally and whole season had arrived and there would be 69km’s over five stages. There was also the predicted rain that was due to arrive at any time throughout the day. Once again Craig opened the road and Thierry would be last to complete the stages.
Into SS15 Asahi Kougen 1 – 7.52 km and Elfyn was fastest from Seb, with Thierry third fastest and 3.4 seconds slower than the Welshman. It was game on for the lead between the top two. Meanwhile, Emil remained on course for the WRC2 title holding the lead from Sami.
The longest stage of the day, SS16 Ena City 1 – 21.59 km was taken by Thierry, from Seb and Ott. It was disaster for Elfyn though. He went wide in a corner and picked up a puncture. He stopped around 9.9 km’s into the stage and dropped a minute 30 with the tyre change and with it any hopes of victory. He fell to fourth overall, now one minute 47 seconds from Thierry. Takamoto was now holding third overall and Ott moved into second place.
Into the single run SS17 Nenoue Plateau – 11.60 km and Seb was fastest from Elfyn and Takamoto. It was a case of what might have been, as Elfyn may have been able to retake the lead, as the Belgian was three and a half seconds slower than the Welshman. Meanwhile, Craig was just cruising through the stages, waiting for the rain and saving his wet weather tyres for this.
The rain arrived for the second running of SS18 Ena City 2 – 21.59 km and Craig showed he’s kept his tyres in very good shape, winning the stage from Seb and Gus. Thierry was faster than Elfyn by a huge margin, just because he’d had some wet weather tyres, whereas, Elfyn only had hard and soft tyres. If the battle had continued, it’s likely that Thierry would have pulled away, but we’ll never really know now. There was a change around in the WRC2 category though! Gregoire took the lead- and long-time leader Emil was now in second and Sami was holding third.
The final stage then SS19 Asahi Kougen 2[Power Stage] – 7.52 km and the early pacesetter in his Skoda, Maurio Miele’s time was not beaten by a number of top-class crews, until Craig came through and went 11 seconds faster. The WRC2 master ended up with the second fastest time in the stage, Teemu was third fastest Thierry fourth and Fabrizio, another WRC2 category driver fifth fastest, all taking home powerstage points. The reason that there were only two top class crews in the top five, was because the weather was moving around and therefore the conditions were constantly changing. If you’ve not seen the stage, I would recommend watching it if you have WRC Live. We also had a new WRC2 champion crew, with Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hamalainen taking the crown! So good to see a female co-driver taking a championship. They completely deserve this success.
Let’s take a look at the final standings and hear from the drivers
Final Overall Classification –Rally Japan
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Ford Puma Rally1
Hyundai i20 N Rally2
Hyundai i20 N Rally2
Škoda Fabia Evo
Thierry Neuville (1st)
“This victory feels fantastic! It wasn’t an easy weekend, or indeed season, but to end with this result is incredible and shows that the performance is there. Thanks to our weather guy for a great job. We knew that the title chase was over, but the target was to come here to Japan to win and we’ve achieved that with a 1-2. It has been a challenging season; we’ve shown a turnaround but there is still plenty of work left to do. Results like this give a special boost to the whole team. We know the areas where we need to improve; I keep believing in this team and I will keep pushing also. Next season will be a different challenge. Monte is less than two months away and we have to be ready for that.”
Ott Tänak (2nd)
“It is good to finish the season on the podium. These were extremely tricky conditions at the end, and it’s been a demanding rally overall. For the past couple of events on tarmac, we’ve been lacking some speed to be where we should be. Still, we took the result that we could this weekend and there’s been nothing much left. We came to Hyundai Motorsport to fight for another championship title; obviously we have never delivered enough to achieve that, but it’s been an incredible experience. We’ve met another bunch of people and probably made some friends for life, so it’s been worth every year.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Takamoto Katsuta (3rd)
“It is a very special feeling to be on the podium in my home country. I need to say a huge thanks to the team and to the many fans who were supporting us and cheering for us everywhere – on the stages and also on the road sections. It was a really tough weekend with very tricky stages, and the grip level was changing a lot. At first, I was struggling a bit with the feeling but on Friday lunchtime we changed the setup with the team and it went in a very good direction, so I had a more comfortable feeling and the times were pretty good. We had some very difficult conditions at the end of the rally especially, but we were able to survive. Thank you to Aaron and also to our gravel crew, Juho Hänninen and Craig Parry, who did a great job supporting us with information for the pacenotes.”
Sébastien Ogier (4th)
“It was a challenging end to the rally today with the rain which we knew was coming. It was a tough tyre choice this morning with some stages to be driven in the dry and some in the wet so we had to go with a compromise. I think we had the correct choice overall as we were fastest again over the day. It’s been a good weekend in terms of the performance and speed we showed again this weekend, and the first time with Vincent who has done a perfect job. Of course, it would have been even better if we were rewarded with the result that I think we deserved, but some bad luck hit us again this weekend. We are all happy to see Taka on the podium at home and it’s been great to have so much support here in Japan.”
Elfyn Evans (5th)
“Naturally I’m massively disappointed about today. It’s been a tough season personally and we had a chance here and threw everything at it. Today started really well, we had a good rhythm in the car and things were working well. But on the second stage we ran marginally wide and damaged the tyre. It was a big penalty for a small error but that’s the nature of the game. It’s really busy on the stages here so it was easily done. After that the battle for the win was over and then the rain came and the tyres, we had left were not optimal for that. I’m really happy for Taka to be on the podium at his home event: He’s worked hard all year and really deserves it.”
Kalle Rovanperä (12th)
“This has been a tough rally and a challenging one just as we expected. It didn’t go our way this weekend but sometimes it’s like this. The main thing is we got to the end of the rally and learned some things for the future. Again, we were using today as a test day and we wanted to keep the balance with the tyres consistent for the dry stages so that we could try some more things with the setup. I think we made a positive step and found some things which were nice to drive and at least we know the direction for the future. Overall, we’ve had a really good season so we can be very happy with that and thanks to the team and everybody who made it possible.”
2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 13
2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 13
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG
Well, what an amazing final round of the championship. Two Finnish crews walk away with both titles, and Takamoto takes an amazing third place at his home rally.
There were the issues throughout the weekend, with punctures, mechanical problems, and even a road car getting onto a stage (that was number 4) leading to it being cancelled, when the WRC2 crews were going through.
I’ll be reviewing the season, team by team. Look out for these coming soon.
Honda Racing UK have announced the signing of Andrew Irwin alongside retaining former National Superstock 1000 champion, Tom Neave for their 2023 British Superbike campaign.
After a difficult couple of seasons with the Synetiq BMW squad during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Irwin has decided a move back to familiar territory is on the cards in a renewed push for championship gold and glory. In his previous tenure as a Honda Racing UK rider, 2019/2020, Irwin took no less than 4 wins and finished his best year in 6th position overall in 2020.
Compared to his stint on the BMW M1000RR, where the team have struggled with both riders to get the bikes into a strong operating window, Irwin has produced zero wins and a best overall finish of 13th position in the championship. It’s little wonder the availability of a CBR1000RR-R SP Fireblade vacated by brother, Glenn Irwin, after he announced his signing with MCE Ducati for 2023, was enough to sway the Northern Irishman’s choice to return to a familiar team, on a bike that has won races as recently as the final round of 2022.
Alongside the Andrew Irwin announcement, the team have confirmed 2022 rider Tom Neave will race for them again in 2023. At the same time, Honda Racing UK have confirmed that Takumi Takahashi and Ryo Mizuno will move on to pastures new, whilst helping the team with testing duties when called upon.
Official Statements: –
Andrew Irwin said: “I am really excited to have signed for Honda for 2023 and I can’t wait to get back on the Fireblade. It was a bike I loved and I believe I am getting on an even better bike than when I left two years ago so I can’t wait to get back on it and just to get stuck into it. I can’t thank Neil and Harv enough for giving me the opportunity to return and I hope I can do a good job. The bike is good which Glenn proved in 2022 and there is no reason why we can’t have a strong championship. I think we have a strong team with good people around me. I plan to have a really good off season and work hard and try to come into 2023 season in the best shape possible. I can’t wait to get back on board and look forward to testing in March.”
Tom Neave said: “I’m absolutely delighted to remain with Honda Racing for what will be my fifth consecutive season in 2023. We have achieved a lot together over the previous seasons, so to remain on the Fireblade for another year will be a positive step for me. There’s no denying my first full season on the Superbike has been a tough one, but continuity is key at this point and the experience I have gained along the way has been invaluable. Next season I look forward to repaying the faith that Honda have shown in me, so I’ll be doing my all to take the next step in my racing career. I can’t wait to get started!”
Havier Beltran, Team Manager, Honda Racing UK said: “We’re delighted to welcome back Andrew alongside Tom in 2023. We’ve shared moments with Andrew like his and the bike’s first wins, and now we’re very happy to be able to bring him back to the family. The 2022 season was a learning year for Tom having graduated from Superstock, and with that experience he’s ready to take the next step in 2023. Alongside Andrew, we have an exciting line-up full of promise and potential. This year has continued to demonstrate the performance of the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP and it’s encouraging to have finished our 2022 campaign so strongly. I’d like to thank Glenn for his dedication and hard work and the success we’ve enjoyed together. Similarly, it’s been a pleasure having Ryo and Takumi on board for these last two seasons. We wish them well in the next step in their career and hope to work with them again in the future.”
Neil Fletcher, Head of Motorcycles, Honda UK concluded: “Since 2020 when the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP took its first BSB victory, we’ve continued to demonstrate how much of a force to be reckoned with the new bike is, and 2022 was no exception. Now, it’s with excitement and promise that I look forward to 2023, welcoming Andrew back to the team alongside Tom. Andrew is no stranger to Honda Racing UK and the Fireblade, having played a pivotal role in its development with Honda Racing UK throughout 2020, so we believe it’s a great fit to have him back with us. We start the 2023 season full of optimism and enthusiasm after a strong run in 2022 narrowly missing out on the title, so that’s the target for next season.”
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The penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship will take place in Brazil in front of a carnival-like atmosphere. After a very entertaining sprint race, the front of the grid is locked out by Mercedes for the first time this season. Can they finally win a Grand Prix this season after a year of developing their troublesome car? Or will RedBull use the extra set of soft tyres they have to their advantage?
Both Mercedes and Redbulls led away line astern, Norris in front of the Ferraris as the field all made it through the first 4 corners cleanly. Ricciardo and Magnussen came together later in the lap causing an instant safety car with the cars damaged and stranded on the track. Replays showed Ricciardo just missed his breaking point and tapped the Haas driver into a spin, the Haas then backed into the McLaren as it was coming to a stop.
The race restarted on lap 7, and once again Hamilton and Verstappen come together as they always seem to do when in combat. Norris and Leclerc also made contact during the first restarted lap. Leclerc managed to get back onto the track and continue. Verstappen needed to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton fell back to 8th but continued.
By lap 11 Russell was leading Perez in the RedBull by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton moved ahead of Vettel and into P5 at the end of lap 13.
As that happened it was confirmed Verstappen and Norris had received 5 second time penalties for their parts in the earlier collisions. The world champion was not happy over the pit radio.
Lap 18 saw Sainz in the lead Ferrari pit for softs, he rejoined P12 behind the Williams of Albon. He quickly dispatched the Williams. The Ferrari driver was making the most of the new soft tyres by passing Stroll just two laps later.
The sister Ferrari pitted on lap 22, returning to the track down in 17th. The chances of Leclerc getting P2 in the title hunt looked to be disappearing. His rival for that position, Perez, pitted on lap 24 and was back out in 6th but in traffic. Mercedes reacted straight away and pitted leader George Russell. He came back out in second but was still 4 seconds ahead of Perez.
At the start of lap 25, Hamilton led, Verstappen pitted and took his five second penalty but seemed to have a slow stop as well. The retiring ex-world champion Vettel pitted on lap 27, showing well in the Aston Martin in P9.
There was some good racing in the midfield today between Bottas, Gasly and Vettel. Bottas was in great form, making it past Vettel and Gasly using DRS to his full advantage before Vettel followed passed the Alpha Tauri.
Sainz pitted for the second time on lap 37, a new set of mediums fitted to the Ferrari. Would he be able to make it to the end of them?
Somehow despite collisions and penalties Norris and Leclerc had found themselves on the same piece of the track again. On lap 43 the Ferrari made it passed the McLaren. A lap later Hamilton took second place from Perez, The Mercedes looking the best they have all year.
With all the excitement going on Verstappen had quietly made his way up to P9, stalking Norris in the McLaren. The McLaren pitted on lap 46 moving Verstappen up to 6th as two others pitted on the same lap.
Perez had his second stop on lap 48, returning to the track in 4th almost 12 seconds behind Sainz in 3rd. Hamilton was next in for soft tyres, followed by leader Russell a lap later. With 21 laps left it was Rusell leading Sainz by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton a further 6 seconds back with Perez 4.5 behind the Mercedes.
Norris in the McLaren stopped on lap 53 with an electrical issue, his car was in a dangerous place, bringing the VSC into play. Sainz pitted losing positions to Hamilton and Perez. With Marshalls struggling to move the stricken McLaren the Safety car made its way onto the track.
A 12-lap shoot-out began as the Safety car pulled in. Leclerc had managed to get up to P5 and could somehow get a podium. Sainz and Perez battled through the first three turns with neither making ground on the other,
Sainz made it up to P3 with a great move on Perez on lap 63. A lap later and Leclerc also passes the RedBull. Alonso is next up behind the RedBull and was looking fired up. The Spaniard made his move on lap 65, another great drive from the veteran.
Redbull told Verstappen to go for it and take much-needed points off Leclerc and Alonso to help Perez out. Leclerc, thinking the same also radios Ferrari to ask Sainz to move aside. Ferrari ignored his requests.
RedBull’s switch came with a promise to Perez that they would switch back if Verstappen couldn’t pass Leclerc. However, on the final lap, the team asked, and Verstappen did not comply. This led to what can only be described as ‘spicy’ radio messages at the end of the race.
Back at the front Russell went across the line to win his first-ever GP, a great performance with zero mistakes all day long. Following him over the line was Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Bottas and Stroll rounding out the top ten.
Well, that was some race, Brazil always seems to provide a great race whether it’s wet or dry. The first Mercedes 1-2 of the year. It bodes well for next season.
One more race left this season and they return to Abu Dhabi next weekend.
The Superpole race saw Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) claim his 2nd win of the weekend, followed by Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki KRT), and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha).
Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati) would need a podium finish to claim his first championship, and Ducati’s first championship for 11 years. Could Toprak stand in his way?
Lights out and it was Toprak with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea, who quickly sensed an opportunity and made a quick pass to take over the lead, followed by Locatelli and Bautista. Redding (BMW Motorrad) was in 5th.
Next lap and positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Locatelli 4. Bautista 5. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 6. Redding 7. Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) 10. Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad).
With 19 laps to go the lead group of 4 were already pulling away from the rest. It was Locatelli with the fastest lap a 1:33.2. Meanwhile further back it was 11. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) 12. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 15. Nozane (GRT Yamaha).
With 17 of 21 laps to go, it was Bassani with the fastest lap a 1:32.9. Bautista then came through on Locatelli to take 3rd. Bassani had now caught up with the lead group, now made up of 5 riders. The Italian was looking aggressive and barged through on his fellow countryman Locatelli, to take 4th.
Next lap and Toprak made his move on Rea into the hairpin corner at turn 10 taking the lead. Redding meanwhile dropped down to 10th, allowing both Gerloff and Rinaldi through.
Next lap and Rea ran wide, allowing a grateful Bautista to come through into 2nd. Toprak held a gap of 0.4s at the front.
With 14 laps to go Bassani came through on Rea, the Ducati’s acceleration proving too much for the ZX 10-RR, which couldn’t match it in the high track temperatures, which were nearing 70 degrees Celsius.
Coming up to half race distance, and Rea fought back taking Bassani with a neat pass up the inside into turn 12 to move back into 3rd. Meanwhile a miserable season for Nozane (GRT Yamaha) got worse with him crashing out into turn 11, and his race was over. At the front Bautista was right on Toprak and looking for the win to cap his impressive season off.
With 9 laps to go, Redding came through on Lowes to take 7th. Meanwhile Gerloff lost places and dropped down to 10th. Then as we’ve seen a number of times this season, Bautista used the power and speed of the “red missile” to blast past Toprak, and fire himself into the lead into turn 1. Toprak however, was up for the fight and snapped straight back a few corners later to retake the lead, and again Alvaro would again take the lead. This was a becoming a good scrap.
With 6 laps to go Bautista was still out in front. Meanwhile Toprak held a gap of 0.5s to Rea behind in 3rd. As was also the case for much of the season, these three were away, and clear from the rest of the field. Rea in 3rd held a gap of 2.5s to Bassani 4th, Locatelli 5th held a gap of 4.2s to Vierge in 6th.
Next lap and Toprak wasn’t going to let the win go without a fight, and he passed Bautista once again to take the lead.
With 4 laps to go Toprak continued his late race charge, and set a new fastest lap of 1:32.846 in the process, increasing the gap to Bautista behind to 0.6s. Meanwhile Bassani and Locatelli were battling it out for 4th.
Next lap and Toprak continued to widen the gap, now at 1.1s. Bautista looked content to take 2nd. Meanwhile Gerloff had fought back to 8th behind Vierge in 7th.
Last lap and Toprak crossed the line to take his 3rd win of the weekend, but it was Alvaro Bautista who claimed the championship coming over in 2nd, Rea in 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Bassani 5th, Redding 6th, Vierge 7th, Gerloff 8th, Lowes 9th, Rinaldi 10th.
Temperatures were scorching for the second visit to Indonesia, 36 degrees Celsius air temp, and 60 degrees track temp, amidst blazing sunshine. None of the deluge that was faced by the riders and fans last time round thankfully. Indeed the race was actually brought forward to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.
The other big news was that the track was recently resurfaced, and only had a very narrow racing line down so far. This combined with the high temperatures, meant it would be a very nervous race for the riders.
Superpole went to Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha), with an unbeaten time of 1:31.371, followed by Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki KRT), and Pata Yamaha team mate Andrea Locatelli. Iker Lecuona and Mahias were both ruled unfit to start the race after bad crashes in practice.
Lights out then for the 900th race in WorldSBK, and it was the pole man Toprak Razgatlioglu with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by his team mate Locatelli, Rea, and Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati). Both Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) and Redding (BMW Motorrad), suffered bad starts getting nudged off the line, and found themselves down in 10th and 19th respectively.
Next lap, and Rea was looking to make early ground, moved past Locatelli, and set the new fastest lap in the process with a 1:33.078. Positions were as follows: 1. Toprak 2. Rea 3. Locatelli 4. Bautista 5. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 6. Vierge (Honda HRC) 7. Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) 8. Rinadli (Aruba.it Ducati) 9. Lowes 10. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha). Toprak held a gap of 0.6s to Rea.
On lap 19 of 21 it was the turn of Bautista to come through on Locatelli. Toprak still held a gap of 0.3s out in front. Meanwhile further back it was Lowes 8th, Rinaldi 9th, and Gerloff in 10th.
Toprak had been quick all weekend, and put in the new fastest lap with a 1:32.886 on lap 17 of 21.
With 15 laps remaining, Toprak increased his lead to 1.2s, with Rea struggling to match the pace in the tricky conditions. Bautista 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Bassani 5th. Vd Mark had a moment and dropped back to 10th.
With 13 laps left, Bautista had now caught Rea and was looking for the pass. He made his move with a nice clean pass up the inside of Rea into the penultimate corner, Rea had no response and Bautista moved into 2nd. Meanwhile further back it was: Vierge 6th, Lowes 7th and Rinaldi 8th.
Coming up to half race distance, and Toprak had increased his lead to 3.2s over Bautista, and was looking quite comfortable. Then drama for both Oettl (GoEleven Ducati), and Mercado (MIE Honda). The former had a nasty looking crash, losing the back end in a fast corner, which sent the German flying over the front of his Ducati. Mercado had a mechanical issue, and his race was over.
With 9 laps left both Bassani and Toprak had big moments and lost places, Toprak ran off the track, and lost time to Bautista, with the gap cut down to 1.1s. Meanwhile further back there was now a three way battle for 6th between: Vierge 6th, Vd Mark 7th and Lowes 8th.
With 7 laps to go, the current positions as they stood meant that the championship would go on until tomorrow.
Next lap and Rinaldi was showing good late race pace, and moved through on Locatelli moving up to 4th. Meanwhile Toprak had recovered his pace, and had brought the gap back up to 2.3s over Bautista. Bautista of course didn’t need to take any unnecessary risks at this stage in the championship, and would have his chance to wrap up the title in the next few races. Rinaldi then ran wide into a corner losing his place to Locatelli. Meanwhile further back Gerloff had joined the scrap for 6th, which had now become a four way battle.
With 3 laps left, Toprak was managing his gap which was still 2.3s and looked comfortable to take the win. Then more drama for Vd Mark who crashed out into turn 16 and his race was over.
Last lap and Toprak crossed the line to take his 28th win for Yamaha, which was the all time highest currently, followed by Bautista and Rea. Locatelli 4th, Rinaldi 5th, Vierge 6th, Gerloff 7th, Bassani 8th, Lowes 9th, Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) 10th.