Round 3 WorldSBK, Assen, Race 1

After the long break from round 2 in Indonesia, fans were eagerly anticipating another action packed weekend of racing ahead of the Assen round.

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team. Race 1 Assen 2023. Picture courtesy of WSBK

Superpole saw Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) initially claim top spot, but he was subsequently penalised after a dangerous incident between himself and Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) in the pit lane exit. Pole position was then handed to Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) with a time of 1:33.5, followed by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), and Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) in 3rd.

Conditions were dry and mild for race 1, and most of the grid went for the soft SCX rear tyre.

Lights out then for race 1 and it was Rea with the hole shot into turn, 1 followed by Toprak and Bautista in 2nd and 3rd respectively, Lowes 4th, with Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) behind in 5th. Lowes started aggressively from the off, and was soon attacking Bautista into the chicane, which he did taking 3rd. Alvaro responded however, and snapped straight back into turn 1 to retake the position.

Next lap of the 21 lap race and positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Bautista 4. Lowes 5. Redding 6. Locatelli.

His disastrous season continued, it was another mechanical issue for former champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and his race was over. Meanwhile at the front, the leading 3 were pulling out a gap to the group behind of 4 riders, which included Lowes 4th, Redding (Rokit BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 5th, Bassani (Motocorsa Racing Ducati) 6th, and Locatelli 7th. Meanwhile further back current BSB champion, and rookie Bradley Ray (Motoxracing Yamaha) was in 15th and on track to score his first ever point in WorldSBK.

With 17 of 21 laps remaining, Bautista moved through on Toprak into the chicane to take 2nd. Meanwhile further back drama for Iker Lecuona (Honda HRC) who crashed out, but was subsequently able to rejoin at the back of the field. It was Gardner 8th, Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) 9th and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) in 10th.

With 15 laps to go, Rea held a gap of 0.2s to Bautista behind in 2nd. Further back it was Bassani 6th, and Bradley Ray was in 14th. Toprak held a gap of 2.5s to Lowes behind in 4th.

Next lap and Scott Redding got through on Lowes to move up into 4th. Next up was the turn of Bassani to pass Lowes, Lowes had now dropped from 4th to 6th in a few corners.

Race 1 Assen 2023. Picture courtesy of WSBK

With 13 laps to go Bautista got by on Rea into the fast turn 7 to take over the lead for the first time. Rea now in 2nd, with Toprak in 3rd. The gap to Redding in 4th was now 3.0s. Unfortunately for Bradley Ray he had now dropped down to 18th. Meanwhile making the most of the clear track ahead of him, Bautista set the new fastest lap a 1:34.830.

With 11 laps remaining, a mistake for Redding saw him run wide into turn 1, and allowed a grateful Bassani to come through into 4th. Scott was now in 5th. Toprak now held a gap of 4.5s to Bassani in 4th, while Locatelli held a gap of 4.9s to Aegerter (GYRT GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in 8th.

With just over half race distance covered, Rea wasn’t giving up his fight for the win, and was putting pressure on Bautista. Rea held a gap of 1.1s to Toprak.

With 8 laps to go, Bautista had extended his lead to 0.3s and was slowly edging away from the grasp of 6 x world champion Rea. Toprak too was losing contact with both the riders ahead of him. Meanwhile behind the 4 way battle for 4th was still red hot between, Bassani, Redding, Lowes and Locatelli.

Next lap and Locatelli who had been eyeing up a pass on Lowes, made it into turn 5, cutting up the inside of the Kawasaki to take 6th. Further back it was team mates Domi Aegerter and Remy Gardner in 8th, and 9th respectively, Petrucci 10th, Vierge (Honda HRC) 11th, Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) 12th, and Brad Ray in 18th.

With 5 laps remaining, reigning champion Alvaro Bautista, had put the hammer down and had extended his lead to 1.6s over Rea. Rea had done all he could to stay with Alvaro but it wasn’t enough, and he held a gap of 2.5s to Toprak who was in a lonely 3rd ahead of Bassani by 5.4s. Lowes 7th held a gap of 2.7s to Aegerter in 8th. Lowes then burst through on Redding to move into 6th, with Locatelli ahead of him in 5th.

Next lap and there was a 4 way battle for 12th between Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) 13th, Oettl (Team GoEleven), 14th and Rinaldi 15th. Meanwhile current SSP champion Aegerter, got past Redding to take 7th, and was showing great late race pace.

Penultimate lap and Locatelli was all over the back of fellow countryman Bassani and looking for the pass.

Last lap and Bautista took the win followed by Rea in 2nd, Toprak in 3rd. Meanwhile Locatelli mugged Bassani into turn 5 as he had done with Lowes, and took 4th, Bassani 5th, Aegerter 6th, Lowes 7th, Gardner 8th, Petrucci 9th, Redding 10th.

Alvaro Bautista, Ducati Racing. Race 1 Assen 2023. Picture courtesy of WSBK

Result top 5:

  1. Bautista (Aruba.it Racing Ducati)
  2. Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK)
  5. Bassani (Motocorsa Racing)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 137 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu – 91
  3. Locatelli – 83

Round 10 WorldSBK San Juan, Argentina, Race 1

Going into the weekend with a 51 point gap over title rival, and reigning world champion, Toprak Razgatlioglu. Alvaro Bautista could put serious damage into the hopes of both Toprak, and Jonathan Rea, of closing the gap with a strong weekend.

WorldSBK 22.10.2022 Alex Lowes Picture courtesy of KRT World SBK

However the championship leader would have to start the race from 3rd on the grid, after Toprak (Pata Yamaha) claimed pole with an unbeaten time of 1:36.216, followed by Rea (KRT Kawasaki) in 2nd.

Ideal weather for the start of race 1 then, with the Andean sun baking down onto the track. Lights out and it was Toprak with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea, Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), and Lecuona (Honda HRC) in 4th. And then massive drama as Toprak went off line, and way too hot into turn 9, sending his R1 plunging into the gravel. He managed to pick up his bike and rejoin the race at the back of the field. A huge, and potentially catastrophic shift in the outcome of this championship now for Toprak.

With 19 laps to go, it was Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) with an impressive start, and leading the race, setting a new fastest lap of 1:37.881 in the process. Positions were as follows: 1. Bassani 2. Rea 3. Lecuona 4. Bautista 5. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 6. Redding (BMW Motorrad) 7. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) 8. Lowes (Kawasaki KRT).

With 17 laps remaining, Bautista made a move on Lecuona, getting through to move into 3rd, and setting a new fastest lap in the process of a 1:37.5. The leading trio of Bassani, Rea, and Bautista were now pulling away from the rest of the field. Meanwhile further back it was: 10. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 11. Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) 14. Laverty (Bonovo Action Ducati).

Next lap and Bautista was beginning to ramp up the pace, he lined up Rea, and made a clean move, and up into 2nd. Rea had no response. Further back Redding was struggling, and dropped two places down into 8th. Gerloff was also struggling, and the Texan found himself down in a disappointing 15th. Toprak was still at the back of the field.

With 14 laps to go, Bassani held a gap of 0.3s to Bautista, the Spaniard was reeling him in however, and he moved through on the young Italian a few corners later, taking the lead. Rea knew he had to stay with Bautista, and made an aggressive move on Bassani into turn 10, moving into 2nd. The move surprised Bassani, the Italian now in 3rd. Drama for Mercado (MIE Honda), who crashed out into turn 14, and the local rider’s race was over. Meanwhile at the front, Bautista was increasing his lead, and now held a gap of 0.6s to Rea.

With 12 laps to go, Bassani had got back past Rea into 2nd, the speed of the Ducati again proving a decisive factor. Rea was growing increasingly frustrated, as he could once again see Bautista disappearing down the road.

With just over half race distance done, and with the lower fuel load, the Ducati was even quicker, and Bautista continued to ramp up his lead, the gap was now 2.7s. Positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Bassani 3. Rea 4. Lecuona 5. Rinaldi 6. Lowes 7. Redding 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Locatelli 10. Baz.

With 7 laps to go, Rea was throwing everything he could at Bassani, but to no avail. The fight between Bassani and Rea suited Bautista, and he forged on, putting ever more time into the gap.

With only 5 laps left, Bautista put in the new fastest lap of the race with a 1:37.389. Meanwhile further back, Toprak had moved up places, and was now in 18th.

With 3 laps left, Rea finally made a move on Bassani that stuck, and he moved into 2nd. Bautista was 6s ahead, and no doubt had the win firmly sealed up.

WorldSBK 22.10.2022 Alvaro Bautistas courtesy of Aruba.it_racing

Last lap and Bautista crossed the line to take another dominant win, followed by Rea 2nd, Bassani 3rd, Lecuona 4th, Rinaldi 5th,Lowes 6th, Redding 7th, Locatelli 8th, Vierge 9th, Vd Mark 10th, while Toprak came in 15th claiming just the single point.

Result top 5:

  1. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  3. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati)
  4. Lecuona (Honda HRC)
  5. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 473
  2. Razgatlioglu – 393
  3. Rea – 386

Round 9 WorldSBK Portimao, Portugal, Race 2

Victory in the earlier Superpole race, meant the reigning champion, Toprak Razgatlioglu, was on a charge, and looking for a complete set of wins across the weekend.

Lights out for race 2 and it was Toprak (Pata Yamaha) with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea (Kawasaki KRT) 2nd, Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati) 3rd, Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) 4th, and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 5th.

WorldSBK 09.10.2022 Portimao Picture courtesy of KRT Kawasaki Racing Alex Lowes

Next lap and Rea barged through on Toprak to take over the lead, and was looking aggressive early on. Further back it was 6th Bassani (Motocorsa Duacti), 7th Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), 8th Redding (BMW Mottorad). Then drama for Mahias (Puccetti Kawasaki) who went down, and his race was over.

On lap 18 of 20, it was Rinaldi in 4th who set the new fastest lap of the race with a 1:40.098, and was having a much better race. Meanwhile further back it was the Honda HRC team mates of Lecuona, and Vierge in 10th, and 11th respectively, 12th Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad), 15th Gerloff (GRT Yamaha).

With 16 laps to go, drama for Bassani who went down into turn 12, losing the front end of the Ducati, and his race was over. Meanwhile at the front, the leading group of 5 riders had pulled away from the rest of the field.

With 15 laps to go, it was Rea who set the new fastest lap with a 1:40.673, and the pace was gradually getting ramped up, to be more in line with the quicker pace in race 1. Bautista held a gap of 0.5s to his team mate behind in 4th. Meanwhile Lowes was struggling with the faster pace, and was beginning to lose contact in 5th.

Next lap and, as in race 1, Toprak out brakes Rea into turn 1 with a nice looking move, cutting up the inside of the 6x champion. All three of the title contenders were swapping fastest laps, and it was the turn of Alvaro to put in the new fastest lap of a 1:40.647.

With 12 laps to go, Rea repays Toprak by making the same pass on him, as he had to Rea into turn 1, to retake the lead. Meanwhile Bautista sensed an opportunity, and came through on Toprak to move into 2nd. The Turk going from 1st to 3rd in one corner.

Next lap and Bautista was gathering momentum and passed Rea down the straight, and into turn 1 to take over the lead. Again the ZX10-RR had no response to the shear speed of the Panigale V4.

Half race distance, and Toprak again passed Rea into turn 1 to take over 2nd. Bautista meanwhile, held a gap of 0.3 out in front. Further back it was 6th Locatelli, 7th Redding, 8th Lecuona.

Next lap and keen to not allow Bautista to clear away, Toprak continued to push the pace on, setting a new fastest lap of 1:40.4.

With 7 laps to go, drama for Lecuona who went down into turn 14 losing the front end on the downhill cambered corner. He was having a decent race until then, and his race was over. Meanwhile at the front, Toprak was still shadowing Bautista, and then made a surprising move into turn 13, looking to have caught Bautista out, and cut under him to take the lead. The Spaniard did not expect that move, and Toprak was looking keen for a scrap.

Next lap and Bautista would make a reply, blasting past the R1 down the straight and into turn 1, to take over the lead. Meanwhile behind in 3rd, Rea had cooked his tyres, and was losing contact with the two riders ahead of him. It would surely come down to either the Spaniard or the Turk to claim to the win.

With 4 laps to go, Bautista had extended his lead to 0.8s, and Toprak was clearly suffering from tyre wear issues as was Rea. Meanwhile further back it was 8th Vierge, 9th Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), 10th Gerloff.

With the final 2 laps to go, Bautista had broke the advances of Toprak, and had extended the gap to 1.7s. Barring an incident, he would have the win in the bag.

WorldSBK 09.10.2022 Portimao, Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Racing, Alvaro Bautista

Last lap and Bautista crossed the line to deny Toprak a hat trick of wins across the weekend. It was Toprak 2nd, Rea 3rd, Rinaldi 4th, Lowes 5th, Locatelli 6th, Redding 7th, Vierge 8th, Gerloff 9th, Baz 10th.

With the final 3 rounds to come, it was looking as though Bautista firmly held the advantage over his rivals.

Result top 5:

  1. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  4. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)
  5. Lowes (Kawasaki KRT)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 448 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu – 392
  3. Rea – 366

 

Round 6 WorldSBK Most, Czech Rep, Race 2

The earlier Superpole race, saw the reigning champion, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) claim the win, followed by Rea (Kawasaki KRT), and Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WorldSBK 31.07.2022 Czech Rep Picture courtesy of Pata Yamaha Brixx

Before the start of the race both Lowes (Kawasaki KRT), and Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW), were declared unfit to start.

Lights out for race 2, and it was Toprak with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Bautista, Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati), and Rea in 4th. Bassani in particular, was looking really aggressive, and had barged through on Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati).

Next lap and positions were as follows: 1. Toprak 2. Bautista 3. Rinaldi 4. Rea 5. Bassani 6. Redding (BMW Motorrad). Toprak had already pulled out a gap of 0.6s, and was looking keen to get away.

Next lap and Rea out brakes Rinaldi into turn 1, to move up to 3rd. The leading group of 6 riders had already started to pull away from the rest.

On lap 4 of 22, drama for Rinaldi who over shoots into turn 1, losing the front end, and going down into the gravel. He was having a decent race up until that point.

Next lap and Bautista had now closed right up to Toprak, and was looking for a pass. It was Rea behind in 3rd who was setting the fastest lap time of the leading three, 1:32.206, and he was keen to not let either title rival get away. As he had in race 1, Redding was showing good pace, and managed to make a pass on Bassani, moving up to 4th.

With 17 laps remaining, drama for both Bautista and Redding, who both run hot into turn 1, running off the track. Both were able to rejoin, but lost positions in the process. Toprak, and Rea had both pulled away, and Bautista was able to rejoin in 3rd.

Next lap and Rea lined up Toprak into turn 1, and made the pass up the inside of the Turkish rider. Positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Bautista 4. Bassani 5. Redding 6. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha).

With 15 laps to go, Toprak repays the favour, and out brakes Rea into turn 1 to retake the lead. Meanwhile, Bautista had closed the gap down to 0.5s in 3rd. Further back it was 7th Gerloff (GRT Yamaha), 8th Lecuona (Honda HRC), and 9th Vierge (Honda HRC).

With 13 laps of 22 remaining, Redding had closed back up to Bassani, and made the pass up the inside of the Italian into turn 1. Rea was again the quickest of the leading 3, and posted a new fastest lap of 1:32.202. Bautista had clawed his way back, and as in race 1, the Ducati was looking much quicker in the second half of the race.

Next lap, and positions continued to be exchanged almost every lap, this time it was Rea to make another move on Toprak into turn 1, and again he retakes the lead. The gap from Bautista in 3rd to Redding in 4th, had been increased to 1.5s, and it was now a straight battle between the top 3 title contenders for the win.

With just over half race distance gone now, the Ducati was looking increasingly quick, and Bautista powered past Rea down the straight to take over the lead. The Kawasaki ZX10-RR didn’t have an answer to the Ducati’s sheer top end speed. Redding had now lost contact with the group ahead, and was adrift 2.0s behind in 4th, with Bassani behind in 5th.

With 8 laps remaining Toprak again burst under Rea into turn 1 to take 2nd. Bautista however, wasn’t getting away as he had in race 1, with both Toprak, and Rea still right on him. Meanwhile further back, both Nozane (GRT Yamaha), and Hickman (FHO BMW Motorrad) were having a better race in 15th, and 16th respectively.

WorldSBK 31.07.2022 Czech Rep Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Next lap, and a demon on the brakes, Toprak was able to cut under Bautista into turn 20 to retake the lead. Bautista was struggling to match the speed he had in race 1, possibly suffering from tyre grip issues, and Rea was keen to find a way past. Meanwhile further back it was 4th Redding, 5th Bassani, 6th Gerloff, 7th Locatelli, 8th Lecuona.

With 4 laps to go, Toprak looked to have managed his tyres to perfection, and set the new fastest lap a 1:31.713, increasing the gap to 0.9s to Bautista in the process.

Penultimate lap and Toprak Razgatlioglu had increased his lead to 1.2s, setting a new fastest lap of 1:31.705. Late drama for both Lecuona, and Gerloff who both suffer mechanical issues. The Texan is able to rejoin, but only at the back of the field. They were both having a decent race until then, notably Gerloff who was running in 6th.

Last lap and Toprak Razgatlioglu crosses the line to take the win, followed by 2nd Bautista, 3rd Rea, 4th Redding, 5th Bassani, 6th Locatelli, 7th Vierge, 8th Oetll (GoEleven Ducati), 9th Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti), 10th Bernardi (Barni Racing Ducati), 14th Hickman (FHO BMW Motorrad), 18th Gerloff.

Result top 5:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  4. Redding (BMW Motorrad)
  5. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 298
  2. Rea – 267
  3. Razgatlioglu – 260

 

Donington Park World Superbikes Couldn’t Have Planned It Better!

This weekend we are lucky enough to host the British round of the World Superbike series at Donington Park in Derbyshire and as far as I am concerned, it couldn’t have worked out better for them and us. At the time of writing this, the old laptop is pointing towards a temperature on Saturday of 28°c, Sunday showing 31°c and it doesn’t look like the wind is going to climb over 6 mph all weekend. SAFE TO SAY YOU’RE GONNA’ NEED YOUR SUNCREAM AND A HAT!

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Long hailed one of the jewels in the crown of British Racing, the 2.5 mile circuit winds its way across the rolling British countryside. Anyone who has visited Donington and walked down the Craner Curves to the Old Hairpin for example, will know it’s quite the hike. You are however rewarded by the stunning views and the spectating really does take some beating. Donington does cater well for slips, trips and falls with its gravel traps however it retains that “close to the track” feel that most British circuits, barring Silverstone offer. Hence Donington being a true fan favourite in person and on the TV.

The start of the season in World SBK has been anything (and everything) but boring. Unfortunately “boring” has been a moniker that the series has struggled to shake off it’s back in previous years. However, with some tweeking of the technical regulation by the series owner, to ensure the various manufacturers perform as closely as possible, and the recruitment of some seriously talented riders over the last 2-3 seasons, we have been served up nothing short of bar to bar, wheel to wheel, fairing to fairing, nonstop racing action AND IT’S ABSOLUTEY BRILLIANT!

Alvaro Bautista at Aragon 2022 WSBK. Image courtesy of Ducati

Jonathan Rea having taken a step this year aboard his Kawasaki ZX10R to ultimately close the gap (and overtake) last year’s World Superbike Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu on his Yamaha R1, plus the resurgence of the Ducati Panigale in the hands of returning factory rider Alvaro Bautista. Bautista has replaced regular race winner Scott Redding after he stepped away from the Italian Factory to race on BMW machinery for the 2022/2023 season. Bautista has taken the fight to both Rea and Razgatlioglu and put the dampers on any of Kawasaki and Yamaha’s hard work in the off season. After a string of hard-fought victories, the Spaniard holds a steady 36 points in the lead going into Donington on Rea with Razgatlioglu following another 43 points further back. Based on this alone, we are in for one hell of a treat this weekend.

The sweetener this weekend being the wildcards. The reigning British Superbike Champion, Tarran Mackenzie will make his World Superbike debut aboard a SBK Spec version of his McAms Yamaha R1. Taz was scheduled to debut at the Assen round of the world championship, however a pre-season training accident ruled him out of both Assen and even the opening rounds of the British Superbikes.

Speaking recently to worldsbk.com Tarran said “I am very excited to finally make my debut in the Superbike World Championship at Donington. It feels like it’s been a long time coming and I was obviously disappointed when we couldn’t do Assen. Donington is a special track for me as it’s only 10 minutes down the road from home, I’ve had some great success there in BSB so I am looking forward to getting out on a World Superbike-spec R1 and seeing what both myself and the McAMS Yamaha team can achieve. Obviously, there is a lot to learn with the engine and electronics, but I know the chassis well as my BSB bike is very similar. The level in World Championship is really high and I’m looking forward to getting out on track and giving it our all. I have to say a huge thanks to Steve and the McAMS Yamaha team, as well as Andrea and everyone at Yamaha Racing for making this possible.”

Joining the McAms team at Donington is the FHO Racing team. Peter Hickman will make his 3rd Wildcard appearance in the World Superbike series riding his very own motorcycle from the British Superbike series. As with the McAms bike, it will be running an upgraded electronics package to match the other race entrants with the hope of being in for the win.

In a statement released by the FHO Racing team, Peter Hickman says “I’m mega excited to get a chance to have a go at the World superbikes. I’ve done it twice – once in 2012 with Worx Suzuki and again in 2019 with the BMW World Superbike team but both times were last minute arrangements, jumping on bikes I had never seen before. This time I’ll be riding my FHO Racing BMW which I race in the British Superbike Championship so that will be good. We are having to work on raising the electronics package to World Superbike spec which will change things quite a lot which could be interesting, but we’ll see. I think it’s fantastic that we’re getting the chance to do this as a team and it’s all down to Faye. She’s owned the team for a year and a half and we’ve already done BSB, North West 200, Isle of Man TT and now we’re getting to do a World Superbike wildcard which is pretty cool. It’ll be good for everyone in the team to get to do a World Superbike round together. We’ve all done bits here and there not as a team, so I think it’s going to be a really great thing for us all.”

Also returning to the series is previous Kawasaki KRT rider and current Vison Track Kawasaki rider Leon Haslam, returning again for Team Pedercini Racing on their Kawasaki ZX10R. Not a last-minute decision. This has been in the making since the start of the season when Pedercini scaled back their two-bike team to a single bike entry and agreeing with Leon to join forces for four races this year. So far Leon has rode for the team at the Assen round where he scored 13th, 17th and 16th place finishes. Let’s hope Donington Park offers some home round advantage for Leon and he can pick up some much needed racing confidence after a somewhat disappointing start to the 2022 BSB season. Leon is also scheduled to ride for the Pedercini team at the Most and Portimao rounds later in the season.

WSBK Assen 23.04.2022 Razgatlioglu and Locatelli Picture courtesy of Pata Yamaha

As for the other Brits, it goes without saying we hope that Scott Redding, Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea have a great race. It’s been a while since we had a full compliment flying the flag for us on the world stage. It’s very nice to see some fresh faces being given a chance to shine. Well done to Yamaha, McAms, Kawasaki, Lucio Pedercini, BMW and Faye Ho for making the brave choices to invest further money into a sport famous for its expense. With the cost of living rising across the globe and the financial constraints placed on business in general, it’s a wonder we go racing at all.

Have a goodun’.

Racing Armchair

@racingarmchair

Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 2

The earlier Superpole race saw Rea (KRT Kawasaki), claim his first win of the weekend, followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out for race 2, and it’s Toprak with the hole shot, followed by Rea 2nd, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 3rd, Bautista 4th, Leucona (Honda HRC) 5th and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 6th. And then drama as light rain began to fall – would this have a bearing on the race?

Next lap, and Rea again showing good pace, takes over the lead from Toprak. His team mate, Lowes, was showing good early pace too and moved up into 5th, and then quickly into 4th moving through on Lecuona, setting a fastest lap of 1:37.222 in the process.

With 18 laps of 21 remaining, it was Lowes with another fastest lap this time 1:37.039, and moved past Bautista with a neat pass. Both the ZX10-RR machines were looking quick in the early stages of the race. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Lowes 4. Bautista 5. Lecuona 6. Locatelli 7. Rinaldi 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 10. Redding (BMW Motorrad).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Lecuona Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 13 laps to go, a group of 4 riders had splintered away from the others, with Locatelli trailing by 2s back in 5th. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Lowes 4. Bautista. The former then moves past Lowes to take 3rd. The good news was the earlier light rain had stopped, with the track remaining dry.

With 11 laps to go, as he had in race 1, Bautista was showing good late race pace, and used the top end grunt of the Ducati to overtake both Rea and Toprak down the straight and into turn 1, moving from 3rd into the lead. Meanwhile further back, Bassani was having a decent race and was now up to 7th.

Next lap, and Rea comes through on Bautista, after the Spaniard made a mistake running wide and missing the apex. Rea had gone with the softer tyre option, and it looked to be a valid choice, as the Irishman set a new fastest lap of 1:37.751.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Vierge Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 8 laps to go, Bautista again using the top end speed of the Ducati, powers past Rea to retake the lead into turn 1. Further back it was 10. Redding 12. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and 13. Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).

With 6 laps to go, the leading group was now down to 3, as Lowes went off the track briefly, losing contact in the process. The win looked likely to be fought out amongst the leading group of Rea, Toprak and Bautista.

With 2 laps to go, it was the turn of Toprak to lose contact with Rea and Bautista, after the reigning champion made a mistake and ran wide, seemingly struggling with tyre grip again.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Rea was all over the back of Bautista, he made his move into the chicane, cutting under the Ducati to take the lead. He held the slim gap into the final sector, and crossed the line to take his 2nd win of the day, and his 117 career win to date. 2nd Bautista, 3rd Toprak, 4th Lowes, 5th Locatelli, 6th Lecuona, 7th Bassani, 8th, Rinaldi, 9th Vierge.

Result top 5:

  1. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  2. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  4. Lowes (KRT Kawasaki)
  5. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 161 pts
  2. Rea – 144
  3. Razgatlioglu – 109

Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 1

With the extended break, it was a welcome return to action back on track. The skies were grey and gloomy, but the racing was white hot. Rea (KRT Kawasaki) would claim the Superpole with a fastest lap of 1:35.346, followed by Razagatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (aruba.It Ducati) in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out and it was Razgatlioglu with the hole shot into turn 1 followed by Rea, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), Bautista and Lowes (KRT Kawasaki). Mercado (MIE Racing Honda) crashed out, and his race was over.

With 20 laps to go, it was Toprak and Rea setting a very quick pace, and they were already pulling out a gap to the group of Locatelli and Bautista behind. Rea had gone with the harder tyre option and was able to match the pace of Toprak on the softer tyre, Rea setting a fastest lap of 1:36.258. Then drama into turn 6, Rea ran into the back of Toprak making contact with his rear tyre, but both riders were able to stay upright. The gap to Locatelli in 3rd was now at 1.0s.

With 18 laps to go Redding was again showing an improvement on the BMW, and was in 5th. Bautista used the top end speed of his Ducati to blast past Locatelli down the straight and took over 3rd. Meanwhile at the front both Toprak and Rea were still very much locked in battle, with only a gap of 0.5s between them.

With 16 laps to go, Razgatlioglu who was giving everything, ran too hot into turn 3, allowing Rea to come through and take the lead. Positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Bautista 4. Locatelli 5. Redding (BMW Motorrad) 6. Lecuona (Honda HRC) 7. Vierge (Honda HRC) 8. Lowes.

With 14 laps to go Toprak out brakes Rea into turn 1 to retake the lead. Bautista was struggling to match the pace of the two at the front.

With 12 laps out of 21 remaining, it was now Rea who out braked Toprak again into turn 1, and took over the lead. Neither rider was giving an inch, and you felt the race win would be fought out between the two of them. Bautista had distanced Locatelli, and was having a lonely ride in 3rd. Meanwhile further back it was Laverty (Bonovo action BMW) in 13th and Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) in 14th.

Next lap, and Toprak retakes the lead, again it’s into turn 1. Bautista was 1.7s behind in 3rd.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Just over half race distance, and Rea responds yet again, retaking the lead again into turn 1. This was becoming one of the all time great battles between Rea and Toprak, with the lead changing virtually every lap. Meanwhile Bautista was finding good late race pace, and set a new fastest lap of 1:36.7. The Spaniard wasn’t out of contention for the race win yet.

Next lap and the battle between Toprak and Rea showed no sign of ending, and yes, you guessed it, Toprak retook the lead into turn 1, both riders leaving braking to the very latest possible into the corner.

With 8 laps of 21 remaining, Rea again stuffs his ZX10-RR under the Yamaha R1 of Toprak, again it’s turn 1, and he retakes the lead. This battle looked to be going down to the wire. Meanwhile further back there was a 3 way battle for 5th between Redding, and the Honda team mates of Lecuona and Vierge. Bautista however, had now closed the gap to Toprak to 1.0s.

Next lap and once again the lead changed hands, this time the reigning champion retakes the lead, again it’s turn 1. The constant battle between Rea and Toprak had allowed Bautista to catch them, and he was now 0.4s behind, and was looking to have managed his tyres well.

With 6 laps to go, Rea was pushing hard, and ran wide into turn 1, allowing Bautista to come past and into 2nd. The Spaniard now had Toprak in his sights, and was looking quick. Meanwhile further back, Lecuona had got past Redding, and was now in 5th.

With 4 laps to go, Toprak held a gap of 0.4s to Bautista. Rea looked to have completely lost tyre grip, and was losing contact with the two at the front. Meanwhile further back it was Lowes in 8th, Baz (Bonovo action BMW) 9th and Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) in 10th.

With 2 laps remaining, Bautista was all over the back of Toprak and looking for the pass. The hard battle between Rea and Razgatlioglu had taken a toll on the tyres, and both of them were now struggling with limited grip in the closing stages of the race.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Toprak was desperately still trying to keep Bautista at bay. Into the final corner, and Bautista got the drive out of the corner to power past Toprak and pip him to the line. Toprak looked disgusted and shook his head, but Bautista had judged the race to perfection using all of his experience to claim the win. Top ten positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Rea 4. Locatelli 5. Vierge 6. Lecuona 7. Lowes 8. Redding 9. Rinaldi 10. Baz. If the Superpole race and race 2 are anything as exciting as this one, race fans are in for a treat.

Result Top 5:

  1. Bautista (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Vierge (Honda HRC)

Top 3 championship:

  1. Bautista 134
  2. Rea 107
  3. Razgatlioglu 84

 

 

 

IMPORTANT PORTIMAO TEST NEXT UP FOR KRT’s WorldSBK TEAM

KRT’s WorldSBK pairing of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes are eager to get back into testing action at the undulating Autódromo Internacional do Algarve for a two-day track session on 8 and 9 February.  Here’s what KRT have to say:

Alex Lowes Picture courtesy of KRT Provec Racing

After two winter tests at the Spanish circuit of Jerez, utilising new parts and settings for the 2022 Ninja ZX-10RR, the forthcoming on-track action in Portugal will be useful to make comparisons with all the data gathered so far at a very different circuit design.

After posting some astounding lap times, despite only riding for half a day in the previous Jerez test in January, six times world champion Rea has already demonstrated his sheer pace on the 2022 Ninja ZX-10RR. He also had the opportunity to complete a long run on which delivered pleasing results and valuable information to his team; information which has already been fed back to the KMC engineers in Japan.

Lowes has been working hard on his physical conditioning after a 2021 season affected by injury throughout. Like Rea, he has also found the two post-2021 season winter tests held so far confidence-building and useful in terms of settling on a final direction for race set-up in 2022.

The 4.592km long Algarve circuit – commonly know as Portimao – is a very popular testing and racing venue and features some of the most dramatic changes of incline and highest numbers of blind corner entries of any circuit on the WorldSBK calendar. It is scheduled as the ninth round of the forthcoming season, between 7-9 October.

After this Portimao test the team should have all the data in requires to make any adjustments and improvements before the next KRT test at Montmelo in Catalunya on March 25 and 26.

Jonathan Rea Picture courtesy of KRT Provec Racing

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It is nice to get back on the bike, especially at Portimao, which a track I enjoy. After our shakedown test recently in Jerez our biggest target is to reconfirm the positive items we have tested during December and January. That will give us good info, because if we can confirm these items at a couple of circuits, it means we are on the right way. The idea is just to keep building the package. I feel we have definitely improved the bike since last year. I was able to make a long run in Jerez and we found some positives with the bike and my riding style, so it is important to try and maybe focus on getting some information on how the tyres behave and the new items after many laps. Hopefully the weather is consistent and we can continue to build the package to start the season. There will also be more bikes on track at Portimao and a lot of the key manufacturers will be there testing. This is the first real test where everyone is together – which is always nice to draw some comparisons.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “The recent Jerez test for me was very much a technical test, ticking off new parts. My crew chief Marcel is very technical so I had new stuff to try – just trying to analyse what is definitely better. Portimao is a track that I have always had a good feeling with on the Kawasaki and we have a good base set-up with our 2021 bike. So, to compare new parts will be quite good, because we already have a good feeling. If we can improve that with the new stuff then it should set us up well for the year. Trying stuff at two different tracks means that if it is positive at both tracks then you are a lot more confident committing to that base set-up going into a new season. It is going to be a busy test! I would like to ride as much as possible just to get back into it. I have been working really hard on my physical condition since the end of the season. That has been the biggest focus of mine because I know if I am going to be healthy it is going to make the biggest difference, no matter what changes we make on the bike. We will make a plan with Marcel in terms of how many days we are going to ride. After this test we have a big break so we are really going to have to be clear with the feedback to all the guys in Japan, and to all the engineers within the teams, so we can work hard in the break before the Montmelo test at the end of March. Portimao will be an important test and I am looking forward to getting out and seeing where we are compared to a few of our rivals.”

Guim Roda (KRT Team Manager): “Initially we didn’t have a plan to test in Portimao, because we were considering to make a test in the middle of the year. But, because we had a few points to check on the bike, we would like to compare them on different tracks. Portimao and Jerez are quite different. Also, we have a gap of one month to keep working before the next Montmelo test, ten days before the first race of the year. So, we considered this opportunity at Portimao was a good point to test again. So we joined with Ducati, who had rented the track, to make this test. For us, this is a kind of continuation of the items we tested at Jerez, to double check and confirm the direction of the bike set-up and the performance of the items we have received so far. We will do this so that we can have the best possible bike set-up, in combination with the riders.”

Kawasaki Racing Team Press Release ahead of second winter test

JEREZ TEST AWAITS KAWASAKI RIDERS

At the beginning of a new calendar year the official Kawasaki Racing Team will take part in a second Spanish winter test, between 26 – 27 January, with regular WorldSBK pairing of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes eager to get back into action.

Picture courtesy of Provec Racing

The second pre-season test in preparation for the 2022 FIM Superbike World Championship will take place at the 4.423km long Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto.

Always a popular testing venue, Jerez hosted on-track session just a few weeks ago that allowed Alex and Jonathan to evaluate some new items and settings on their official Ninja ZX-10RR WorldSBK race machines.

The purpose of this forthcoming test is to evaluate all elements of machine performance after off-season developments have been carried out, largely based on feedback from the December tests.

Six times world champion Rea has the clear mission to regain his world champion status again after finishing runner up by just 13 points last year. Having come so close to a seventh championship win Rea is as motivated as ever to find the small margins that will help him to regain his crown in 2022.

For Lowes this next Jerez test is another chance to get his 2022 preparations underway in a consistent way. This is of particular importance after a 2021 campaign that was interrupted by injury, especially with so few gaps in the season long enough to let him recover fully between rounds.

The next KRT pre-season test after Jerez is scheduled for the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, between 8 – 9 February.

Picture courtesy of Provec Racing

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “We have two days planned at Jerez. Depending on the weather forecast, the schedule and how we get on, we may choose to use one of them and save another for later in the year. We had a very productive test at Jerez at the end of last year, so it is always good to go back and draw comparisons. The guys back at the KRT workshop, and KMC, have had a chance to go over all that data and try to improve. We will understand the results in a few days. I have been at home, really recharging my batteries. I haven’t travelled at all since my last test so it has been really productive from a preparation point of view. I am feeling refreshed and now I’m looking forward to riding again and seeing the guys.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): : “I am really excited to get back to work for 2022. I’ve taken a good rest over the holidays and enjoyed some time with the new family. Now I’m feeling fresh and ready to get back to it with ‘Team 22.’ I’m interested to test some of the new stuff Marcel, my crew chief, and the guys have been working on since our last test and start building up towards the new season.”

Guim Roda (KRT Team Manager): “The forthcoming Jerez test is the first track experience of the new year. After a long winter we all have a big motivation to start our engines and go into race mode. After last December’s test KMC has been working with the inputs we gave them. We have been polishing some points to check how competitive we can be compared to 2021. Alex has had time to recover quite well and Johnny is working more than ever to start stronger in the 2022 season. We need to define many small details that we need to make some upgrades on the final race package of the Ninja ZX-10RR in 2022. Let’s see how it goes at this test.”

Jonathan Rea – The Art of Psychological Racing

As the great Julian Ryder once said about racing at the highest level: “Talent will get you onto the stage, but winning is a matter between the ears”.

Jonathan Rea at Aragon 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

It is quite possible that Jonathan Rea has modelled his WorldSBK career on that line, and then some.

In 2020, given all the uncertainty that has gone with it, this attribute was overlooked by TV broadcasters (and in the interests of outright entertainment of the viewers, perhaps rightly so). However, as the dust has now settled on the season, it is high time to salute this remarkable, and ruthless attribute in Jonathan Rea’s arsenal:

The ability to read and control the championship.

Whilst Rea’s detractors will often highlight his supposed lack of charisma, however they cannot criticise or belittle his ability to know exactly what is needed to be done on track in any given scenario.

Few have the ability and it is the preserve of only the greatest champions: think Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi or Carl Fogarty in the motorbike world – Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost from Formula 1. Jonathan Rea is the same.

They do not “see red” when a rival overtakes them. They do not panic and adopt a “win it or bin it” attitude. They can even accept that some days they will not be spraying the champagne on the podium.

That last one may come as a surprise to some, but it is true.

Michael van der Mark, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Immediate glory on the track, these few know, pales in comparison to lifting the championship trophy at the end of the season. Their place in the standings is the only thing that matters.  It consoles them, when a race weekend heads south. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they give answers either on the grid or in the interviews in the build up to race day.  They are fixated on it. It’s the obsession which pushes them further than the others.

This ability has been showcased on multiple occasions throughout Rea’s career. Perhaps the most clear example came in 2019. Whilst all and sundry had written off his title chances, after Alvaro Bautista’s incredible run of 13 wins from the opening 16 races, Rea’s head never dropped. By ensuring that he constantly mopped up the next best places, he had put himself in prime position to catch Bautista as an when the Spaniard’s incredible run came to an end.

The patience and discipline shown in sticking to what needed to be done ensured that, despite Bautista’s early-season dominance, Rea was never more than a couple of victories away from taking the lead in the championship.  Once that happened, Rea hit the racers’ zenith. Such was the confidence in himself and his team, it was inevitable he’d hit his own ‘purple patch’

As has been the case for the past three seasons – Chaz Davies(left) is the only rider who can challenge Jonathan Rea (right) for the title.

In 2020, the championship battle required a different tactic. With the Kawasaki being more competitive at the start of the season, Rea was able to trade early-season victories with Scott Redding. Once his rival faltered and a gap in the standings had been established, Rea defaulted to prioritising scoring only as many points as he needed to keep Redding behind. He was content enough to let other riders go up the road, safe in the knowledge that his rival could not score sufficient points to make any meaningful inroads (if any at all) to his lead.

Described like that, it is a brutal suffocation of his rivals. Yet there is a fine art to it – and is very difficult to spot on track. Certainly to a casual observer. Rea has to always ensure that his rival (Redding in 2020, Tom Sykes in 2015) finished behind him.

You cannot afford to ride slow with this tactic, let’s make that clear.

If someone puts together a string of qualifying-style laps in an attempt to break away from the field, Rea uses his judgement to let them go. He has a target pace to ride to, with a small margin to increase pace should he need to recover places later in the race.

Many riders attempt to employ this tactic. Few succeed. Even fewer succeed year after year. As racing goes, this is psychological warfare: Grind down your opponent until he believes you are always that little bit better or faster than him. When a rival cracks – as Sykes and Redding did respectively – it looks sudden and spectacular as the defeated challenger loses heart and finds himself falling back through the field – or worse crashing out.

This kind of moment ensures that race result which ultimately seals the championship, but it has taken weeks, sometimes months to grind the opponent down to such a state.

Jonathan Rea Celebrating his six WSBK titles. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

You cannot pull that off overnight. Neither can you be taught it. A state of mind. You have to be utterly ruthless with your opponent – yet at the same time make it so subtle very few can spot what you’re doing until its too late.

Jonathan Rea – a true master of his art.

Ed Hocknull

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