Round 10 – Portimão
The title fight between Jonathan Rea and Alvaro Bautista will re-ignite this weekend after the European summer break.
Heading the championship standings with a comfortable lead, Jonathan Rea has completed a remarkable comeback. The Ulsterman, who was been as far as 61-points behind Alvaro Bautista earlier this season comes to a circuit of which he has regularly been dominant, in fact Rea has won the last seven races at the venue.
“I am really excited to get back into racing again. It has been such a long time since the last WorldSBK races and I can’t wait for the Portimao weekend. I love the track and after the tests we have a clear direction of the base settings that we will start with on the Ninja ZX-10RR. We will work step-by-step through Friday, trying to get a race package, and then focus on our qualifying to make sure we have a good race. I am going to have a lot of travelling support over from Northern Ireland and I cannot wait to get back to business. That race weekend feeling is something I really enjoy, together with all my team.”
Alvaro Bautista has endured a torrid couple of rounds and with his departure from the Aruba.It Racing – Ducati outfit confirmed, he has nothing to lose in the final four rounds of the season. Bautista has tested at Portimeo but has never raced at the undulating Portuguese circuit and will need to get back to the top of his game if he has any chance of taking the battle for the #1 plate up to Rea across the final rounds of the series. It has not been officially announced, but the fact that Bautista will spearhead an all-out assault on the 2020 series with Honda is public knowledge. Scott Redding will take Bautista’s place at Ducati and join Chaz Davies in the Aruba.It Ducati Racing squad.
“The two days of testing we did here last week were very useful, even though I preferred to rest my shoulder on the second day because it was the first time I had been back on the bike since my injury at Laguna Seca. I’ve had a few more days to recover, but during this weekend we might have to change our approach and try and rest the shoulder on Friday to be in a position to tackle the races in the best possible condition. Luckily, the two tests I’ve done at this circuit between January and now will be a great help, we have some markers, I know the track better and as a result it will all be a bit easier.”
Even though the gap to Rea is now 81 points, with four rounds still to be held (and a total of 248 points available) anything can still happen.
The battle for third place in the championship is well and truly alive and kicking, with six riders covered by 50 points. Alex Lowes arrives in Portugal off the back of finishing the Portimao test on top and is the leader of that sextet of riders that are vying for the #3 plate. It has also been confirmed that Lowes will not remain with the Pata Yamaha team for 2020 and where the Brit will end up next season is yet to be decided. There are possibilities that Lowes might join Bautista at the new look Honda squad, or could perhaps even join Kawasaki Racing Team in 2020 if KRT decide to demote Leon Haslam.
Lowes has had a difficult time of things at Portimao in recent years, with just two top ten results from the last six races held there.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to racing. While it’s nice to have a bit of a break in the middle of the season, you do miss racing. I’m ready now for the second part of the season, where the challenge is going to be to hold on to third place in the championship, and I need to be fighting for the podium in every race at these last four rounds if I’m to do that. We were really strong at the recent test in Portimão, where I did my fastest ever lap at this track to finish on top of the timesheet, which shows the bike is working well. The conditions were quite hot at the test and I didn’t quite have the feeling I wanted in the afternoons when the track temperature went up, but we have some ideas to improve in this area and, hopefully, we will have similar temperatures on Friday to work on this. I’m feeling really positive and I’m raring to go this weekend.”
On the other side of the garage, fortunes are different. Now back to full fitness and ready to go, Michael van der Mark will seek to build on his fourth place in the Portimao test. Three Portimao podiums in the last three races and all for Yamaha, can the 26-year-old return to winning ways?
Michael van der Mark
“It was a nice long summer break, which gave the wrist I fractured in Misano a chance to heal fully, but now I can’t wait to get back to racing. We head to Portimão for the race off the back of a really good two-day test at the circuit, in which I was really fast, and the aim is to rediscover the feeling I had before the crash in Misano, so that I can fight for podiums and race wins once again. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success in Portimão in the past, with three podium finishes in two years, and I hope we continue this trend this time around, to start the last part of the season in the strongest way possible.”
Chaz Davies returned to winning ways in emotional fashion at Laguna Seca, the Welshman will look to continue working in this way ahead of the remainder of the season. With his 2020 future confirmed, Davies will also want to gel further with the V4R Ducati and end the season strongly. A best result of second in Race 1 in 2017 is the highlight for him at Portimao. Can he win again?
“After the summer break and about two months after my win, I know it’s going to be a tough race here at Portimão, but the gains we made at Laguna Seca and the work we did in the test have really put a bit of a spring in my step. I feel like the bike is now a lot different to the one I’ve been racing this season and I’m looking forward to the race because I feel our pace is quite decent. Going on past results, for me this track is not the easiest one to get a win at, but I’m feeling optimistic because the Panigale V4 R is going better around here than the twin ever did. I’m feeling confident, even though Portimão is not an easy track and the bumps and undulations throw up a lot of different challenges.”
Leading the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team charge is Tom Sykes, who has been on pole three times at Portimao, whilst also achieving two wins at the rollercoaster Portuguese circuit. Sykes has achieved podiums at every WorldSBK round since Misano, highlighting the development of the new machine. The team themselves head into the round with optimism, having signed Eugene Laverty for the 2020 season. However Sykes did suffer a few tumbles at a recent test session which could have dented his confidence.
“I am really looking forward to heading back to the Portimão circuit on the back of a successful two days of testing there recently. During the test, we certainly gathered a lot of information for the set-up of the BMW S 1000 RR. Overall at the test, we tried various bike set-ups that we’re not usually able to do during the race weekends due to the restricted time which proved very, very good. We got some positive results, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off and try to keep our run of podium places on the go. The podium is certainly the target for the remaining races.”
The Independent team charge continues to be led by Toprak Razgatlioglu and the 22-year-old relentlessly set the pace on the opening day of Portimao testing. Having visited the circuit just once in his WorldSBK career, 2018 yielded an eighth and a DNF. A podium during every round since Imola, will Razgatlioglu continue his form?
Never discount other former Portimao winners who are in the Independent battle too, such as Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty.
“It’s a bit of a rollercoaster, but Portimão is a track I like a lot, it’s one that is fun to race at and I’ve always been fast there in the past. This weekend I head to Portugal in a different situation, as I’m still looking to improve my feeling with the bike even after the two days of testing at the circuit, but we will continue trying to improve during the weekend. The team has been working so hard, even over the summer break, so I am determined to pay them back with the best result possible in Portugal this weekend.”
Leon Haslam has taken four podiums at the venue for three different manufacturers: will Kawasaki be his fourth?
“I have had several podiums with various manufacturers over the years at Portimao, and enjoyed some really good racing. The recent test was really positive for our team and on race tyres I think we were ranked 1-2. I was only one or two tenths of a second off Jonathan’s best lap time with a race tyre. It has been a tough year in some ways with a few injuries and having to learn some circuits. But Portimao is a circuit we have tested at now and every time I have done that so far I have made the podium. Obviously that is the aim but also I feel we can be even more competitive and challenge the front guys. That is the main aim this weekend and I am really looking forward to it.”
Loris Baz took a second for Kawasaki back in 2014 and also keep your eyes on Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Jordi Torres and Sandro Cortese, as they all go in search of their first podiums of 2019.
The Moriwaki Althea Honda Team challenge will see a new face, with Takumi Takahashi replacing Leon Camier, as the British rider continues to recover from a shoulder injury. He will join Ryuichi Kiyonari, who returns to the Autodromo Internacional Algarve for the first time in a decade.
Other riders to watch out for include Leandro Mercado, who has a best of seventh at Portimao and has been top ten finisher in the last three rounds. Markus Reiterberger will look to end the season on a high and secure himself a ride for 2020. Alessandro Delbianco will make his Portimao WorldSBK debut, although he was sixth in the FIM Superstock 1000 race last season. All of the regular riders will be joined by former FIM Superstock 1000 champion, Sylvain Barrier. The French rider will wildcard with the BRIXX Ducati outfit.
WorldSBK Championship Standings
|4||Michael Van Der Mark||215|
|11||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||97|
Round 9 at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – Portimao is set to become a crucial stage for the 2019 FIM Supersport World Championship. With just four race weekends remaining on the calendar, the battle for the championship title will reach new heights in Portugal.
Just 15 points divide championship leader Randy Krummenacher from his teammate Federico Caricasulo. Also, Frenchman Jules Cluzel, now third in the standings 26 points behind Krummenacher, is back in contention after the outstanding victory taken in the UK before the summer break. For the three title contenders, there is no much time left before a champion will be decided. That is why Portimao leaves no space for mistakes. But, at the same time, it is when risks should be taken in order to make the difference.
For Krummenacher the ACERBIS Portuguese Round could represent a pivotal moment to extend his championship lead. But to do so, the Swiss rider knows that he has to finish at least better than Caricasulo, that this year has always shared the podium with Krummenacher apart from Donington Park.
“My first target from Portimão onwards must be to take points from my teammate in order to close the gap to the top of the standings. The second target is to win races. The two-day Portimão test was an important one for us. We were very fast, and it means we go into the first of the remaining four races in Portugal with some confidence. We have a lot of data from the test that we can refer back to, so I think we’ll be strong from the first free practice session at Portimão this weekend.”
In the UK, it was Krummenacher himself to miss his regular visit to the parc fermé for the first time in 2019. On the other hand, the Italian has an excellent chance to remount on the championship leader. At the Official Test, that took place at the same Portimao racetrack in August, Caricasulo showed off a good pace setting the fastest lap time. But, once again, Krummenacher was close behind him, as second quickest. Will we see another head-to-head battle between the BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team riders in Portugal?
Although the battle for the World Title remains a matter between three men, we can’t say the same for the Portuguese race trophy fight. Fresh off the back of his two consecutive podiums in Misano and Donington Park, 2017 WorldSSP World Champion Lucas Mahias looks forward to keeping on with his momentum in Portugal. The Frenchman didn’t take part in the Official test but spent two useful days working with his team in Misano during the summer break. 2018 saw Mahias taking the pole position and the victory in Portugal. Will the French rider be able to do the same this year with the Kawasaki ZX-6R of the Puccetti Team?
For the Portuguese Round, an eye should also be kept on Japanese rider Hikari Okubo, and the MOTUL Dutch Round podium finisher Thomas Gradinger. The Japanese rider is still chasing his first WorldSSP podium, while the Austrian is currently sixth in the standings. Moreover, Raffaele De Rosa and Spanish rider Isaac Viñales both proved to be competitive with their packages around Portimao in the recent Official Test. If they can repeat the same performance over the race weekend, they won’t miss the chance to take part in the challenge.
At the ACERBIS Portuguese Round, Dani Valle is set to make his WorldSSP debut with MS Racing as a substitute rider for Maria Herrera. Apart from the regular 26 entries, Miquel Pons will make a wild card appearance onboard the Yamaha YZF R6 of H43 Team NOBBY TALASUR-BLUMAQ.
With just two rounds more for the European FIM Supersport Cup, Kyle Smith (Team Pedercini Racing) has his first chance to win the title in Portugal by extending his championship lead of at least 25 points on the second. Will the British rider be able to celebrate in Portugal?
WorldSSP Standings – Top 10
- Randy Krummenacher 173
- Federico Caricasulo 158
- Jules Cluzel 132
- Lucas Mahias 82
- Hikari Okubo 73
- Thomas Gradinger 70
- Raffaele De Rosa 69
- Corentin Perolari 49
- Isaac Vinales 45
- Peter Sebestyen 38