Few places on Earth are more motorbike-crazy than the southern Spanish town of Jerez, so with the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship making its way back to the Circuito de Jerez this weekend after a one-year absence, a passionate reception from the local fans is expected, and for one man in particular.
Alvaro Bautista heads into a home round for the second time this season as the man to beat – what has changed since then is that he is no longer unbeaten.
The Jerez circuit has long straights, for a length equal to 69 per cent of the entire track, and slow curves alternating with fast straights.
This will be the first time that the Andalusian circuit will host the production derived series at the beginning of June, usually the appointment has always been scheduled for September or October. Pirelli knows the circuit very well even though since it was resurfaced in 2017 it has only run for a year; so the asphalt could still represent an unknown factor.
Imola, four weeks ago, was in many ways a throwback to the last few years of WorldSBK before the Spaniard flipped the script this season. The two men trading barbs at the top of the timesheets, Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies, have endured no shortage of frustrating moments so far this season after years upon years of one-upmanship – but the page may have turned at last.
Rea showed imperious form around the sleek Italian track, winning both races, breaking the lap record in Race 1 and overcoming his previously invincible rival by a combined 14.6 seconds. The four-time champion has tasted blood for the first time this year and is all the more dangerous for it.
“I’m excited to go to Jerez and understand our potential there. After the race weekend in Imola and a positive test at Misano I feel ready for this next challenge. Jerez is a very nice circuit to ride, especially the fast flowing corners at the end of the lap. It will be important to make a lot of laps during practice to prepare for the races, as it’s the first time we have raced in Jerez during the summer. The temperatures will be much higher than we experienced during our winter tests. With this in mind, we will work hard and try to keep the momentum going.”
Meanwhile, anyone browsing through a stats sheet may be led to believe that Davies’ weekend was little better than the four prior, nine-points a desperately low tally for one of Ducati’s favourite tracks. The Welshman has been at odds with the new V4 R since the start of the year, and while the battle in Italy was arguably lost, the war may have at last fallen in his favour. Only a mechanical failure and the cancellation of Race 2 kept Davies from taking a hat-trick of podiums at Imola, and perhaps even a first race win since April 2018. From Aragon last year to Jerez 2019, the drought will surely soon be behind him.
From the championship leader’s perspective, the Italian Round was more of an outlier than a change of fortunes. Imola is as old-school as they come: rough and testy for newcomers, a delight for the veterans; and while he fell into the former group in Italy – and still performed above expectations – Jerez is a completely different story.
There may not be a track on the calendar where Bautista has ridden more miles or with a wider variety of bikes, even making his WorldSBK debut there back in November. More to the point, on his very first day onboard the V4 R he finished barely a couple of tenths of a second behind Rea. There will be no such warnings this weekend.
Another anomaly at Imola was the lack of YZF-R1s on the rostrum in both races. Illness and an unshackled Toprak Razgatlioglu kept Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark off the podium, respectively; yet it still turned out to be the Japanese manufacturer’s best weekend at Imola in many years. A top-three return could be on the cards for Jerez, even with the number of potential frontrunners increasing every round.
Michael van der Mark
“Fortunately, we got a window of good weather on the second day of the Misano test and we managed to work our way through a lot of the test program, with the boys working hard to test as much as we could. Going back to Jerez is always nice, as we do a lot of testing there in the winter. This year there is a new surface again, so it will be interesting to see how the bike will feel compared to the tests. I feel really good with the bike at the moment and the base set-up has worked well at the last few tracks, so I think we can be really strong this weekend in Jerez. The podium is the target; we were close in Imola, but not quite close enough.”
“We got a lot done with the limited amount of dry track time we had on the afternoon of the second day in Misano. We managed to complete most of our test plan but, obviously, we didn’t get the chance to do any long runs. We made some steps forward with the bike and I’m happy with how the test went. Jerez is a track I really enjoy and one where we do a lot of laps in the winter, although the temperature will be a lot higher for the race weekend. In the past it’s also been a track that suits our Yamaha R1 and, with the steps we’ve made this year with the bike, I’m heading to Spain confident we can be in the fight for the podium in all three races this weekend.”
That leads us to perhaps the biggest story emerging from Team Blue this round: the long-awaited return of one of WorldSBK’s most beloved squads, Ten Kate Racing. The Dutch squad, world champions in both WorldSBK and WorldSSP alongside Honda, have partnered with Yamaha for this new chapter, recruiting Loris Baz for the ride. After last week’s soaked out Misano shakedown, the French racer and Ten Kate are ready to put their savoir-faire into action.
Loris Baz – Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“While conditions at the Misano test weren’t ideal for me or the team, given that this was our first outing with the Yamaha R1, we were certainly all happy to be back! We managed to work thought a lot at the test, although it would have been nice to get a third day with full dry conditions. But I was happy with the test; I managed to improve my lap time with every exit, which was cool, but I still need to work out how to get the best from the bike on a new tyre. Now we head into our first race weekend in Jerez, a track I know very well indeed, which is an advantage. It will be fun to race again and I’m really happy that we now have three races each weekend, because this provides us with more opportunity to learn the bike and the tyres. Friday will be about finding a base set-up on the bike and me finding my pace after such a long break from racing, but our goal is to try and reduce the gap to the front with each session. I’m looking forward to it!”
If race pace was the one factor taken into consideration to judge a rider’s merits, few were more brilliant in Italy than Tom Sykes. Yet wherever the Yorkshireman went misfortune followed, technical and tyre issues leading to a meagre return of two points over the weekend. Silver lining? The S1000 RR looks like a rocket in the making, particularly in his hands. A first podium cannot be too far off for the increasingly competitive BMW Motorrad project – but will it arrive in Jerez?
Elsewhere down the field, Yuki Takahashi replaces the injured Leon Camier to form an all-Japanese alliance with Ryuichi Kiyonari. Tommy Bridewell will once again be filling in for Eugene Laverty, after his outstanding, last-minute replacement job in Italy, while ‘Tati’ Mercado is set to return from his scaphoid injury after a two-month absence.
WorldSBK of Jerez Stats
After the first thirteen races of the season, there have been only two winners: Alvaro Bautista who took 11 victories so far, and Jonathan Rea, who won twice. It is the first time that this happens in WorldSBK history. The previous record was 12 wins took by only two riders since the beginning of the season. It occurred in 2003 when Neil Hodgson won 11 times, and James Toseland once. The string was broken by Ruben Xaus, Hodgson’s team-mate, who claimed a double in Misano.
Jonathan Rea in Jerez will make his first attempt at reaching 150 WorldSBK podiums: his tally is now 147. No one so far has reached the 150-podium mark in history. Within Rea’s reach, there is also the record of podiums for a single manufacturer: he climbed on the podium 105 times for Kawasaki, and the record is 107, set by his former team-mate Tom Sykes with Kawasaki.
Jonathan Rea has recorded his 24th straight podium in Imola, and he is just one shy of the all-time record sequence set by Colin Edwards from the second to the last race of the 2002 season.
Race 1 in Jerez will be for the ARUBA.IT Racing Ducati rider Chaz Davies the 190th WorldSBK race; the Superpole Race will be his 140th start with Ducati.
The sixth place on the grid is Davies’ lucky one in Jerez: he won all his three races at the Spanish circuit starting from there.
The last six wins at Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto were all taken by British riders: 3 by Chaz Davies, 2 by Rea, and 1 by Sykes.
Five times out of six, the winner scored the double in Jerez: 1990 (Roche); 2013 (Laverty, Moriwaki Althea Honda Team); 2014 (Melandri, GRT Yamaha WorldSBK); 2016 (Davies); 2017 (Rea).
In the first seven races run in Jerez, five times it was the poleman who went on to win the race, the last one in 2015, Race 1 (Sykes). Since then, none of the five wins here came from pole.
Only one win here didn’t come from the first six spots of the grid: that was Jonathan Rea, winning from 9th on the grid in 2017, Race 2.
If Leon Haslam gets a podium from Jerez onwards, his interval between his first and last podium will go beyond 15 years. So far only two riders were able to score podiums in races more than 15 years apart: Troy Corser (16 years, 1 month, 25 days between his maiden podium in Donington, 1994 and his last one in Misano, 2010) and Noriyuki Haga (15 years, 1 month between Sugo 1996 and Imola 2011).
After a dramatic Pirelli Italian Round, the WorldSSP championship heads to sunny Spain and the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, just outside of Jerez de la Frontera. Championship leader Randy Krummenacher heads his teammate, Federico Caricasulo, by 22 points and will be eager to build on his gap. However, could come from elsewhere at the Acerbis Spanish Round.
Randy Krummenacher’s season has been nothing short of superb, having achieved three wins and two second places, firmly establishing himself at the forefront of the WorldSSP field. The Swiss rider heads to Jerez and a circuit at which he has never scored points at since his arrival into the WorldSBK and WorldSSP paddocks. Should he achieve another victory, the 29-year-old will have taken back-to-back wins at the third time of asking; something that Switzerland has never achieved in WorldSSP.
Whilst Krummenacher has been on the podium, his teammate, Federico Caricasulo has shadowed him every step of the way, also taking five podiums from five races. The Italian, who was robbed of victory by a technical issue on the final lap at Imola, will hope to strike back at Jerez. The last time WorldSSP came to Jerez, Caricasulo was the winner, starting from pole and achieving the fastest lap. Could Jerez be the turning point for the 23-year-old?
What looked like a promising Imola ended in a bit of a disappointment for Jules Cluzel, as the Frenchman took his worst result of the season after leading in the early laps. Caught up in an accident with fellow Frenchman Lucas Mahias and Thomas Gradinger, Cluzel managed a seventh place but lost touch in the title race. He’s now 37 points adrift of the lead but comes to Jerez, where has was second in 2017. Can he go one better in 2019?
It was a splendid Imola weekend for Hikari Okubo, who took a career-best result in WorldSSP. Now, heading to Jerez, Okubo wants to build on his strong season, having yet to finish outside of the top eight in 2019. He will also be eager to end the nation’s podium drought, with the last Japanese rider mounting the podium being Katsuaki Fujiwara at Silverstone in 2007. Can Okubo impress at a circuit where his best result is 13th?
Raffaele De Rosa was back at the sharp end in Italy, taking a home podium at Imola to elevate him back to fifth in the overall standings. De Rosa will be looking for his first back-to-back podiums in almost a season, the Italian will look hope to achieve a good result at a circuit which he knows well. However, this will be his first time at Jerez on a WorldSSP machine, which promises excitement as he seeks a return to the podium.
Placed sixth in the championship, Thomas Gradinger endured more bad luck in Imola, suffering his second retirement which was no fault of his own. Still, on his day, the Austrian rider is fighting hard at the front of the field and will be desperate to get back on the podium for the second time. However, Jerez is a new circuit for the Kallio Racing rider to undertake, making Free Practice sessions very important if he wants a top result.
Watch out for Lucas Mahias at Jerez, as he looks like his 2017 WorldSSP Championship winning self. Isaac Viñales is hoping for a good homecoming, whilst Ayrton Badovini and Peter Sebestyen will both want to return to the top ten for a second consecutive round.
The WorldSSP300 Championship will be the busiest it has ever been, with two action-packed races on the horizon at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. It will be a thrilling weekend, with two races meaning that stakes are very high, and riders will need to capitalize on the Free Practice sessions for optimum race pace. Heading the championship standings with a perfect 50 points, Manuel Gonzalez will hope to retain his advantage.
Two wins from two races, Manuel Gonzalez has battled hard to take his first career victories. The Spaniard, who heads to his second home event of the season, will be eager to put on a strong show in front of his home crowd. The 16-year-old, from Madrid, wildcarded at Jerez back in 2017 and finished 34th, although he will be sure to improve on that this weekend, in order to remain at the front of the championship battle.
Veteran WorldSSP300 rider and three-time race winner Scott Deroue knows better than anyone that this is the perfect opportunity to take points off Gonzalez. Finishing second at Jerez back in 2017, the Dutchman will hope to capitalize on Gonzalez’s relative inexperience at the circuit at WorldSSP300 level. Can Deroue halt Gonzalez’s charge in 2019?
Just a few points back from Deroue, Hugo De Cancellis has made a strong start to his 2019 campaign. The French rider, who has taken one podium in 2019, will take heart from the fact that his consistency has put him in the championship fight. In the first two seasons of WorldSSP300 action, the eventual champion has never won in the opening two rounds of the season. Will De Cancellis start winning at Jerez?
It is a fourth different nationality lying in fourth in the championship, with Jan-Ole Jahnig sitting on 29 points, some 21 behind Gonzalez. The German rider was fourth at MotorLand Aragon and third at TT Circuit Assen, highlighting his progression as the season unfolds. The 18-year-old made one appearance at Jerez in 2017 but wasn’t classified. Will he be a race win challenger?
Completing the top five is Omar Bonoli, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his young WorldSSP300 career. A seventh place at MotorLand Aragon was followed up by a sixth-place finish and a fastest lap at Assen, meaning the progress is certainly showing for Bonoli. The 17-year-old Italian will look to make up for lost points at Imola with two strong races at Jerez, a circuit which is new to him, despite not being classified in 2017.
There are plenty of other names to keep an eye on, with Galang Hendra Pratama being the last – and so-far only – winner in the class at Jerez. Former Jerez WorldSSP300 pole-sitter Marc Garcia will want to return to the front, whilst reigning champion Ana Carrasco will seek to improve on her 11th place championship position. Andy Verdoia will be another rider in the mix, having completed the seventh addition of the VR46 Master Camp.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.