WorldSBK riders return to the track after a short summer break this weekend for the second seasonal double-header of the Motul FIM World Superbike Championship that will start with round four of the calendar, on the Spanish track of MotorLand Aragón. They will then reconvene the following weekend for the fifth round of what is expected to be an eight-round series this year.
The Spanish MotorLand Aragón circuit has historically rather aggressive asphalt, especially harsh towards the rear tyres; in fact, the surface has a rather pronounced roughness that could cause tyre wear problems. In addition, the sand that is sometimes carried by the wind and deposited on the asphalt can cause loss of grip and drifts towards the centre of the corners. The front tyres, in addition to the wear caused by the aggressiveness of the asphalt, are also called to withstand violent braking at the end of the straight opposite the pits and the steep slopes, which cause high loading on the front end.
A slender four-point margin at the top of the Championship standings sees Jonathan Rea (KRT) holding off Scott Redding (Aruba Ducati), but with the last four wins at Aragon going to Ducati, it could all change this weekend.
Three wins at the Aragon circuit and coming off the back of the first hat-trick of the season, Jonathan Rea aims to continue his success and build on his Championship lead. The fourth Championship leader in just three rounds, Rea’s dominant triple at Portimao means he brings with him confidence, something that’ll be crucial in the back-to-back events.
“I am excited to go to Aragon especially as we have done a lot a lot of riding in the last few weeks, at Jerez, Portimao and then the recent Aragon test, so I feel really good on the bike. That test was an opportunity to ride the circuit in hot summer conditions. We have not done that in a number of years, because we use it as a winter test track. The bike was working really well in the heat, which confirmed our new base setting. Looking to this weekend itself the temperatures could be cooler than we had at the test – maybe in the mid-twenties on raceday – which will be nicer on the body but may throw us a curve ball. So, we need to make sure we are prepared on Friday to get a set-up that is user friendly, fast and consistent. The target will be to win races.”
KRT on a whole had an extremely positive test too, as Rea’s team-mate Alex Lowes topped the overall timesheets at the end of day two. Fourth in the standings, he wants to reassert himself and get a first podium since his Race 2 win at Phillip Island; he took his first Aragon rostrum in 2019 for Yamaha.
“We had a test at Motorland recently and I am looking forward to the races even more now. At the recent Portimao race, and a little bit in Jerez, due to the vast differences in track temperature compared to the winter, it was almost like learning things again on the Friday. With a race on Saturday you are almost straight into it. So for this round I am looking forward to continuing on the hard work from the Aragon test. We had a good feeling with the bike and the target for me is to get back on the podium with the Ninja ZX-10RR. Motorland is a track I really enjoy and I cannot wait to get out there again.”
Dominant. Dazzling. Ducati. A mighty record at MotorLand Aragon since 2015 means that the Bologna manufacturer are the squad to beat. Chaz Davies (Aruba Ducati) is sixth in the standings, but he’s got five Aragon wins for Ducati and two more victories from 2013 with BMW. Ducati also won the three races at Aragon in 2019 with Alvaro Bautista and now, another ex-MotoGP star is onboard the Panigale V4 R in Scott Redding. The rookie had a tricky Portimao and relinquished the lead in the title race. Four points split him and Rea and with Aragon welcoming the two heavyweights for thrilling action, could we see the first head-to-head battle between them?
“I’m excited to go back to racing also because we will have two consecutive race weekends on the same circuit where we have got important results. That’s why our expectations are great. The competition is stiff and it will not be easy to repeat those result but we will go on track with all the confidence and the potential to fight for the podium in every race“.
“They will be two very important race weekends in Aragon. The test we did two weeks ago allowed us to make improvements on the bike that will help me during the race and for this I am very happy. It will be important to find the right feeling from the very first laps to be competitive throughout the weekend. I can’t wait to get on track“.
Whatever happens, you can be guaranteed that Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) will be in the fight. The Turkish star suffered his first crash of the season at Portimao in Race 2 but remounted to finish eighth, whilst he was only seventh at the Aragon test after trying new items. It could be a tough round for the 23-year-old, but he’ll be up for the challenge regardless. Team-mate Michael van der Mark lies fifth in the standings, two places and 21 points behind him. An upturn in form has seen the Dutchman on three of the last five podiums and Aragon, whilst not his or Yamaha’s best track, could see the return of van der Mark to the top.
Michael van der Mark
“I’m really happy to go racing again, it’s going to be an exciting one I think because we had a very good test with some other top teams at Aragón a couple of weeks ago. So, we are looking forward to starting racing again! It will be interesting and tight, but my goal for this weekend is to take my first podium finish in Aragón and hopefully we can have a good battle for victory as well. I think we made some proper progress during the test, so we are ready to race and I’m just excited to start.”
“Aragón has not been the best track for me in the past, but after the last test I feel much better with the R1 here. We could find a big step in rear grip and tyre life, this is important. In Portimao I tried to win but we couldn’t quite do it. Here in Aragón I don’t know what’s possible, but I will give my best to fight at the front again, I think we can do well and hopefully get another podium.”
Paul Denning – Pata Yamaha Team Principal
“Aragón is a very challenging circuit, and one that we’ve struggled to fully exploit in the past, despite some highly competitive performances. The slow chicane leading onto the long straight means that acceleration is a key priority, and at the test the team and engineers were able to find some solutions that helped to find rear grip and chassis stability. This will hopefully allow Toprak and Michael to get the full potential from their R1 bikes. Two events and six races at this track over the next two weekends means that we have to perform as well as we possibly can – we have two highly motivated riders and a very focused crew, and we will be giving it everything!”
Seventh in the standings is Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC), with him and the Honda effort enjoying recent rounds and starting to make an impression towards the front of the field. A best result of the season in fifth in Race 2 at Portimao sets the Spaniard up for great things at a track he dominated at last year. Coming off the back of a strong MotorLand Aragon test, Bautista could be in line for a first podium of 2020. Team-mate Leon Haslam has never won at Aragon, but he was on pole in 2015; will he be able to challenge at the front of the grid this weekend, and push towards the rostrum places? Both Hondas are making steps and back-to-back rounds at one circuit will be just what they need.
“We collected a lot of data during the latest test we completed at Aragón after the Portimão round, and so we have some ideas for the upcoming races. It will be a tough double-header of course, particularly physically, with similarly hot conditions to Jerez and Portimão, but we must be ready to work hard all the same. Our target is clear, or rather to keep improving the feeling with the bike and our performance on the bike. The results will come if we continue to take steps forward. This bike feels increasingly like “my” bike and I’m looking forward to the next rounds.”
“I’m looking forward to the weekends in Aragón. It’s probably the best opportunity we have, because we’ve already tested there twice and so we understand what’s required. So hopefully we can go into the weekend focusing more on fine tuning, rather than testing big things. Our pace in testing was quite good, though we still need to work on some details in the hotter conditions. But I’d say it’s one of our best chances to be fighting for the top spots.”
BMW were absent from the MotorLand Aragon test but return to the place where they achieved a first front row since their factory comeback in 2019. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is only tenth in the Championship and did the double at Aragon back in 2014, whilst Eugene Laverty is down in 14th overall, but picked up a first top ten of the season in Portugal. Both Tom and Eugene have been missing a bit of pace during the race but with both riders experienced at Aragon, they’ll be hoping to make progress and challenge for their first top five finishes of the 2020 season. Sykes recently extended his contract with BMW (Link) and will race for the German brand again in 2021, where his team-mate next season will be Michael van der Mark.
“I am very much looking forward to the double-header in Aragón. We are continuing a string of races in very hot conditions and in the Spanish climate. Obviously we have done some preparation for this, but we have some work to catch up with our opposition. I do believe we have some areas on the circuit where the chassis of the BMW S 1000 RR can be very good. So we will continue our work on Friday where we left off in Portugal and I believe we can go there, keep working in the way that we have been doing recently, and get the best result we can. For now, we still have areas to work on and that’s where we will continue in this upcoming event.”
“I’m looking forward to this double header at Aragón. I’ve watched both F1 and MotoGP races at the same track on consecutive weekends lately and it’s been interesting to see many drivers and riders improve on their second visit. With this being my first time riding the BMW S 1000 RR at the Aragón circuit I expect to make strides forward over the course of the two weekends. Last time out at Portimão I really felt that we had a great bike for Sunday but unfortunately I crashed early in both races, one my own doing and the other not. The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team has done a fantastic job bringing the bike forward over the past few rounds as we’ve worked to resolve our weakness in the slow 1st and 2nd gear corners. We’re only going to get stronger from here on in.”
Leading the Independent teams to Alcañiz is Loris Baz (Ten Kate Yamaha) with eighth overall. He was back on the podium at Portimao after six years away but another Race 2 crash means he comes to Aragon slightly on the backfoot, especially given that he and the Ten Kate squad haven’t visited with Yamaha machinery. A point behind is the in-form Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GoEleven), who made his WorldSBK debut at Aragon. The Italian is in the best form of his career, with the last four results being in the top eight – including two top five finishes. The next Independent is America’s Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha), racing for the first time at Aragon, having tested there before.
Gerloff’s team-mate Federico Caricasulo was on the WorldSSP podium at Aragon and comes from his WorldSBK first top ten at Portimao; they are 12th and 17th in the standings respectively. Marco Melandri (Barni Racing Team) was the first winner at Aragon back in 2011 and returns for more in 2020, as Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti) has happy memories there too, leading a race in 2018. Chile’s Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) is back on track and keen for points at a circuit he knows from STK1000 and Leandro Mercado (Motocorsa Racing) hopes for another top ten. Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) aims to build on his first point of 2020 from Portimao and Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing Althea Honda) and teammate Lorenzo Gabellini seek their first points of 2020.
WorldSBK action starts at the generously appointed Motorland circuit on Friday 28 August, and as usual there will be three WorldSBK races in all. Race one, over 18 laps, takes place on Saturday 29 August, the Tissot-Superpole sprint race on Sunday morning and then finally a full distance race two, on Sunday afternoon. See below for the weekend schedule in Australian Eastern Standard Time.
Given the peculiarities of running a global motorsport series during a global pandemic the Aragon round this coming weekend will be followed just a week later after by the Teruel round, albeit at the same Motorland venue.
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.