2020 WorldSBK Round Seven – Nevers Magny-Cours
This weekend the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship circus moves to France where the penultimate round of the season will take place at Nevers Magny-Cours. The French round could be a pivotal moment in the run-up to the world titles of the Superbike and Supersport 300 classes.
In WorldSBK Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) dominates the overall standings, 51-points ahead of Ducati rider Scott Redding. So at this round the five-time World Champion could win his sixth consecutive world title.
While in WorldSSP it is Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) who was crowned World Champion in Montmelò, in the WorldSSP300 class the fight for the title is still open: the Kawasaki Dutchmen Jeffrey Buis and Scott Deroue are respectively forty-seven and thirty-one points over Turkish rider Bahattin Sofuoglu (Yamaha). Joining the Aussies in the category this weekend is Sharni Pinfold, who has secured a ride in the category this weekend alongside countrymen Tom Bramich and Tom Edwards.
Previously an F1 venue and a stronghold of the WorldSBK championship, having hosted its first WorldSBK event in 2003, Magny-Cours will be unique in 2020 terms as it officially welcomes spectators to the races this coming weekend. None of the top teams in WorldSBK has tested at the circuit this season, which throws another unknown quantity into the pre-race mix. Changeable weather is always a potential factor to take into account in central France at this time of year.
Inaugurated almost 60 years ago in 1960, the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit is 4411 metres long and has nine right-handers and eight to the left. This track is characterised by sudden deceleration and re-acceleration changes, interspersed with medium length straights and plenty of altitude changes. In its default layout it also provides a hairpin (Adelaide) with one of the heaviest braking points present among the international circuits after arriving from a fast straight. The asphalt has a smooth and regular surface and therefore offers little natural grip, especially in case of low temperatures or in the wet. The riders are called to brake in the downhill sections putting the front tyre under stress thus front end confidence will be key.
This is a make or break weekend for Scott Redding as he seeks to redress the 51-point deficit to Jonathan Rea. The track is new to Redding but Ducati is the most successful manufacturer at Magny-Cours with 16 wins credited to the Bologna machines.
“I don’t know the Magny-Cours circuit very well and have never competed there in my career. However, it seems a very interesting circuit and also suitable for the Ducati Panigale V4 R and this could be a good starting point. I really like to race on new circuits and I’m very motivated. We will find unpredictable weather conditions and this will make the weekend even more exciting. I know the team is already working and I can’t wait to get back on track”.
This weekend offers Jonathan the first arithmetical opportunity to secure the Riders’ Championship itself, should the overall results go in his favour strongly enough. If his 51-point lead grows to 63 points or more by the end of the weekend in France, Rea will be crowned champion no matter the results of the final round, to be held at Estoril in Portugal, in mid-October. Of his five successive championship wins Jonathan has secured three of them at Magny Cours, in the 2017, ‘18 and ‘19 seasons. He has taken six of his all-time record 97 race victories in WorldSBK at Magny Cours.
“Magny Cours is a circuit I have a lot of special memories of in the past. Recently they have resurfaced the circuit so we need to pay attention to that. In Magny Cours we will face cooler weather conditions than we have for most of this season’s championship. There is always the possibility that it will be wet but we will just take that in our stride. Magny is different to the circuits we have been riding on during the season so far. It is very stop and go, with a lot of hard acceleration and fast changes of direction. We have been strong in those areas in the past so we just need to understand our base set-up and manipulate that as the track requests. I have been feeling good with the bike this season and I am excited to get stuck in. Of course, while we need to keep one eye on the weather forecast, the target is always the same – to win races and go step-by-step.”
After a stunning first win of the season two weeks ago in Barcelona, Chaz Davies will try to confirm his extremely positive momentum to both consolidate his third place in the riders’ standings and contribute to the chase for the team standings as the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team is second (427 points) only 8 points behind the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK.
“It’s a good time for us and after the precious results obtained in Barcelona, we want to continue in this direction. During the Montmelò weekend the feeling with the bike was really solid. If the feeling with the front end was positive in the previous races already, I think that we have also been able to fix the feeling with the rear. We will give our best in Magny-Cours even if we don’t know in which weather conditions we will race”.
After winning his first race of the season in Barcelona, Dutchman Michael van der Mark is looking to go one better than his career-best Magny-Cours second place (achieved in Race 2 last year and in Race 1 in 2016) and to add to the tally of five podiums from Nevers that he already has to his name.
Michael van der Mark
“I’m looking forward to Magny-Cours this weekend, it’s a track I’ve always had good results at and especially given the flow we’ve had at the last couple of races I think that we can be really strong. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t look amazing, but I think we have a good set-up with the Yamaha R1 both in the wet and the dry, so we don’t have to worry a lot. I can’t wait to go out on Friday.”
Although it is still only Toprak Razgatlıoğlu’s first year in official Yamaha colours, the young Turkish rider has paid special attention to the double podium performances achieved by the Pata Yamaha team in the past. He himself is also no stranger to this particular rostrum, as it would be hard to forget Razgatlıoğlu’s spectacular maiden victories, both achieved after incredible fight-back performances from P16 on the grid in 2019.
“After a week of rest and physical therapy, I am already feeling much better after the big crash in Barcelona. There are still some days left between now and Friday morning, so I will continue working to come back fit for Magny-Cours. It is a circuit I really enjoy, especially after my victories there last year, and the Yamaha R1 has been strong in the past so I am looking forward to seeing what is possible. The weather prediction is not so good and wet conditions are not my favourite, but I have more confidence than before. I hope we can fight for podiums and challenge for victory once again.”
Starting his 2020 campaign on the Ninja ZX-10RR with a win and another podium finish at the opening round in Australia, Lowes is keen to get back into top-three contention to move himself up the championship table after experiencing some tough luck in recent rounds. Lowes is sixth overall, just 12 points from the rider ahead of him.
“After a tough race in Barcelona last time out I’m excited to get back on the Ninja ZX-10RR. It’s a new track for me with this bike but a venue that both Kawasaki and I have had some good results at in the past. As always at Magny Cours it’s going to be about adapting well to the weather conditions but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Overall, it doesn’t seem right only having two rounds left this year. I still feel relatively new with the bike and the team so it’s about finishing this year as strongly as possible and then building momentum into next.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) is the highest placed Independent in the Riders’ Championship standings despite being outscored by Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) at the Acerbis Catalunya Round; Rinaldi suffering a technical issue towards the end of Race 2 when fighting at the front while French star Baz was able to secure his second podium of 2020 with third place in the Tissot Superpole Race. Baz was a podium contender at Magny-Cours last year on his way to fourth in Race 1 and hopes for a first home rostrum in front of his fans this weekend coming.
The Magny-Cours track will pose another new and exciting challenge for Team HRC, which fields its CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP2 machines on French soil for the first time. Both riders are keen to build on the potential seen so far and round out the season with strong results at the final two rounds.
“In the last few days I have worked a lot on my foot in order to recover from the fracture I suffered in the Superpole race in Catalunya and I feel a bit better. We will see when I get on my bike if I’ll be able to ride well and not feel pain. As for Magny-Cours, it’s not a track where I have a lot of experience, having raced there just once, last year. It’s quite different to the Catalunya track and we will have to wait and see how our bike will behave. The feeling we had at Barcelona was very positive and we worked well there, especially on the electronics side, the area where we actually can work the most. So, we have some ideas for the coming rounds. It looks like the weather will be a bit challenging, wet and cold, conditions that are still quite new for us and so we’ll see how it goes. The feeling was not bad in the wet in Catalunya, but temperatures were warmer and that makes quite a difference. Anyway, we hope to find the same positive feeling we had in Catalunya and to be able to continue to develop our bike’s setup.”
“I’ve had some good races at Magny-Cours in the past. This time of year, the weather can be up and down but honestly, I’d like to ride the bike in the wet, because in full wet we’ve been very fast and I have good feeling. In the dry, I feel we’re on the brink of putting things together. Although my last race in Spain was difficult, I think if we can do well right from FP1, we can be challenging for the podium, so hopefully we can try to do just that this weekend in France.”
Magny-Cours proved to be a good circuit for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team last year when Sykes finished on the podium in third with his RR in the race Saturday.
“I am very much looking forward to the French round of the Superbike World Championship. I like Magny-Cours; I enjoy the layout of the track to be honest. Last year, we had a podium there with the BMW S 1000 RR so we are certainly hoping to pick up on the results that we had there last year. This weekend certainly looks interesting in terms of the weather forecast. The target will be to try and capitalise on the handling of the bike in these tricky conditions and hopefully we can aim to get some podium finishes before the end of the season. Apart from that all ready, prepared and looking forward to start the race weekend. I’m also looking forward to having fans in the grandstands again. We’ve missed them and it’s great that they can be back.”
“It’ll be great to have the fans back at Magny-Cours. Phillip Island was a long time ago when we last had fans trackside and since then we’ve only had tumbleweeds in the grandstands! It’s still a little too early to look at the detailed weather forecast for the weekend but we are expecting some wet weather in any case. I had the opportunity to try the BMW S 1000 RR in wet conditions during practice at Catalunya and my impressions were good. Rain or shine – my aim is to continue our forward progress of recent rounds towards that top five.”
After securing his maiden WorldSBK podium, Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) comes into the French Round full of confidence; the rookie became the first American to stand on a WorldSBK podium since the late, great Nicky Hayden in 2016. His team-mate, Federico Caricasulo, has raced at the circuit four times in WorldSSP and secured one podium, in 2017, and aims to use this experience to help him secure a top ten finish.
Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) comes to the Pirelli French Round with four consecutive point scores and hopes to be competitive given his past podium pace from 2018. Valentin Debise (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR) will continue to substitute for the injured Sandro Cortese having scored a best finish of 14th at Catalunya. Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) will be looking to make a step forward on a circuit he secured his joint-best WorldSBK result on, with tenth. Barrier and Debise being on the grid mean there are three French riders lining up for their home race.
WorldSBK Championship Standings
|4||Michael Van Der Mark||178|
|7||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||144|
Catalunya WorldSBK Schedule
|2100||WorldSSP300||Last Chance Race|
2020 WorldSBK Calendar
March 1 – Phillip Island August 2 – Jerez August 9 – Portimao August 30 – Aragon September 6 – Aragon September 20 – Catalunya
- October 4 – Magny-Cours
- October 18 – Estoril