For the first time in the history of the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship, the Circuit of Catalunya-Barcelona becomes part of the 2020 calendar and thus becomes the sixth track in Spain to host a round of the production-derived motorcycle championship. The Acerbis Catalunya Round takes place next weekend from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th September.
With three events remaining until the end of the Championship, the Catalan round could mark an important milestone in the run-up to the world titles. In WorldSBK the challenge is still open between five-time world champion Jonathan Rea, currently first in the overall standings, and Ducati rider Scott Redding just thirty-six points away. In WorldSSP Andrea Locatelli dominates the championship standings with a seventy-nine point lead over Jules Cluzel and could win the world title in Barcelona.
One of the highlights of the Catalan capital, the Circuit of Catalunya-Barcelona was inaugurated in 1992 in view of the Olympic Games. It is 4.627 kilometres long and has 16 corners, eight of which on the right and six on the left. Most of the corners are wide and very fast, and are interchanged with straights that allow riders to reach speeds as high as 320 km/h. The circuit is undulating and is considered a very technical track, with several points that can put a strain on the bike and the rider. Among others, it is worth noting the first braking point after the start finish line, at the end of the very long straight, where we will see the bikes engaged in one of the most demanding braking sections of the year. The races of the premier class will each count twenty laps of the track for a total distance of 93.1 kilometres. Riders were able to test at the circuit in the scorching summer heat and it was Rea who came out on top in that test ahead of Scott Redding.
“It is a really exciting moment because I grew up watching MotoGP racing at Montmelo and I loved the layout. I played it on the Playstation and it was always my favourite track. We were lucky to get the chance to test there in the middle of the summer and I felt great with it. I had a smile inside my helmet when I was riding. We learned lots of things to help us get ahead in first practice on Friday morning. Another reason to get excited is that it is the team’s home race. So while we will not have a full ‘squad’ of sponsors and extended family of the crew, we will be racing for them. It is an important race for the team, which is based just over the grandstand in Granollers. Of course the target is always to win, so we will put our heads together and work in the same way as we have been doing – preparing the bike to be strong over race distance. I am looking forward to the battles it is going to bring.”
Rea’s KRT team-mate, Alex Lowes, battled a gastrointestinal virus throughout the Teruel Round to claim three top six finishes and will be looking to stand on the podium for the first time since the season-opening Australian Round, when he won Race 2.
“I am really looking forward to this coming weekend at Montmelo. I know we say that every week but after the most recent race at Motorland it was, physically, very tough. My body was not up to it because I was ill. I still took a lot of positives and a lot of confidence from it to be able to get a sixth, sixth and a fifth, despite feeling how I did. I felt good with the bike after not feeling quite as good with the settings the weekend before in Aragon. So we made some good steps with the set-up last time. We have tested at Montmelo already; it is a great track and I think it is going to be positive addition to the WorldSBK calendar. I am confident there is going to be some really good racing as well. It is a little bit of a shame that we will not have all the fans and everybody there for the team’s home race. I am very proud we are going to be there for KRT and hopefully we can get back on the podium in the team’s back yard.”
Redding still lies second in the Championship despite losing ground to Rea following the Race 1 crash with the British rider bouncing back in perfect fashion in the Tissot Superpole Race to claim victory. Redding was strong in Montmelo during the test and will be hoping to continue that strong pace throughout the Catalunya Round.
“During the tests in Barcelona the feeling was positive but it is clear that the race weekend is always a different story. I hope to be able to take further steps forward compared to the good feeling of the test. In Aragon, we struggled especially in a couple of corners that are similar to the ones we will find in Barcelona. We will have to work to fix these details since the very first laps of free practices.”
Chaz Davies also had a tricky Teruel Round after a crash in Race 2; the British rider hoping to bounce back as he is in a fight for third in the standings and looking to move up the order at a track he and teammate Redding know well.
“It will be an interesting challenge on a new circuit for us. We collected important data in the test and the feelings were encouraging. On paper, it could be a positive circuit for Ducati. I’m confident I can do well and extend the trend of positive results after the three podiums obtained in Aragon“.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) currently heads the battle for third place after three top seven finishes at the Teruel Round, leading Davies by just six points. Razgatlioglu also showed strong pace during the test at Catalunya, dicing it out with Redding at the top of the timesheets, giving the Turkish sensation confidence he can get back on the podium. Team-mate Michael van der Mark is also in the battle for third with the Dutchman hoping he will be able to stand on the podium again, having last been there during the Aragon Round’s Superpole Race.
Michael van der Mark
“Really happy that we have another race weekend, again in Spain, but this time on a new track for us. I’m looking forward to it because the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is an amazing track and it’s great to have World Superbikes there. It’s a shame for us that there are still no fans but I think it’s a good circuit where we can have some good battles. We had a really good test there just before the restart of the season, so I’m looking forward to it and hopefully this weekend we are able to fight for the podium again.”
“I am really looking forward to riding my Yamaha R1 again. After some disappointing results in Aragón, we were also able to find some positives in the end, but the aim is to fight for podiums and victory in Barcelona. We had a good test here in July when it was very hot – I only knew the circuit from video games before so it was good to have some laps and be quite fast before the race weekend. I think the layout suits my riding style, we can use heavy braking to our advantage here again and I am looking forward to the races.”
Five-time Grand Prix winner Jonas Folger is gearing up for his maiden FIM Superbike World Championship appearance, racing a Yamaha R1 WorldSBK specification machine out of the Team Benovo Action by MGM Racing Yamaha pit box. Folger made his Grand Prix motorcycle racing debut in 2008 and achieved five victories across the 125cc, Moto3 and Moto2 classes before stepping up to MotoGP for the 2017 campaign. Racing a Yamaha YZR-M1, the German enjoyed a fine start to the season, taking a best finish of second in front of his home crowd at the Sachsenring. Unfortunately, his career was then halted after being diagnosed with Gilbert’s syndrome. Since then, the 27-year-old has been steadily returning to the racing scene, riding again in Moto2 for five events in 2019, before committing to a full-season entry in the 2020 IDM Superbike Championship on a Yamaha R1. With the season shortened due to COVID-19, Folger has quickly adapted to the bike and series and has won all six races so far to put himself in reach of the title. With experience of both the Yamaha R1 and the Spanish venue, where he took a strong sixth-place finish during his MotoGP campaign, Folger is aiming to be in the mix this weekend.
“I look forward to this weekend, as I really wanted to do a wildcard WorldSBK ride this year on a Yamaha R1. I’m really happy to have my full team coming too from the IDM Superbikes, including all the crew and mechanics. We have a good package and we’re all very excited to arrive in Barcelona and show what we can do. It’s a good track for me, as I’ve spent a lot of laps there over the years, so I’m ready to put in a good performance.”
Andrea Dosoli – Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“The Barcelona wildcard was part of a wider racing programme, which we’ve been forced to reduce due to COVID-19. However, thanks to the help of all the involved parties we’ve finally made it possible and we’re happy to welcome Jonas Folger and Team Benovo Action by MGM Racing Yamaha to WorldSBK on our Yamaha R1. Having an extra bike on the grid is important for us, our fans and the championship. Jonas is doing incredibly well in IDM, showing great pace and a good feeling with the R1, therefore we’re looking forward to seeing him and his team take on their latest challenge. They can count on our full support and we hope they enjoy every lap of this new experience.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (GoEleven Ducati) has hauled himself up the Championship standings after a stunning Teruel Round where he claimed his first WorldSBK victory and podiums, moving up to sixth in the Championship ahead of Lowes, just two points behind van der Mark. The Italian rider will be looking to continue his form as his grip strengthens on the position of top Independent rider. In the fight with him for that is Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), as the Frenchman aims to be at the sharp end at a track he knows well after a tricky Teruel Round left him just ninth overall.
Spanish rider Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) lies in eighth place in the Championship after Honda appeared to make a step forward recently, allowing both him and teammate Leon Haslam to fight inside the top five. Haslam secured his best result of the season at MotorLand Aragon with fourth place whilst Bautista aims to rekindle strong, top ten form captured at Catalunya in his MotoGP days; could this be one of Honda’s best showings of the year? Another team that tested at the circuit, Team HRC are eager to continue their forward momentum.
“I think our target for Catalunya remains the same, to try and continue the positive trend towards progressively better performance. We are on a bike development path and are improving our feeling with the bike step by step. At Aragón we had two strong weekends where we were able to be competitive. It was a pity about the crashes of course but when you are pushing at the limit, these things can happen. Within the team, we are all very motivated and our goal is to try and be as competitive as we have been during the last rounds, and perhaps even find that little extra that would prevent us from having to ride every lap on the limit. We are really looking forward to Catalunya and to find some good sensations right from Friday.”
“I’m looking forward to the Catalunya round this weekend. I haven’t raced at this track for 18 years, so a long, long time ago but I’m excited to see the circuit featuring on the SBK calendar. We completed a useful test at the track not long ago and that gave us time to do the kind of set-up work we don’t have time for over a race weekend. Since that test, we’ve continued to make consistent steps forward, getting ever closer to our targets. The Barcelona track used to be one of my favourites, and it’s also the team’s home race so it would be great to score some good results here. And if we can maximise what we have right now, I think we might be able to challenge for the podium this weekend.”
Tom Sykes (BMW) and teammate Eugene Laverty were able to bounce back from a challenging Aragon Round with top ten finishes at the Teruel Round. Laverty himself took a best of eighth in the first race and has lots of experience in Barcelona from his GP days. Sykes was quick in testing and hopes to be there again come racing.
“I am definitely looking forward to the Barcelona race. The venue is fantastic; it’s a circuit that I always wanted to ride on. I then got the chance at the recent test there which in itself proved to be very, very useful. We were able to do quite a lot of testing there with our BMW S 1000 RR to get a lot of information plus it has also given us good track knowledge for the upcoming race weekend so I am very motivated to go there and carry on where we left off. I enjoy the track layout and I could see from the test that the bike was working really well in some sectors. The weather forecast itself is not looking too pleasant but given the fact of our previous results last year in wet conditions hopefully we can use that to our advantage if that’s the case.”
“I feel very confident and optimistic ahead of the Barcelona race weekend for two reasons. First off we had a great test at the Catalunya circuit in July and on top of that I feel that we made huge strides forward in the understanding of the BMW S 1000 RR last time out at Aragón. This year my focus has always been aimed towards 20 laps rather than one and finally I’m beginning to reap the fruits of my labour. We are now very close to finding that final piece of the puzzle to propel us up the order.”
Back to the battle of the Independent teams, one outfit that had a strong Teruel Round was the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team with Federico Caricasulo and Garrett Gerloff, both securing top ten finishes at MotorLand Aragon, with the duo looking to continue that recent form into the Catalunya Round. Maximilian Scheib had a promising showing in Teruel and hopes to build, Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing HONDA) aims for more points and Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) hopes that the level playing field of Montmelo will help him be in contention.
“Catalunya is a completely new track for me, I have only seen it in some videos so I honestly don’t know what to expect in terms of the circuit itself or how I will like it. I head there with an open mind though and am aware that Aragón allowed me to better understand my bike and how best to manage the tyres. I’m really looking forward to picking up at Barcelona where we left off at Aragón.”
The single Aprilia in season 2020 is being campaigned by Christophe Ponsson who returns to WorldSBK after opting to miss the Teruel Round.
Marco Melandri has left the Barni Racing Team and Samuele Cavalieri will make his first appearance of the year for the team in WorldSBK, stepping over from the CIV series.
|5||Michael Van Der Mark||133|
|6||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||131|
|5||Raffaele De Rosa||91|
|13||Can Alexander Oncu||30|
|14||Alejandro Ruiz Carranza||25|
|17||Galang Hendra Pratama||9|
|24||Jaimie Van Sikkelerus||2|
|9||Victor Rodriguez Nunez||47|
|14||Hugo De Cancellis||25|
|15||Samuel Di Sora||24|
|20||Glenn Van Straalen||12|
|24||Inigo Iglesias Bravo||4|
|25||Enzo De La Vega||4|
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