2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
Round Nine Catalunya
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, sees the riders engaged in one of the most demanding braking sections of the year.
WorldSBK hits Catalunya this weekend for the ninth round of the 2021 championship with the chase for the title on in earnest between Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu. Only seven-points separate that pair at the top of the championship points table but Scott Redding still has a chance to spoil their party should he have an amazing run of late season form.
Following a protest from Kawasaki over Toprak’s Tissot Superpole Race win for a track limits infringement on the last lap. Rivals on track and now with the teams in an intense rivalry off it, this could well be yet another classic weekend for what is becoming one of WorldSBK’s greatest rivalries.
Toprak Razgatlioglu managed to break the deadlock at Magny-Cours, having been level on points with Rea after Navarra. A combative Toprak fought off everything Rea threw at him on-track at Magny-Cours, with the two embroiled in a spectacular final lap in the Tissot Superpole Race and a relentless start to Race Two where neither gave in.
“Barcelona was not easy last year, but for me, everything is different this year. My team, the bike and everything works together very well, and even from the test at the start of this year, I feel stronger at every track. I always say, I am not looking at the championship but I know every race I need good points. I only focus on the next session, the next race and try for the win. We will work and prepare with my team the best we can on Friday, to make a race simulation and find the set-up, then we will see.”
Jonathan Rea heads to KRT’s home round, with the workshop a stone’s throw from the track. Rea took victory in the Tissot Superpole Race at Magny-Cours, his first win since Assen in Race 2, but knows he’s going to need full-race points if he is to halt Toprak. Rea’s pushing to retain his crown for a seventh straight year, although after eight rounds, he trails in the standings but heads to a track where he won at in 2020.
“It’s exciting to go back to Barcelona, for many reasons. I had a win in the first ever WorldSBK race there last season and Montmelo is the team’s home round. I spend a lot of time there and even during these covid times we will have a lot of guests and sponsors there, so it will be even more important to be at 100% to do the best job we can. The circuit’s really nice, I really enjoy it, especially the new Turn 10, which is much more open than the past and the track has more flow now. We have tested there in the summer and we were able to make a good step with our Ninja ZX-10RR. It is a circuit that is very critical for tyre wear, so we need to focus on that to be strong at the end of the race. I feel good with our bike and I was able to fight in Magny Cours for the podium and in Barcelona the target will be the same. The championship is very close and now we have three rounds in a row, so it is so important to be strong – but also to be consistent and make no mistakes. What happens in these next three weeks will have a big impact on the championship, so I am super-excited to get going.”
Third in the Championship but a distant 72 points back, Scott Redding will need a strong Catalunya and a touch of misfortune for his title rivals if he’s to have a realistic chance of the title.
“If I have to be honest, Barcelona is not at the top of the list of my favorite circuits. I think the weather conditions could be a factor, especially if the temperature is extremely high, as we will have to deal with some long corners where we could struggle a bit. The goal, however, is to finish on podium in any race. It won’t be easy but I’ll give my best“.
Toprak’s team-mate Andrea Locatelli is in form and has finished his last 12 races inside the top five; he heads to the place he took the 2020 WorldSSP title.
“I have really good memories in Barcelona, because it was where we won the FIM Supersport World Championship last year! For me it is one track where I hope we can do very well, because I know it so well and I have ridden there many times. Also we had a good test there at the start of the season, so I know already where the reference is for the superbike. For sure, it is not easy because the top riders are very fast, but I think we will arrive in Barcelona a little bit more ready than before, and maybe we can stay closer to the front. We will see, and of course we will try for the maximum.”
Alex Lowes aims to bounce back after crashing from third at Magny-Cours in both Race 1 and Race 2. Ninth, seventh and eighth were Lowes’ Catalunya results in 2020; he’ll hope 2021 is better.
“Obviously the Catalunya race is a special one because it is a home race for a lot of the members of the team and the headquarters are just a stone’s throw from the start-finish straight. It is a really special event for all the guys. It is a great track and a great addition to the WorldSBK calendar last year. I really enjoy the layout. Unfortunately at the test we had earlier this year I only did a few laps because my shoulder was restricting me at that time. But the laps I did do were good. The new shape Turn 10 is quite a difficult one to get right, from a riding point of view, because it opens up on the exit. You have to really control the bike from spinning too much, which if we have hot conditions is going to be really important. It is a passing opportunity but it also allows the last sector of the lap to flow a lot better. I am looking forward to this weekend and the goal is to get back on the podium. We had good speed in Magny Cours so we want to keep that going.”
The battle of the BMWs is once again strong, with Tom Sykes and team-mate Michael van der Mark having contrasting weekends at Magny-Cours. Sykes was on the front row but couldn’t capitalise on it, whilst van der Mark was on the third row and did crack the top five in Race One. Now separated by just five-points in the Championship, both arrive at a circuit where BMW had their best round of 2020, with a double top seven finish in Race Two. Sykes was fifth whilst fast in testing at the circuit, whereas van der Mark won the Superpole Race in 2020 and took second in Race Two. A prosperous weekend may well lie ahead for the German marque.
“I am really looking forward to the next three rounds of the World Superbike Championship. To be honest, it’s a little bit different approach now; I don’t remember in all of my years racing that we had three back-to-back races so that’s definitely a quite intense part of the championship. It will be three exciting circuits and ones that I really enjoy so starting in Catalunya we can hopefully find a little bit more form and continue the run that we had there the last time we visited. Plus we also had a test there recently to get some more information so I am overall looking forward to the run of these three races and trying to gain many more points for the championship.”
Michael van der Mark
“I always love to ride my race bike and I think we can be still very happy that we can do so many races this year so I am looking forward to the triple-header. In addition, we are going to three of my favourite race tracks in a row, so that’s also not so bad. We tested at Barcelona in spring and it is good to come there again and see where we improved. I think that we have shown at Magny-Cours that we are getting closer to the podium. Of course, I want to fight for the podium and we are getting closer. At Magny-Cours, we were unlucky with a few things but our goal for sure is to fight again for these positions. I think the general package has improved and our goal is to fight for the podium on the coming weekends.”
There was a significant turning point for Honda at Magny-Cours, with both riders running well inside the top ten for most of the weekend. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) took his best Superpole result of the season and backed it up with two top ten race performances, whilst Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) took two sixth-places and a seventh, of which in Race 1 and the Superpole Race, meant coming from 14th on the grid. The potential is there for Honda, and it was demonstrated well at the 2020 Catalan Round too, with Bautista leading the Superpole Race briefly before a crash. Positives results in testing and coming from a private test at Jerez where they were testing development parts for 2022, Team HRC could be a feature at the front in Barcelona.
“We arrive in Barcelona full of energy after the last two rounds during which we were quite competitive. At Navarra, we struggled a little bit at first but we were ultimately able to improve both our feeling and speed. Then at Magny-Cours we had a good weekend because even if we suffered a bit in practice and couldn’t qualify well, we ran strong races and had good feeling with the bike. Barcelona is a track I really enjoy, with long and fast corners, and of course it’s another race in Spain in front of a Spanish crowd, so I am very happy to race there. It will definitely be challenging because the level of the category is very high and there are a lot of fast riders, but I have good memories in terms of our performance last year and I think it can be a good weekend for us. We’ll get straight to work to be sure to get every detail right for the races and we’ll see – hopefully we can start this triple-header with good feeling and solid results.”
“I’m very much looking forward to racing at Catalunya as it’s the team’s home circuit. Last year was a bit of a disaster for me, because I got hit by another rider and had a really big crash, so it wasn’t exactly the best of weekends. We completed some very useful testing at the track in mid-August, so I’m confident we’ll be able to take some further steps forward. Hopefully we can be challenging closer to the front. We’re heading into three back-to-back rounds, all at tracks I really enjoy, so hopefully the steps we’ve made during testing can translate into a step up in terms of results and we can have some good races.”
The Independent battle continues into Catalunya, with Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) hoping he can rekindle some magic at the track of which he took a first podium at back in 2020’s Race Two. The American rider has been somewhat subdued in the last few meetings but could well be on the pace in Montmelo.
Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) was back inside the top five at Magny-Cours and is heading to a track where he was a winner at in 2020, whilst Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) hopes to continue his top ten competitivity. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) aims for a return to the top ten after a 13th place at home, whereas Kohta Nozane can finally return to a circuit he’s familiar with, having tested at the track at the start of the year. 47-points cover Gerloff to Bassani, whilst just nine split Mahias and Nozane.
Having been declared unfit at Magny-Cours, Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) is back in action at Catalunya, whilst Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) comes off the back of a strong French Round and hopes to build on that in Spain. Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) is next up and wants to be back in the point-scoring positions at a circuit he was fastest rookie at back in testing at the start of 2021 and where he made his WorldSBK debut at in 2020. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) will make his first WorldSBK appearance at Catalunya and Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) has points in his sights. He has a new teammate in Lachlan Epis alongside him, the Australian making his WorldSBK debut. Tito Rabat and the Barni Racing Team have split by mutual agreement, with Samuele Cavalieri replacing him for the rest of the season.
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