2021 FIM Superbike World Championship
Round Two – Estoril
The Estoril Circuit in Portugal will host the second round of the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend, May 28-30.
The Estoril Circuit has previously hosted the production-derived Championship only on three occasions: the first time in 1988, the year of the series debut, then five years later in 1993, and finally in 2020 after twenty-seven long years of absence.
Now in 2021, the WorldSBK Circus makes a stop to this legendary Portuguese circuit, which is a rather technical track and consequently very demanding on tyres.
Kawasaki Racing Team were hot out of the blocks at the season opener and it is safe to say they dominated much of the proceedings and head to Portugal 1-2 in the championship chase. Jonathan Rea took pole at Aragon and then went on to win two races and take second in the final one, putting him 12 points clear of his team-mate Lowes in the championship rankings.
Rea currently leads with 57 points, Lowes is on 45 and race two winner Scott Redding has 40. In a strong start for the new Ninja ZX-10RR Kawasaki already leads the manufacturers championship by 13 points.
Rea capped off his amazing weekend at Motorland with his 100th and 101st career race wins, and cannot wait to get back into action to see if he can continue his early winning form at the circuit he secured his sixth successive world championship at – right at the end of the short but intense 2020 season.
“I really enjoyed Estoril last year and I had a lot of happy memories of winning the championship there. But to be honest from a track point of view I was quite average. I never started FP1 in the right way so I always felt I was playing catch up and the weekend was getting away from us. And then I had a crash in Superpole. So, we will bring a fresh mindset and also with the new Ninja ZX-10RR, I am feeling really comfortable. At Motorland we had three different track conditions thrown at us and we were competitive in all of them. I am optimistic because we have worked on some of the weaker aspects and the characteristics that Estoril has – the turning, really stopping and changing direction. So I think the benefits of that will show through when we go there.”
Lowes had to work hard for little reward at Estoril last year, but is looking to build on his highly positive first race weekend in 2021 to push for what would be a second Kawasaki race win in WorldSBK, and the third of his career.
“We waited so long for the first race weekend and now we’ve got two races back to back. Honestly, Estoril is a track that was new on the calendar last year. I’m looking forward to it again. It’s a completely different track to Motorland but when we rode it last year it was great. It’s a small track with some character. It’s not an easy track, but I’m looking forward to getting going. The good thing I understand the bike a lot more so I should be able to adapt and manage the weekend better than last time.”
One of the strongest manufacturers at Estoril in 2020 was Yamaha, as they took a first-ever podium lockout in the Superpole Race. With the YZF-R1 turning a corner by being competitive at their weakest track – Aragon – it may be more of the same in 2021. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) took a podium at Aragon, whilst also taking two wins at Estoril in 2020 and a career-first pole.
“In Estoril last year I was very strong, so we know we can fight here but I am not coming to the weekend relaxed because this is the WorldSBK Championship and the competition is very high! We will try for the best position and also I aim to be fighting for the win, but we will see. Now the new R1 is much better, also a big improvement like we saw in the Aragón races, but now it’s not possible for me to say if we can continue like this in Estoril until I ride at this circuit on Friday. My feeling is very strong but I will say again, we’re not coming here relaxed and we stay focused for the weekend.”
Toprak’s Team-mate Andrea Locatelli took two top ten results at Aragon during the first round and won in World Supersport in 2020.
“I’m excited for Estoril this week, because last year the Yamaha was very fast! The team had some podiums and wins, but my idea with Andrew and the guys is to continue to work and improve as it is only the second weekend of WorldSBK racing for me. For sure I think we can do really well like the last weekend in Aragón, my goal is to stay in the top 10 and qualifying well – and maybe for the races we can fight more in front, we will see but for sure I think we can take another step forward.”
Garrett Gerloff is top Independent and heads back to the track where he was on the podium twice in 2020 and took a best finish of second. He may well be another contender for victory, especially after an Aragon podium last weekend.
“I felt good in the Superpole, and I was happy about the second row, since I have never been particularly good at qualifying and this track has never been the best for us. The bike felt great, so I was really looking forward to exploiting that in the first race, but then the sun came out and the track lost some grip. It was a bit difficult for me to ride consistently. Our Sunday started off really well with a third place in the Superpole Race. The team and I made a perfect decision to go with the intermediate tyre, and it worked. It was nice to be on the podium, even though I felt like I could have gotten second place. In Race 2, I felt really good from the start, and wanted to at least fight for the podium, so I’m very frustrated with the mistake I made. After the off, the bike was a bit bent, but overall it still felt good, so I tried to give the team the best possible result despite the mistake. It was nice to be the top independent rider at the finish. Next weekend we go to Estoril, a track that both I and my Yamaha R1 really like.”
Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) lies third in the Championship standings and was on good form at the Circuito Estoril in 2020 until his Superpole crash. He recovered for Race 2 and was second and won Race 2 at Aragon last weekend. He aims for back-to-back victories for the first time in his career.
“I liked the Estoril Circuit a lot last season even though the results don’t seem to confirm this feeling. The crash in Superpole and a technical issue in Race-1, however, were two determining factors; during Superpole Race and Race-2 the feeling was really positive indeed. The race pace has always been very good and I hope that already from Friday we can accomplish our progress“.
Team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi will hope for better weekend at Estoril, after a tricky Aragon gave the Italian just nine points and one points-scoring finish in Race 1 of 2021. He took the Independent title at Estoril in 2020 and aims to rekindle good memories. Leading Ducati’s Independent charge is Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven), winner at Estoril in 2020 and eager to build on two top five finishes at Aragon from round one, despite his Race 2 crash.
“We started the championship uphill. We can use this very close round to turn the page immediately, and we will work hard with my team to make it happen. I am very motivated and I want to redeem the negative results obtained in Aragon. We will start from scratch, giving our best starting from Friday’s free practice“.
One of the hottest headlines coming into the second round of the season is that BMW have visibly made a step forward in performance in race trim. The new M 1000 RR made major gains in a straight line, as it was not only staying with its rivals in a straight line but passing them too. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is fifth in the standings – the first time inside the top five for him since Losail 2018 – and achieved two tenth place finishes in 2020 at Estoril. Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was on the rostrum in the Superpole Race of 2020 at Estoril, whilst he led a race at Aragon in Race 2 and setting a fastest lap in the opening round’s Tissot Superpole Race.
Aiming to turn a corner after a difficult opening three race of the year, Team HRC’s Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam will hope to put the Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP in front-running contention at Estoril. A best of seventh from Bautista in the Superpole Race at Aragon has left the manufacturer hoping for more this weekend, whereas Leon Haslam returns to a place where he took three top eight results last year – a best of fifth in Race 1 having started on the front row in second. With Haslam 12th in the standings and Bautista one place further behind, a turn-around in fortunes is a must this weekend.
“We have good feeling after the Aragón round, and I don’t think our actual race results last weekend really reflect our current situation. We feel we’ve taken a step forward and have a good base on which to work and continue to improve this coming weekend. I’m feeling confident, also because we scored a top five result here at Estoril last year. So I think we can be competitive, at what is a different kind of track, more stop-and-go in layout compared to Aragón. Our aim is to work hard, just as we did last weekend, and bring home some strong results.”
“I can’t wait for Estoril and am pleased that this round comes straight after Aragón, where we didn’t have the best weekend. Last year’s Portuguese round went well; I hadn’t raced at Estoril for 20 years previously, so it was good to be back and have some good battles. I’m looking forward to this weekend, also because we made a good find in the final Aragón race, so hopefully we can hit the ground running in Friday’s first practices and be back fighting at the front where I know we can be.”
With Gerloff and Davies sixth and eighth in the Independent standings, next best is Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) who took a stunning eighth in Race 2 at Aragon, having gambled on slick tyres. The German rider rode a Yamaha at Estoril in 2020 as a wildcard but faces a new challenge on the BMW M 1000 RR. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is 14th in the standings, with a tenth in Race 2 at Aragon – he was also a race winner in WorldSSP in 2020 at Estoril.
Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was mightily impressive and is one of just seven riders who scored points in all three races so far this year, although Estoril will be a whole new challenge with it being a track he’s never visited. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) and Christophe Ponsson (Alstare Yamaha) also all scored points from round one.
“The next race will be my first time in Estoril, so it will be tough for me, but I will try to be as prepared as possible to do my best for the team. They are working so well with me and helping me a lot, so I will try to get a good result for them in Portugal.”
Still aiming to get their 2021 underway on the points board is Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team), who failed to finish both full-length races at Aragon; Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) who couldn’t break into the top 15 and TPR Team Pedercini Racing duo Loris Cresson and Samuele Cavalieri. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) will be absent from the grid at Estoril, following the team’s announcement to follow an intensive development programme.
After Estoril, and the intense sprint between back-to-back race meetings, there is one free weekend before race action resumes again at Misano in Italy, between June 11 to 13.
WorldSBK Championship Standings
Michael Van Der Mark
Michael Ruben Rinaldi
After returning to action at MotorLand Aragon last week, the FIM Supersport World Championship heads straight across the Iberian Peninsula for the Gaerne Estoril Round for the second round of the 2021 campaign at the Circuito Estoril, the same venue that closed out the 2020 season in sensational style. In Race 2 last year, the top four were separated by just one second at the line as the chequered flag fell on the season.
South African Steven Odendaal (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) leads the Riders’ Championship after taking a maximum points haul from Aragon with two wins in different styles. Last year at Estoril, Odendaal secured his joint-best result of the season with fourth place after a thrilling four-way battle in Race 2, and with two of the four from that battle having moved on, he will be looking to move up the order. If the Race 2 battle from Aragon is anything to go by, as well as last year’s Estoril thriller, then the 2021 edition could be just as dramatic and exciting.
Rookie Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) made a strong start to his WorldSSP career and currently lies second in the Championship after taking second and fifth at Aragon. Although he has not raced at Estoril on WorldSSP machines, he has competed there on three occasions while in the Moto2 World Championship, claiming a best result of fourth place. The Swiss rider will be hoping he can at least repeat that performance as he looks to close the gap to Odendaal.
Aegerter lies just four points ahead of third-placed Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), who so narrowly missed out on his maiden win in WorldSSP last time out, finishing 0.100s behind Odendaal. Like Odendaal, De Rosa was involved in the mega Race 2 scrap at Estoril last season, finishing ahead of the South African to claim a podium place. De Rosa also brings Moto2 experience with him with a best finish of sixth. It’s been a strong circuit for the Italian in the past, could this be the weekend he finally claims his maiden WorldSSP victory?
Hannes Soomer (Kallio Racing) is five points behind De Rosa, on 22 points, after another strong showing at Aragon, as he continues his fine form. Soomer claimed one podium at last year’s Estoril Round, in Race 1, and was only just over three seconds away from victory in Race 2 despite finishing in eighth. Another rider who has had strong performances at Estoril, Soomer will be one to watch out for.
Christoffer Bergman (Wojcik Racing Team) finds himself fifth in the standing after a history-making Aragon Round where he became the first Swedish rider to lead a race in WorldSSP. Bergman did not race at Estoril in WorldSSP last year but did make an experience in endurance racing at the venue, his experience could prove to be useful as he looks to continue his fine start to the season.
One rider who can count himself very unlucky to not be further up the standings after two races is Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) after the Frenchman was taken out of the lead by Niki Tuuli (MV Agusta Corse Clienti) in Race 1, while he led Race 2 for a few laps after starting at the back of the grid. Cluzel has experience of Estoril having raced there in 2020, securing two ninth places. However, for Cluzel it was his first race back after suffering an injury following a crash at MotorLand Aragon.
Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha ParkinGo Team) go into Estoril level with Cluzel in the standings, with San Marino’s Luca Bernardi (CM Racing) three points behind. Gonzalez secured his best result in WorldSSP last time out at Aragon while Bernardi secured San Marino’s best ever result in the class; with all three riders showing rapid pace throughout the Aragon Round.
2019 Champion Randy Krummenacher’s (EAB Racing Team) return got off to a challenging start at Aragon but the Swiss rider brings with him experience of Estoril having competed there in Moto2, taking a best result of ninth. Federico Caricasulo (GMT94 Yamaha) also had a challenging weekend on his WorldSSP return, but heads into Estoril with experience of the circuit from his 2020 WorldSBK exploits.
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