2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
Round 12 – Jerez
As the 2023 World Superbike Championship season reaches its grand finale at Jerez this weekend, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. The stage is set for a thrilling climax, featuring the crowning of a Champion and some bittersweet farewells.
The season was originally due to end in San Juan, Argentina, but changes were made to the calendar and Jerez de la Frontera became the new venue for the finale. The Andalusian track has hosted the WorldSBK many times previously, the most recent being in 2021.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), renowned for his remarkable history at Jerez with Ducati, including two wins in 2019, is merely two points away from securing the title. The Prometeon Spanish Round offers him a golden opportunity to be crowned as the Champion, with Saturday’s Race 1 holding the promise of glory.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), currently second in the Championship, and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), in third place, are prepared to challenge the Championship leader’s dominance. With two victories for Razgatlioglu and three wins for Rea on this historic circuit, their past performances at Jerez suggest that this race could yield the unexpected.
However, this Round isn’t just about titles; it’s also a poignant moment for several riders who are bidding farewell to their current teams. Toprak Razgatlioglu is set to make a switch to BMW in 2024, leaving his mark at Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK. While team-mate Andrea Locatelli has his sights set on securing fourth place in the championship.
“Jerez Circuit, I like it a lot! Especially hard braking in Turn 1 – normally we are very strong there and I hope we can fight for the win again. I want to finish strong in my last weekend with Yamaha – we will see! Ok, Riders’ Championship is not possible – but I am motivated race by race like always. It won’t be easy but everybody tries their best, I think race pace will be very strong – not hot like the past. We will see on Friday in Free Practice and then in the race.”
“I’m super happy to be back on track because it feels like it has already been a long time since Portugal! We have a good gap to secure P4 in the Riders’ Championship – not a bad result for us, but in the Teams’ Championship we still have a good opportunity to win. Now, I just want to ride my bike and enjoy the last round with some good results. I think I still need to trust a bit more in myself to try to improve more. Every weekend we have the possibility to get on the podium, which is a good point and my confidence on the R1 is improving always, so let’s see what happens. I think we have had a good season, a lot of podiums this year – maybe a bit unlucky in some races, but in general I am super happy and I am looking forward to enjoying my last race with Toprak as a teammate. Let’s see what we can do!”
This weekend is also, of course, of great significance for six times world champion Rea, his crew and all inside KRT as the Northern Irishman is set to take Toprak’s place at Yamaha next season. Jonathan is third in the championship standings on the eve of the final round, some 50 points clear of the rider in fourth place.
“It is a strange feeling going to Jerez knowing that it is my last round with KRT and I am sure it is going to be an emotional weekend together with the staff. On track we will try to do the best job we can. It is a track that perhaps has been a difficult one for us but we have also shared some great times there, winning races. It was also the scene of winning my first World Championship for Kawasaki. We do a lot of laps there in the winter tests so we have a good idea of set-up. Of course, the Ninja ZX-10RR has evolved throughout the year and we have made steps in a positive direction. I really want to finish the year strongly for my team. We are still fighting for third place in the championship. The big target of the weekend is to enjoy riding the bike and do the best job we can but also to ensure we deliver that top three in the World Championship. I want to really try to enjoy the weekend with my team. All the build up to the weekend, all the weekend, and of course post-race, reflecting on what an amazing partnership it has been – I am sure it is going to be an emotional one. I hope I can give a good account of myself and do the team proud.”
Additionally, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), and Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) are all in the midst of transitions on the eve of the 2024 season.
Alex Lowes is returning to action after hurting his previously injured left knee at the Portimao round, but he is feeling fit and ready to fight for the podium places again. He is currently ninth in the championship rankings.
“I feel like this may be more of a first ‘race’ of winter testing and then next season for me, rather than the last race of the year. Since the summer break I have basically been injured for a couple of months. I have had a nice few weekends off, working hard and training hard. I am looking forward to finishing the year strongly in Jerez. It is a track that everybody knows well, and that the Kawasaki has gone well at in the past. The sad part of the weekend is that it will be Jonathan’s last ride with Kawasaki. I has been a pleasure to share the garage with him for the four years I have been at Kawasaki. We all know how good a rider he is, and the stats speak for themselves. He has been the best of certainly my generation in WorldSBK, and one of the best ever. But what has been almost better than that is off the bike and how much of a good bloke he is. I knew him a little bit before he was a team-mate but since spending a lot of time with him, in the garage, at events, away from the track, I would say that we have become friends. He has certainly made the four years more enjoyable for me. A great rider, an even better bloke and honestly I will miss not being on the other side of the garage to him. All the best to him in his last round with Kawasaki and well done to them for all they achieved together. Hopefully we can share the podium this weekend and finish our KRT relationship as team-mates in style. I am feeling good, looking forward to the race and I cannot wait to get down there, to be honest.”
The battle to be crowned this year’s top Independent rider is heating up with one round and three races left, with Italian duo Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) scrapping it out for 2023 honours.
2023 has been a case of “the same but different” when looking at their campaigns. Bassani started off stronger – with his experience of the bike, track and tyres giving him an early advantage – before Petrucci found a breakthrough at Misano back in June, even if the results didn’t quite match the performances on home soil. The pair, since then, have been evenly matched and they have taken five podiums between them: two for Bassani and three for Petrucci. Despite scoring more podiums, it’s Bassani who leads going into the final round with a 39-point advantage over his Ducati stablemate.
The Andalusian venue has been a prominent circuit on both the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars and both riders know the track well. ‘Petrux’ scored two top-five finishes there in 2018 (fourth) and 2019 (fifth) and these were his best results at Jerez. For Bassani, he’s only been to the Spanish circuit once in WorldSBK where he scored sixth and eighth, but he did take fifth there in WorldSSP in 2016 as well as in 2015 in STK600. Both will be looking to secure a first podium at Jerez during the final round and it could be crucial in their battle.
Kawasaki-bound Bassani can wrap up the Independent Riders’ title on Saturday in Race 1. If he finishes with a 38-point or higher margin over his rival, he will win the award for the second consecutive year. A 37-point margin on Saturday would mean Petrucci could win the title with two wins and Bassani not scoring on Sunday. So, if Bassani outscores the two-time MotoGP race winner in Race 1, or loses one point or fewer to him, Bassani will take the title. If it’s not decided on Saturday, Bassani needs to be 26 points clear after the Tissot Superpole Race or one point clear after Race 2 to guarantee it – if they’re level, it’ll come down to best results which Petrucci currently leads thanks to his two third places compared to Bassani’s one; they both have one second place this year.
While Bassani and Petrucci are busy fighting for Independent honours, there’s a scrap brewing between three riders for bronze. GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team duo Remy Gardner and Dominique Aegerter currently head that battle with 139 and 138 points respectively, but an in-form and hard-charging Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) is closing in. The American is now just four points behind Gardner, sitting on 135 points.
“I’m looking forward to finishing the year strong, we showed good progress in my rookie season and we enjoyed a strong weekend in Portimão at the previous round. Hopefully we can enjoy a great final round in Jerez as well, trying to secure the best result possible in the Championship.”
“It’ll be the last race of my rookie season, I’m looking forward to it. We had three weeks to rest from the last round in Portimão, that was good for my body as I still had a bit of pain from the Magny-Cours crash. I’m hoping for good weather in Jerez; we’ve had some testing there, so we’ll have data and I think we can have a good base setup to begin with, considering we had a strong Race 2 in Portimão as well. We’ll be aiming for a good result, trying to finish the year strong. I like the track as well, I’m fully motivated to see the team again and come back to racing.”
BMW Motorrad Motorsport is eager to build on the good results of previous rounds at the finale at Jerez de la Frontera (ESP). Garrett Gerloff (USA / Bonovo action BMW Racing Team) finished in fourth place in both the main races at the penultimate round of the season at Portimão (POR), trailing first place by less than three seconds. Michael van der Mark (NED / ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) returned to the top ten there after an injury-enforced break.
Scott Redding (GBR / ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is also hoping to round off the season with strong results after recent difficult races, and the same is true of Loris Baz (FRA / Bonovo action BMW Racing Team), who will be contesting his final races as a BMW Motorrad WorldSBK factory rider at Jerez de la Frontera.
Marc Bongers – BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director
“It feels like we only just kicked off the 2023 WorldSBK season in Australia and now we’re already at the final races of the year. The season hasn’t gone quite the way we would have hoped for various reasons, including our bad luck with injuries. However, even if we couldn’t always secure the results, from mid-season onwards, we repeatedly demonstrated strength and pace, as we could confirm most recently at Magny-Cours with Garrett and at Portimão with Garrett and Michael. This shows that we have taken the right path. We are confident that we will be able to build on this at Jerez. Scott will be focussing on regaining his feel for the BMW M 1000 RR and we want Loris to bring home strong results once again in his final WorldSBK races for us. We are all familiar with Jerez from previous years and from test rides, and we need to translate our knowledge into performance. We’re all looking forward to the finale in front of the enthusiastic Spanish motorcycle fans.”
Team HRC factory riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge scored best results of fifth and ninth respectively in the weekend’s races last time our, Lecuona and Vierge are both keen to round out the year on a high.
“It’s really special to end the season at Jerez, a track that I like and that of course is another “home circuit”, something that always gives you a little more motivation. I simply love the layout of the Jerez track so we will prepare as best we can, working well in the garage, and try to enjoy this last round of the season”.
“I have never raced at Jerez with the Superbike, but we tested here over the winter so I already know how the bike behaves at this track and we have many references we can count on. We have made some changes to the bike over the season so it will be interesting to compare the feeling from then to now. Of course, the target is to end the racing season on a high.”
World Superbike Championship Points
Michael Ruben Rinaldi
Michael Van Der Mark
Ivo Miguel Lopes
With the Championship title already secured by Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) at Portimao, the focus now shifts to his farewells before moving to WorldSBK, while Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) and Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), confirmed as second and third in the standings, will be looking to conclude their season on a high.
Bulega’s dominant performance throughout the 2023 season culminated in a stunning victory in Race 1 at Portimao, where he secured the WorldSSP Championship title. However, the new Champion will undoubtedly aim to end the season on a high note at Jerez before embarking on his new adventure in WorldSBK.
Manzi will be looking to carry the momentum from his impressive win in Portimao Race 2. Having comfortably secured the second spot in the Championship, Jerez provides him with a chance to add another win to his 2023 campaign. Manzi knows that ending the season with another victory would be the perfect way to cap off his WorldSSP season and build anticipation for what lies ahead in 2024. With his third place standing in the Championship already secured, Schroetter is eager to finish the season on a positive note, resolute in his pursuit of a maiden victory in the series.
Oli Bayliss makes his return from injury and hopes to end a difficult season 2023 on a high note. The young Aussie expects to be back on the grid next season.
As the rest of the WorldSSP grid prepares for the season’s grand finale at Jerez, the stage is set for thrilling battles fitting conclusion to an unforgettable season.
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