2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
Round Nine Catalunya – Sunday Report
A tyre gamble played into Michael Ruben Rinaldi’s hands in World Superbike’s Race Two at the Barcelona circuit of Catalunya on Sunday, with the Italian Ducati rider taking the weekend’s final victory over Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu and Ducati’s Scott Redding.
Defending champion Jonathan Rea could not maintain the pace of the front runners while running the development tyre, crossing the line in sixth, but brought home the shortened Superpole Sprint win earlier in the day.
Coupled with a win in the midday shortened Sprint and a fourth on Saturday, Rea closed the gap on points leader Razgatlioglu to one-point in the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, 399 to 398 points. The next round is at Spain’s Jerez circuit next weekend (Sept 24-26) followed by Portugal’s Algarve on October 1-3 to make for a triple-header.
Razgatlioglu’s weekend was a mix of highs and lows with the Turk sidelined by electronic issues in Saturday’s race, but managing consistent second place finishes on Sunday.
WorldSBK Superpole Race
Sunday’s Superpole Race saw Toprak Razgatlioglu take an early lead from P2 on the grid, with Jonathan Rea hot on his heels and immediately on the attack. Scott Redding and Andrea Locatelli were running third and fourth.
Lap 3 saw proceedings brought to a halt, following an accident involving Ducati’s Chaz Davies and Lucas Mahias, resulting in a red flag, with riders lining back up on the grid for a five-lap restart.
Once again Rea and Razgatlioglu were the main contenders battling it out in a back and forth on the restart, before Alvaro Bautista moved into second place, displacing Raz.
Razgatlioglu wasn’t going to leave that undefended however, reigning Bautista in and reclaiming second, with Rea taking the Superpole win. Razgatlioglu had to settle for third.
Outside the top three, Lowes finished fourth, with Rinaldi fifth. Completing the top-10 was Bassani, Haslam, Gerloff, Ponsson and Mercado.
Australian Lachlan Epis was making his World Superbike debut and finished in P16 after showing improvement to his lap times across the weekend.
WorldSBK Race Two
Race two started with more drama, the red flags out on lap two of the 20-lap race following an incident involving Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) at turn one. Although conscious, Sykes was taken to the medical centre and was diagnosed with a head injury and concussion and transferred to Catalunya Hospital for further assessments.
In the 19-lap restart, Rinaldi made a fast start and moved into the lead ahead of Razgatlioglu and Rea. Razgatlioglu went with Rinaldi throughout the 19-lap encounter but Rea dropped back with ailing tyres.
Early on Razgatlioglu held the early lead over Rinaldi, but the Turk’s dominance lasted for just a handful of laps before the Italian took control, extending his charge to the finish line to claim victory by more than three-seconds.
With Rea battling for a podium spot, he fought to keep Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) at bay, but his attempts were in vain with the Italian rookie passing him on lap 10 before Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) followed through.
At the start of lap 18, Redding made a move on Locatelli into turn one for third place with Redding using the SC0 tyre, along with race leader Rinaldi, while rivals were struggling on the SCX rubber. Bautista followed Redding through a lap later at the same corner.
The result saw Rinaldi claimed his first win since the Tissot Superpole Race at Misano, finishing ahead of Razgatlioglu and Redding.
Bautista just missed out on a podium place with fourth place, with Locatelli was in fifth.
Rea came home in sixth place, more than four seconds down on the battle for the podium, but three seconds clear of American star Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in seventh. Gerloff was the top independent rider and finished ahead of Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) in eighth.
Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) claimed ninth place with Japanese rookie Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) taking his first top-ten finish in a full-length race with tenth.
Honda secured a points finish with both riders as Leon Haslam (Team HRC) crossed in 11th place, five seconds clear of Samuele Cavalieri (Barni Racing Team) in 12th. Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha) was 13th in race two after a strong weekend for the French rider.
Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) and Isaac Viñales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) had an incredible battle for 14th place with Argentinean rider finishing just 0.081s clear of rookie Viñales. Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Action) was the last classified rider in 16th place.
Alex Lowes’ (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) came to an end at turn two on lap one after he came off his Kawasaki ZX-10RR, and headed to medical centre where he was diagnosed with a left wrist contusion.
Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Action) and Australia’s Lachlan Epis (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) were mixed up in the back grid drama, with Epis retiring from the race after seven laps.
Lachlan Epis – DNF
“Firstly I want to say sorry to Alex (Lowes). By the time Jonas (Folger) had decided which way he was going it was too late for me to avoid him at the start of Race 2. Aside from that it was a challenging weekend. I hadn’t been on a bike since June in Australia and there was a lot to learn. Race 1 was wet, and it was my first time riding the Kawasaki in these conditions. I didn’t have the confidence to push as I wanted to, but we brought it home in one piece which was the target. I didn’t feel so bad in the Superpole race, and I am happy with the step we made. I tried to make the restart in Race 2 after the initial incident, but I had to wear a set of Loris’s leathers which was also a bit strange. He is a lot smaller than me, and it was ultimately just too difficult to ride in his suit. Overall, I am pleased with the weekend and looking forward to riding again on Friday in Jerez.”
Mahias joined the restarted race but brought his bike back to the pits and retired from the race, while Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) also did not finish the race.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi – P1
“I’m really happy about this win because we arrived from a difficult moment. Yesterday after the rain I was a little bit upset because I knew we had a strong pace in the dry. We managed third which wasn’t bad. I said, ‘today is my day, I need to go for it’. The tyre choice was difficult actually because everyone was going for the soft, but last year I saw there was too much drop at the end of the race. I took a risk, but it worked, so really happy about that.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu – P2
“Today, I’m very lucky because I passed Michael and after my tyre had a big drop. The last three or four laps, I was fighting for second position because he went alone. I’m really happy and very lucky because we didn’t have one more lap, and if we had one more lap maybe I would’ve been fifth or sixth. We are happy to be on the podium again. For me, it was a very strange weekend. Yesterday, we had an electronic problem. I was very fast and I was going to win but we faced the electronic problem. Today, I did my best again. It wasn’t an easy race because front sliding, front tyre finish and also rear tyre. I think it was a problem for all riders.”
Scott Redding – P3
“To be honest, I thought I had one more lap! When I saw Toprak, I thought ‘set him up for the straight’ so I don’t stress the bike too much. I saw the flag and thought ‘no way’. It happens, it was a good race. I would’ve been happy with a top five. A good start before the restart. Restart, back to position, go again. I struggle on second starts back to back, so the start wasn’t great. Got pushed back a little bit. Got my head down and started finding my rhythm. I didn’t feel comfortable, I just felt stable the whole race. This was good because last year I had a big drop. The SC0 seemed to pay off. We were risking but we were forced into that decision, we didn’t have another option. It was a blessing in disguise, so I was happy with that. It was an up and down weekend.”
Alvaro Bautista – P4
“Today I honestly had completely different feeling compared to yesterday. With much more grip, I felt that I could push and that the bike helped me in this. In the Superpole race, I made a good start and gained some positions, so when I saw the red flag, I was frustrated because I was feeling so strong. After the second start, I just tried to stay focused and not make any mistakes. Third position was a fantastic result, and a well-deserved reward for the non-stop work the team and engineers are doing. In Race 2, higher temperatures meant that the conditions worsened, and the feeling too. There was less grip, and it was also more difficult to stop the bike. I just tried to understand the track and do my best. Towards the end, I had some small issues with the brakes, maybe due to the temperature. I ran a little wide at turn one and lost contact with the podium group. I recovered but couldn’t quite get close enough to them. Anyway, I’m happy, as it has been a solid weekend. It seems that in the last few races we’ve worked out some details together, identifying a good base set-up and more consistent in terms of reducing the gap to the front. I hope we can continue this trend until the end of the season.”
“This was a very difficult race, because we lose completely the grip on the rear tyre. But in the end, I am a little bit happy because we do a really good job today. This morning we lost the opportunity to start in the front with the Superpole Race but, in Race 2 we tried to get the maximum and we push every lap – I’m really happy with this. For us, it’s not such a lucky weekend because also yesterday we had a little bit of a problem in the wet conditions but yeah, I repeat in the end we need to be happy because we closed the weekend well. Now we have Jerez and Portimao, and for sure we try to stay focused to get the maximum. We are faster and stronger, we are in the front group and for this I am really happy. Also, really, thanks to my team for all the work they have done this weekend because also we make a lot of crash! It is not so easy, but this is the job. I want to thank all my guys and also Yamaha, because we have the new contract now and I stay with Yamaha and this great team for two more years. I am really happy for this and for sure we try to push every day, every session, to stay in front.”
Jonathan Rea – P6
“In the Superpole Race I had a really good bike set-up; my guys changed the bike throughout the weekend. It was a lot of fun, fighting with Toprak and the rhythm was very fast in a five lap race. It was more about who wanted it than who was most clever with set-up. Overall it was a difficult weekend because we didn’t maximise our potential, both in Race One and Race Two. In the final race today, right from the start, I really struggled in the braking area to stop the bike. On Friday we made a long race simulation with the bike and it felt OK but I still had a drop of pace about lap 14. But today my pace in the middle of the race was terrible. I was just getting pushed into all the corners. I couldn’t be fluid with the bike. It was a real surprise and disappointing because I think we could have been much more competitive.”
Alex Lowes – DNF
“It’s a shame to be taken out of the final race. We had worked really hard on our used tyres all weekend so I believe we could have had a solid end to the weekend. The Superpole Race was good for us so it was a shame Bautista passed me on the final lap to lose a podium position! We tried the SC1 front and I didn’t have as much confidence on the brakes with this tyre so it was hard to pass him back on the final lap. In Race Two I didn’t get the best start; sometimes the clutch grabs differently to how I expect and this caused me to end up back in the pack a little bit. I got knocked off from someone inside of me. I took a big impact from my bike in the face and also got my right hand and wrist caught, so now we are going to hospital in Barcelona to get it checked. A big thank you to all the Catalan fans. It’s the team’s home race and I really wanted to be on the podium for them this weekend. Due to some bad luck it wasn’t the weekend we wanted.”
Turkish star Can Öncü (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was the big mover in the early stages of the 18-lap battle as he made moves on Randy Krummenacher (CM Racing) and Gonzalez, to take the lead of the race after starting from tenth place.
As Lap 6 started Krummenacher and Öncü were pushing the limits which slowed the pair down into Turn 1, allowing Gonzalez to reclaim the lead of the race with Krummenacher passing Öncü as well. A lap later and De Rosa was through on Öncü as well as Krummenacher to move into second place. Öncü’s fight for the podium came to an end on Lap 8 at Turn 5 as the Turkish rider came off his bike, re-joining the race down in 29th place and then bringing his bike back to the pits.
Öncü’s incident allowed the lead group to fracture out a little bit but there were still four riders battling for the race win, with De Rosa able to get alongside Gonzalez lap after lap but Gonzalez able to defend the position on the brakes.
On Lap 13, De Rosa made a move stick on Gonzalez at Turn 4 to take the lead of the race, with Krummenacher and Tulli still in the fight for the podium. Gonzalez lost time at the start of Lap 14 as he ran wide at Turn 1 and fell behind both Krummenacher and Tuuli but remained in the lead group although moved back in the podium places on the following lap with a move on Finnish rider Tuuli.
Gonzalez recovered from running wide as he passed Krummenacher for second before setting his sights on De Rosa. On the last lap, Gonzalez made his move for the race win and despite the Italian’s best efforts he was unable to re-take the lead.
It meant Gonzalez claimed his second WorldSSP victory and his fifth podium in WorldSSP while De Rosa came home in second place behind Gonzalez, his second podium of the Catalunya Round; just 0.021s behind Gonzalez as they crossed the line. Tuuli claimed his first podium since Magny-Cours 2017 with third place after a Krummenacher save on the final lap; just 0.074s between the top three.
Billy Van Eerde was making his World Supersport debut, and saw a marked improvement with his lap times on Sunday, however a technical issue forced him out of the race.
Van Eerde shaved over 0.6-seconds off his best qualifying lap on Sunday, and had been racing around 26th position, before moving into a best of P24 on lap eight before those technical issues struck, showing consistency with his lap times, mainly in the 1’47s. Billy went from being three seconds off the Saturday race winners best race lap, to being only 1.5-seconds off front running pace on Sunday.
Manuel Gonzalez – P1
“What a race! What a couple of last laps! When I went wide in the first corner, I thought I had the same problem as Misano. I pushed really hard in the last laps. I saw Tuuli and Krummenacher suffering a bit with the rear tyre. I was always on the limit, I tried to push. I thought I couldn’t take De Rosa in the last corner on the last lap, but the plan went perfectly. I tried to close in the last sector because I was suffering there a lot in the race. In the last corner, I tried to stop the bike and tried to accelerate. To finish in first position is incredible, my second win of the season. I will continue working like this because the team were incredible. The bike was working really well. The race was really fast.”
Raffaele De Rosa – P2
“Very, very close to winning! I’m happy after a good race from yesterday, today we needed to confirm and I’m happy because the team worked every weekend, they believe in me. I try to win but I couldn’t make the overtake at that point. I’m happy and confident for the rest of the season.”
Niki Tuuli – P3
“It didn’t come easy. I don’t know what happened with the setting. We are always so strong in the morning, and also this weekend, we feel the pace is good and the setting is perfect. I can stay in the low 1’45s and riding feels really easy. When the temperature goes 15 degrees higher, the bike changes totally and it was so difficult to ride. I was sure I was not going to make a podium and I was really mad about it during the race. I just tried to focus to make more or less the same lap time without mistakes and in the last lap I saw a couple of guys started to make small mistakes. I caught the group. It didn’t come easy.”
The final race of the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship’s visit to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a record-breaking race as Bahattin Sofuoglu (Biblion Yamaha Motoxracing) claimed victory by just 0.003s in Race 2 for the Hyundai N Catalunya Round, fending off Alvaro Diaz Cebrian (Arco-Motor University Team) in a drag race to the line.
The top five were able to break away from the chasing pack in the first half of the race, but by the second half of the race the secondary group was able to close the gap with a group of 20 riders fighting for the podium and race victory.
With a few laps to go, Diez Cebrian made a move for the lead but was overhauled by Sofuoglu heading into the final lap, with the Turkish star claiming his first victory since the 2020 Teruel Round.
Diaz Cebrian claimed his first WorldSSP300 podium with second place and missed out on a sensational victory by the narrowest of margins, while Samuel Di Sora (Leader Team Flembbo) claimed third place as he returned to the rostrum.
The French rider had been leading in the closing stages but finished in third place, just 0.096s from Sofuoglu. Di Sora was the lead Kawasaki in the race with his podium finish enough for Kawasaki to claim the Manufacturers’ Championship with four races to spare.
Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) missed out on a podium place by four tenths but fourth place for the Championship leader meant he was able to extend his Championship lead over Tom Booth-Amos (Fusport – RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) after the British rider was declared unfit for Race 2 following a Race 1 crash, with Huertas extending his lead over Booth-Amos to 43 points.
Aussie Harry Khouri finished in 15th, improving on his Saturday DNF result and claiming a championship point, but not matching his P6 qualifying result on race day.
Bahattin Sofuoglu – P1
“I’m very happy because we worked a lot for the podiums yesterday and today. I’m very happy for this. When I was not good, making not very good results, I want to thank Kenan because he always helped me and my brother Toprak and my other brothers Can and Deniz. A big thanks to them; we are always together, and we always learn together. I’m very happy with this, we did a great result. I want to thank my team; they made no mistakes this weekend.”
Alvaro Diaz Cebrian – P2
“I’m very happy with this podium. My first race as a wildcard and thanks to my team for all their support, and also Yamaha.”
Samuel Di Sora – P3
“Third again! Here we are. After yesterday’s race, when the bike was not going well, it was a pretty heavy shock for all of us as we know we’re very strong here. To be back on the podium today, fighting for the victory, I led many laps. I want to thank my team for the job they did.”
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.