Round 11 – Magny Cours
This weekend the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship circus moves to Circuit Nevers Magny-Cour in France for the final European round of the year. Even if there are still three rounds to go before the end of the Championship, the French round could mark an important stage in the run-up to the world titles of the three classes.
In WorldSBK Jonathan Rea dominates the overall standings with a 91-points lead over Ducati rider Àlvaro Bautista. Rea could add a fifth World Superbike Championship title this weekend.
In WorldSSP it is an open challenge among the Yamaha riders of the Bardahl Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team with Swiss native Randy Krummenacher enjoying a slim 10-point advantage over team-mate Federico Caricasulo.
The fight for the WorldSSP300 title is more open, albeit only among Kawasaki riders, but this class has only two races to be run since it will not race in Argentina. Spaniard Manuel Gonzalez leads the standings with a lead of 38-points over Dutchman Scott Deroue and 47 points over defending Champion Ana Carrasco.
Inaugurated almost 60 years ago in 1960, the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit is 4411 metres long and has nine right-handers and eight to the left. This track is characterised by sudden deceleration and re-acceleration changes, interspersed with medium length straights, with plenty of small altitude changes. In its default layout it also provides a hairpin (Adelaide) with one of the heaviest braking points present among the international circuits, arriving from a fast straight.
The asphalt has a smooth and regular surface and therefore offers little natural grip, especially in case of low temperatures or in the wet. Moreover, in some points the riders are called to brake in the downhill sections putting the front tyre under stress.
Dogged determination and unrivalled resilience – Jonathan Rea would never have imagined wrapping the championship up at Magny-Cours after the first 11 races of the season. But that is the situation that the Northern Irishman finds himself in as he could secure title number five at the technical French track. Having achieved the double at the track in 2018, Rea’s form at Magny-Cours is good in recent years: three more wins, three further poles and four other podiums. Can anyone topple the championship-elect?
“It is very exciting to go to Magny Cours because it feels like the previous round in Portugal was a long time ago. I am ready to get back on the bike. Last weekend was the wedding of my crew chief Pere Riba, so we were all together as a team and we had a really good time together. Now we turn our attentions to Magny Cours. It is a circuit that requires really good stability on the brakes and also a bike set-up that changes direction well. I feel that we are prepared as it is will play to the strengths of the Ninja ZX-10RR in some areas and in some areas we need to find a set-up compromise. We need to keep one eye on the weather and one eye on performance. At Magny Cours you never really know what weather cards you are going to get dealt. In any case I am ready to get stuck in.”
34-year-old Alvaro Bautista is Rea’s nearest and only mathematical challenger in the race to the crown in 2019. Having never been to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Alvaro Bautista’s prospects of taking points away from Rea seem slim – although 2019 has already dealt the unforeseeable. “Until the mathematics say no, you have to fight” was what the Spaniard declared after his win at Portimao and it is that mentality that will keep the fight alive. Will he rock up to another new track and put Rea’s championship celebrations on ice?
“My shoulder is much better than at Portimão, so we will immediately see what it’s like when I go on the track. I think I will have no problem to ride, but it will be very important for me to do a lot of laps on the track, learn the layout and be competitive in the race. We have to try and keep cutting the gap to Jonathan, but we are ready for the weekend and I hope to enjoy this new track.”
The battle for third place in the overall standings is still raging on behind the leading duo, as Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) heads team-mate Michael van der Mark by just five points. Lowes may be under threat from his Dutch team-mate if last year’s form is anything to go by.
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is fifth in the standings and has three podiums to his name at Magny-Cours, as well as his last pole position to-date coming at the circuit in 2015.
Behind Haslam by just six points is Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), with the 22-year-old Turkish rider aiming for a podium at a seventh different circuit of the season.
19 points further back is Chaz Davies will look to utilise his three wins at Magny-Cours in order to close in on the battle for third.
“I feel good for Magny-Cours because the podium at Portimao has actually given me optimism for the rest of the season and I feel that it proves we have a pretty good package with the bike now. The French track has been quite kind to me in the past so we’ll try and get some good results there. I’m not really looking for any particular place in the championship now: of course it’s nice to be in the hunt for the top 3 but my goal is just to be competitive on the remaining circuits until the end of the year.”
Tom Sykes was a double winner back in 2013 at Magny-Cours, although BMW as a manufacturer have never before achieved a victory at the French circuit.
“I’m looking forward to heading to France and to racing at Magny-Cours. I feel that the chassis of the BMW S 1000 RR could work really well in a couple of the sectors there. I’ve always enjoyed riding on the track layout there so hopefully we can utilise that to our advantage. Of course, there is a very long straight there which we can’t deny we probably will face some difficulties on. But I’m looking forward to working with the team again and going in the direction which we have done all year, which is slowly working towards where we need to be. Unfortunately, the weather forecast does not look particularly welcoming, but on a positive, we’ve also had very strong results with the new RR in wet conditions. So we’ll go there and try to make as strong a weekend as possible.”
WorldSBK Championship Points Standings
|4||Michael Van Der Mark||244|
|11||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||107|
Heading to France as championship leader, Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) knows that he has no room for mistakes in this crucial time of the year. The Swiss rider has been leading the standings from the first round of the year at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. He missed the podium just once in the UK, and with four wins, eight podiums and three Superpoles he has used consistency as his key weapon against the opposition.
But Krummenacher is not the only rider who has taken steady steps towards the title throughout all the season. His teammate Federico Caricasulo is only 10 points behind him with three wins, nine podiums and three pole positions.
Local hero Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA) is currently third in the championship standings, 48 points behind Krummenacher, and is looking forward to putting on a strong performance at his home round.
Still chasing his first win onboard the Kawasaki ZX-6R, Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) arrives at Magny Cours after having taken his third back-to-back podium for 2019 in Portugal. The 2017 WorldSSP World Champion seems to have finally found his feet with the green machine of the Italian team, and at his home round the Frenchman will look forward to proving it again. On the other side of the Puccetti’s garage, Japanese rider Hikari Okubo will continue to aim for his first WorldSSP podium in his career.
World Supersport Championship Points Standings
|7||Raffaele De Rosa||69|
|20||Glenn Van Straalen||9|
|22||Jaimie Van Sikkelerus||9|
World Supersport 300
The championship is on the line for World Supersport 300, as three riders go into the Pirelli French Round with the chance of becoming champion. However, only one can win it this weekend: Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) has a 38-point advantage over Scott Deroue (Kawasaki MOTOPORT), and needs just a top four finish to secure the crown. However, this is WorldSSP300, where a top four finish is certainly easier said than done…
He may have only taken his first win of the season at Portimao, but Scott Deroue won’t go down without a fight in WorldSSP300. The Dutchman has been twice-third in the standings at the end of the season and has been one of the more consistent riders in the class. However, bad luck in 2019 has seen Deroue on the back foot. Deroue must take more than 14-points or more from Gonzalez to take the fight to the floodlights of Losail.
Defending champion Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300) must win at Magny-Cours and hope that Gonzalez is 14th or lower. She cannot afford to have anything less than a win at Magny-Cours if she is to take the championship down the final round of the season. Just eight points from the opening the opening two races and not taking advantage of Gonzalez and Deroue’s Donington Park issues have been pivotal. Magny-Cours is where Ana claimed the World Championship #1 plate last year.
There’s no mathematic chance of Andy Verdoïa (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) winning the championship in 2019, so the Frenchman heads home to race for nothing but pride and glory. His two podiums of 2019 have come in the last three races, showing great improvement throughout the season. He leads the French charge as the field arrives at Magny-Cours, whilst also remaining in the battle for third place with Carrasco. Just 14 points behind Deroue, Verdoïa may even find himself improving to second, should events transpire against his rivals.
13-points behind Verdoïa is 2017 WorldSSP300 champion Marc Garcia, who is leading the battle for fifth position overall. The Jerez Race 1 winner jumped to fifth in the championship at Portimao and now sets his sights on bridging the gap to those ahead of him. On his last appearance at Magny-Cours, Garcia took victory from 11th on the grid, highlighting that anything is possible. One point behind Garcia is Victor Steeman (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team) whilst his teammate, Jan-Ole Jahnig, is just one point further back.
World Supersport 300 Championship Standings
|8||Hugo De Cancellis||47|
|9||Galang Hendra Pratama||44|
|20||Enzo De La Vega||11|
|2315||WSSP300||Last Chance Race|