The World Superbike Championship returns to Portimao in Portugal for Round 10, with just four rounds remaining for the season and 20 riders preparing for the scorching skies and on track battles.
The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve was designed by architect Ricardo Pina and was inaugurated exactly ten years ago. This track is 4592 metres long, with 9 right-handers and six left-hand corners and a configuration with a maximum gradient of 57 metres, a long turn radii that goes from 23 metres to a maximum of 207 metres, and a finishing straight which has a total length of 835 metres. The rider in pole position starts from the right side of the track.
In recent years the Portuguese circuit has undoubtedly less natural grip than when the asphalt was new, so is less severe on tyres than originally. It remains one of the circuits that best brings out the capacity of the tyre to operate in extremely different conditions because of its altitude changes and demanding blind entry curves.
With a championship lead of 92-points heading into the Nolan Portuguese Round, Jonathan Rea will be keeping one eye on the title this weekend. With a strong history around Portimao, the Northern Irish rider has competed in 18 WorldSBK races around the 4.5km circuit, taking five victories and 12 podium finishes.
Performing well with both the Honda and Kawasaki, it’s clear Rea enjoys the pace of Portimao. Hoping to continue his run of four consecutive wins in 2018 which began back at Laguna Seca this season, he will also look at taking his sixth consecutive victory around Portugal. The numbers speak for themselves, but it will be the race pace that does the talking.
“I am very excited to go back to Portimao because it is a circuit that I really enjoy. It has been a really long summer break so the test at Portimao a few weeks ago really helped to whet my appetite to get back. We worked on a range of different chassis items and also some Pirelli tyres but the real work will start this weekend when we look to get the set-up of the Ninja ZX-10RR dialled in for the circuit conditions, and then try to do the best job we can. There is a lot of support coming from back home and I am really excited about that. The target is clear – to try and win two races.”
Heading back to the track after a somewhat turbulent summer break, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will be nursing a collarbone injury following two training crashes this summer, but hopes to be back and fighting fit this week.
Breaking his right collarbone in the first week of the break in a mountain bike crash, he later saw the crack re-open following a Supermotard crash two weeks ago. Looking at taking his first victory around Portimao – his best result here is a second – he will come out fighting as he embarks on the Paniagle R’s final eight races.
“The collarbone injury was just not ideal, but I felt progress during these days, which is the most important thing. We’re going to see how Friday goes and then take it step by step, without rushing things too much early on. I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK once I step on the Panigale R, but we need to make sure we build our way into the round and avoid potential bumps on the road before the actual races. The test was OK, but track conditions should be cooler this weekend so things can change quite a bit in terms of setup and feeling. We left the test with a good direction so we just need to step back on the bike and keep working.
Sitting in third position in the championship standings, Michael van der Mark returns to the track which saw him take his debut Yamaha podium last season, after a stunning race two battle.
Three top five finishes out of four races are welcomed for the Dutch rider in Portugal, as well as a win here in WorldSSP in 2014 on top of STK600 wins. A strong history in the Algarve and some strong official testing times will see him fight to keep hold of his strong championship position.
Michael van der Mark
“It will be good to get back on the bike and go racing again, as it has been such a long break this year. The goal in Portugal is to start where we left off in Misano, where I finished on the podium after battling with Jonathan Rea for the win. We will start the weekend from a good position, having completed a successful two-day test here back in August. The set up refinements we made during the test should work well, as the conditions for the race this weekend look to be very similar to those we experienced during the test. I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead and I hope we can start the second half of the season as strongly as we finished the first half.”
Whilst on the other side of the garage, Alex Lowes will be looking at improving his best result of fourth here, as he continues to feel more comfortable on the R1.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend ahead in Portimão, especially as the summer break seems to have gone on forever this year. We had a good two-day test at the track a few weeks ago. We had good weather, similar to what we can expect this weekend, and we managed to try a lot of different things on the bike, as well as working to find a good set up for the race. We managed to get through a pretty extensive test schedule and I’m confident that, if we can put everything we learnt together this weekend, we’ll have a pretty strong bike. There are now just four rounds remaining this season and my goal is to try and fight for the podium every weekend, starting this weekend in Portugal.”
Sykes is keen to get back into top level action but after comparatively recent surgery on his ankle injury he will evaluate his recovery in the first free practice sessions. Tom has 34 career race wins to his credit, the most recent at Assen in April of this year.
“The group of people working around me, doctors and so on, have done an absolutely fantastic job to make sure I am ready for this weekend. Given the kind of injury I had it could so easily have been in a cast, and taken four to six weeks to heal. But here we are at not even week four and I have been out enjoying some time on my bicycle. All things considered, we are doing not too badly. I am really looking forward to getting on the race bike. On the first few laps I will probably just feel my way in and make sure that my body, and especially my ankle, are ready for action. After that I will build the speed and get down to business.”
Both Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri stepped on the podium on several occasions at Portimão, three and four times respectively, and will try to boost their statistics to take home as many points as possible in the championship, where they sit in second and fifth position. Melandri is ready to attack to climb back in the rankings on a track where he has won twice.
“We head to Portimão with optimism, the tests there were positive and we were all fairly close in terms of pace. The track itself is unique, the elevation changes there are even bigger than at Laguna Seca, and it’s really fun to ride. Also, compared with 2017, the tarmac has been resurfaced and it’s in much better conditions. This helps my riding style, because usually I struggle more with bumps. I already won twice at Portimão and I just want to take as many points as possible. Finally we head back to the track, I can’t wait to ride again.”
Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty returns to a favoured circuit of his, and his eyes will be on the podium prize. Making a breakthrough with his team back at Laguna Seca, the Irish rider was able to regain the all important feeling in the rear tyre he had been searching for with the RSV4 RF and has two podiums to his name in 2018.
With 10 race appearances in his WorldSBK career here, he has collected two wins and three podiums and welcomed a top four finish in 2017’s race two. With improvements found, Laverty will be a strong contender for the podium under the sunny Algarve skies.
Another rider who suffered an injury throughout the summer was Leon Camier , but with four days of testing at Portimao back in August he was able to fully test his fitness levels ahead of the final third of the season.
Fracturing his C5 vertebrae in Suzuka 8 Hour testing, he was able to use the break to recover and now is determined to improve the results with the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2. With an all new bike underneath him following a busy summer for his Ten Kate squad, it will be a big weekend for the British rider. A solid history of top five finishes here will help with his pace, on top of the top four finish with MV Agusta last year.
“After a long break from racing I’m looking forward to getting back on my bike this weekend at Portimão and my body should be in better shape than it was during the test. When we tested at this circuit last month we found a good direction with our development and now we need to follow through with this progress during the race weekend. The developments we’ve introduced should help us this weekend and I think the track should suit the Fireblade, so I hope we can convert this into a good result.”
Frenchman Loris Baz had a busier summer break than anticipated as he was called in as a replacement rider for KTM at the British MotoGP. But his thoughts will now return to WorldSBK, as he continues to work on improving his BMW machine, sitting in 12th in the world championship standings.
Baz last raced around Portimao in 2014, and took a podium finish that same year – in Race One. Memory and race craft will be key for the 25 year old this weekend, and at a track he has never finished outside of the top seven around, it will be an interesting weekend for him.
With some strong days at the official summer test here, Jordi Torres will be looking to make some improvements in his final four rounds of 2018 after the Spaniard has had a tough transition to the Italian machine. Making some fundamental changes throughout the two days, he will hope his team has a strong year like 2017 where they were able to take home a top four.
Torres has an impressive pace himself in Portugal, scoring points in all four races and taking a top five finish in 2017. Currently in 13th in the championship standings, he will be ready for a big battle.
Don’t miss out on any of the Portimao action as WorldSBK makes it much anticipated return from 14th – 16th September.
10 #PortimaoWorldSBK Facts
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) comes from four wins in a row, secured at Laguna Seca and Misano. His only string of five was set last year, with two doubles at Phillip Island and Buriram, followed up with Aragon Race 1.
Round numbers for Kawasaki: they recorded their 120th win at Misano Race 2 with Jonathan Rea, which was also their 370th podium finish. They have others at hand as well: they currently hold 79 pole positions and 259 front row starts in qualifying.
Rea won his 49th race for Kawasaki at Misano. In WorldSBK history only two riders so far have won 50 or more races with a single manufacturer: Carl Fogarty for Ducati (55) and Troy Bayliss, also for Ducati (52).
There are nine different winners out of 18 races held in the Algarve. The only rider who has won more than twice is Jonathan Rea with five. His closest rivals with two wins are: Troy Bayliss, Max Biaggi, Marco Melandri, Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes.
Rea’s podium tally is stunning in Portugal: on 12 occasions out of 18 he finished in the top three. This is more than the double of his best competitor, Sylvain Guintoli with five.
Only the current pair of KRT riders have recorded more than one pole in qualifying here: Tom Sykes with three and Jonathan Rea with two. So far there have been six different polesitters out of the nine qualifying sessions held in Portugal.
The double win has been recorded by only three riders here: Troy Bayliss in 2008; Max Biaggi in 2010 and Jonathan Rea in 2015 and 2017. They were all crowned champions the same season which saw them record the double in Portugal.
Seven different manufacturers have been able to record at least one podium placement in Portugal: Ducati, Honda, Aprilia, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW.
Great Britain is the most successful country in Portugal, as it has obtained seven wins here with the current Kawasaki duo of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea. The couple won the last six races run here.
Only one third of the races run at Portimao were won from pole position: six out of 18. In the last four weekends here, only two of them came from pole: Tom Sykes in Race 1, 2014 and Jonathan Rea last year in Race 1.
Pirelli at Portimao WorldSBK
For the Portuguese round in the WorldSBK category, riders will have at their disposal ten dry solutions, four for the front and as many for the rear, as well as two supersoft qualifier tyres, one in the standard 200/60 size and the other in the bigger 200/65, to be used in the second session of Superpole.
The solutions provided for the front are two in soft compound SC1 and two in medium compound SC2. In addition to the standard SC1, those in the soft compound are the development versions V0952, much appreciated by riders in all the races this year, and X0417 which presents itself in the innovative 125/70 size compared to the 120/70 used by all the other solutions.
As for the medium solution, the riders will be able to choose between the standard SC2 and the development SC2 X0605, a solution with a stiffer compound which compared to the standard SC2, offers greater solidity and precision, giving more consistent wear and greater grip.
As for the rear, the riders will have available four soft solutions, the standard SC0, plus development solutions. These comprise of the X0175, which debuted at Brno and was brought also to Misano, it uses the same compound of the standard SC0 but is in the new 200/65 size, the new X0022, also in the bigger size and with the SC0 compound but with different structural solutions compared to the X0175. Finally, the W1050, in a standard size and compared to the standard SC0, is generally more suitable for cold temperatures.
WorldSBK 2018 following Misano
Jonathan Rea 370
Chaz Davies 278
Michael van der Mark 248
Tom Sykes 218
Marco Melandri 193
Alex Lowes 193
Xavi Fores 164
Eugene Laverty 113
Toprak Razgatlioglu 100
Lorenzo Savadori 92
Leon Camier 88
Loris Baz 86
Jordi Torres 80
Michael Ruben Rinaldi 59
Leandro Mercado 53
Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is set to be a pivotal stage for the ninth round of the FIM Supersport World Championship, as there is plenty still to play for with four weekends remaining. 35 points split the top six riders, and it will be the first time competing around the 4.5km circuit for more than half the grid. Sandro Cortese leads the way by five points, but anything can happen in WorldSSP.
German rookie Cortese has impressed so far this season, finishing off the podium on only three occasions in 2018. But he is heading into new territory this weekend, preparing to make his debut around Portimao with his YZF-R6.
After taking any new tracks in his stride so far this season and now with his rivals hot on his tails and hungry for the win, the opening free practice sessions will be key for the 28 year old. Last winning at Donington Park back in May, it’s been a while off the top for Cortese.
Main rival Jules Cluzel has been able to impress throughout the season following a steady start to his 2018 campaign, but once the championship hit Europe he has only finished off the podium once. One of the most experienced men on the grid around the Portimao circuit, he has two wins, one podium and one DNF under his belt in Portugal.
Taking pole position here in 2015, his pace here will be one to watch. Hungry to get a grasp on the championship lead, he will put up a strong battle. Finishing off the podium last time out in Misano, he will hope to rectify this in Portugal.
There has been some changes to the grid throughout the summer break, with Hector Barbera joining the series with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing as he replaces Sheridan Morias on the ZX-6R. The experienced Spaniard underwent two days of testing over the summer, but now he has a new battle around the undulating Portimao circuit. Whilst British rider Alex Murley joins GEMAR Team Lorini, making his debut in the series.
The championship battle isn’t only down to two men however, as Randy Krummenacher sits in third position and only 22 points behind. With some pivotal summer tests put in, the Swiss rider is making his WorldSSP debut around the circuit meaning it will be a bigger challenge than normal with his YZF-R6.
World Supersport 300
When the lights go out this Sunday, for the penultimate FIM Supersport 300 World Championship race of 2018, it will be twenty-four hours short of a year since Ana Carrasco became the talk of the sporting world. 53 thousandths of a second was all it took for her to become the first woman to win a world championship race in Portugal, and now she is preparing for another historical weekend.
The famed rollercoaster track started a rollercoaster year for Carrasco, as one year later she is the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship leader, and has the first opportunity to take the title. Back to where it all began in the Algarve, she sits 16 points ahead of her rivals and could be crowned WorldSSP300 champion on Sunday. But after two tough races in Brno and Misano, she will be looking to bounce back.
Title glory is anything but guaranteed for Carrasco, however. The gap with Luca Grunwald, her closest rival this season, has closed to just 16 points, and the German has finished ahead of the Kawasaki rider in both last two races. He’s also a proven winner, taking victory earlier this year at the always-treacherous Assen, and kept active this summer with a Moto3 wild card.
Sitting in third position overall, Borja Sánchez crashed out after one lap at Misano, but he has also finished three consecutive times on the rostrum this season, more than anyone else in the series. The Spaniard remains a talented and dangerous rival on the Ninja 400, despite his 26-point deficit with the championship leader.
Three points behind Sánchez is Scott Deroue. The Dutchman was leading in Rimini when mechanical issues ended his Sunday early through no fault of his own. With pace on his side, Deroue will be aiming to take his first win since Assen 2017 and keep his championship options alive going into the final showdown at Magny-Cours.
For the rest of the riders in the championship race a win at Portimao may not be enough to make it to France with options, but that will not hinder their motivation in Portugal.
Despite his two no scores at the start of the season, Galang Hendra Pratama remains in the mix in sixth position in the standings, 32 points from the lead and tied with Mika Pérez, who also has two zeroes to his name. Both men have been permanent fixtures in the top ten whenever they’ve been able to finish a race and hold several wins between them – neither rider is out of this battle just yet.
The first of the last two World Supersport 300 battles takes place on Sunday at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve!
European Superstock 1000 Championship riders are back in action after their summer break, and with just two races left anything could happen. Three riders remain in the title race, but several more have shown they have the pace to play much more than just small role at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.
Markus Reiterberger holds a 14 point lead at the top of the championship standings. The German rider has won four races out of six this season, three from lights to flag, and taking pole in each one of them; the 24 year old has been ruthless when in the lead.
The remaining races are anything but a formality for Reiterberger however: just one mistake or technical problem at Portimao could throw him off the top of the standings and place him in a very perilous position going into the final round. The former WorldSBK rider will undoubtedly try to get the job done early.
His main rival going into the end of the end of the season is Maximilian Scheib, who has shown incredible consistency throughout the year. The Chilean has scored five consecutive podiums along with a fourth place finish at MotorLand Aragon – he suffered a mechanical failure two laps from the end, while riding in second – and will be ready to pile the pressure on his championship rival.
The other rider left in the championship battle is Roberto Tamburini, 28 points from the lead. The Italian knows what it’s like to win at Portimao, taking victory in 2015, also on a BMW. While he faces an uphill battle, another win in the Algarve would automatically keep his title options alive going into France – and in an all or nothing race, anything can happen.
Federico Sandi will travel to Portugal searching for a first return to the rostrum since the opening race of 2018. While the Ducati rider cannot catch Reiterberger in the standings, he will be looking to prove a point and come out on top at Portimao, the same track where he took his best WorldSBK result back in 2013.
Keep up with all the STK1000 action this weekend, with only two weekends remaining in 2018.
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