If one were asked to briefly describe the city of Jerez, three concepts would immediately come to mind: horses, sherry, and two-wheel racing. Few places on Earth are more motorbike-crazy than this southern Spanish town, so with the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship making its way back to the Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto after a one-year absence a passionate reception from the local fans is expected, in particular for one man. Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) heads into a home round for the second time this season as the man to beat – what has changed since then is that he is no longer unbeaten.
Imola, four weeks ago, was in many ways a throwback to the last few years of WorldSBK before the Spaniard flipped the script this season. The two men trading barbs at the top of the timesheets, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), have endured no shortage of frustrating moments so far this season after years upon years of one-upmanship – but the page may have turned at last. Rea showed imperious form around the sleek Italian track, winning both races, breaking the lap record in Race 1 and overcoming his previously invincible rival by a combined 14.6 seconds. The four-time champion has tasted blood for the first time this year and is all the more dangerous for it.
Meanwhile, anyone browsing through a stats sheet may be led to believe that Davies’ weekend was little better than the four prior, nine points a desperately low tally for one of Ducati’s favourite tracks. The Welshman has been at odds with the new V4 R since the start of the year, and while the battle in Italy was arguably lost, the war may have at last fallen in his favour. Only a mechanical failure and the cancellation of Race 2 kept Davies from taking a hat-trick of podiums at Imola, and perhaps even a first race win since April 2018. From Aragon last year to Jerez 2019, the drought will surely soon be behind him.
From the championship leader’s perspective, the Italian Round was more of an outlier than a change of fortunes. Imola is as old-school as they come: rough and testy for newcomers, a delight for the veterans; and while he fell into the former group in Italy – and still performed above expectations – Jerez is a completely different story. There may not be a track on the calendar where Bautista has ridden more miles or with a wider variety of bikes, even making his WorldSBK debut there back in November. More to the point, on his very first day onboard the V4 R he finished barely a couple of tenths of a second behind Rea. There will be no such warnings this weekend.
Another anomaly at Imola was the lack of YZF-R1s on the rostrum in both races. Illness and an unshackled Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) kept Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) off the podium, respectively; yet it still turned out to be the Japanese manufacturer’s best weekend at Imola in many years. A top-3 return could be on the cards for Jerez, even with the number of potential frontrunners increasing every round.
That leads us to perhaps the biggest story emerging from Team Blue this round: the long-awaited return of one of WorldSBK’s most beloved squads, Ten Kate Racing. The Dutch squad, world champions in both WorldSBK and WorldSSP alongside Honda, have partnered with Yamaha for this new chapter, recruiting Loris Baz for the ride. After last week’s soaked out Misano shakedown, the French racer and Ten Kate are ready to put their savoir-faire into action.
If race pace was the one factor taken into consideration to judge a rider’s merits, few were more brilliant in Italy than Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). Yet wherever the Yorkshireman went misfortune followed, technical and tyre issues leading to a meagre return of two points over the weekend. Silver lining? The S1000 RR looks like a rocket in the making, particularly in his hands. A first podium cannot be too far off for the increasingly competitive BMW Motorrad project – but will it arrive in Jerez?
Elsewhere down the field, Yuki Takahashi replaces the injured Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Racing) to form an all-Japanese alliance with Ryuichi Kiyonari. Tommy Bridewell will once again be filling in for Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), after his outstanding, last-minute replacement job in Italy, while ‘Tati’ Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) is set to return from his scaphoid injury after a two-month absence.
The Acerbis Spanish Round kicks off at 10:30 local time (GMT+2) on Friday, June 7th with Free Practice 1, FP2 following at 15:00. The Tissot Superpole kicks off the action on Saturday 8th at 11:00, with lights out for Race 1 at 14:00; before a double serving of racing on Sunday 9th: the Tissot Superpole Race at 11:00 and Race 2 to close the weekend off at 14:00.
After a dramatic Pirelli Italian Round, the WorldSSP championship heads to sunny Spain and the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, just outside of Jerez de la Frontera. Championship leader Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) heads his teammate, Federico Caricasulo, by 22 points and will be eager to build on his gap. However, could come from elsewhere at the Acerbis Spanish Round.
Randy Krummenacher’s season has been nothing short of superb, having achieved three wins and two second places, firmly establishing himself at the forefront of the WorldSSP field. The Swiss rider heads to Jerez and a circuit at which he has never scored points at since his arrival into the WorldSBK and WorldSSP paddocks. Should he achieve another victory, the 29-year-old will have taken back-to-back wins at the third time of asking; something that Switzerland has never achieved in WorldSSP.
Whilst Krummenacher has been on the podium, his teammate, Federico Caricasulo has shadowed him every step of the way, also taking five podiums from five races. The Italian, who was robbed of victory by a technical issue on the final lap at Imola, will hope to strike back at Jerez. The last time WorldSSP came to Jerez, Caricasulo was the winner, starting from pole and achieving the fastest lap. Could Jerez be the turning point for the 23-year-old?
What looked like a promising Imola ended in a bit of a disappointment for Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA), as the Frenchman took his worst result of the season after leading in the early laps. Caught up in an accident with fellow Frenchman Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Thomas Gradinger (Kallio Racing), Cluzel managed a seventh place but lost touch in the title race. He’s now 37 points adrift of the lead but comes to Jerez, where has was second in 2017. Can he go one better in 2019?
It was a splendid Imola weekend for Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who took a career-best result in WorldSSP. Now, heading to Jerez, Okubo wants to build on his strong season, having yet to finish outside of the top eight in 2019. He will also be eager to end the nation’s podium drought, with the last Japanese rider mounting the podium being Katsuaki Fujiwara at Silverstone in 2007. Can Okubo impress at a circuit where his best result is 13th?
Raffaele De Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) was back at the sharp end in Italy, taking a home podium at Imola to elevate him back to fifth in the overall standings. De Rosa will be looking for his first back-to-back podiums in almost a season, the Italian will look hope to achieve a good result at a circuit which he knows well. However, this will be his first time at Jerez on a WorldSSP machine, which promises excitement as he seeks a return to the podium.
Placed sixth in the championship, Thomas Gradinger endured more bad luck in Imola, suffering his second retirement which was no fault of his own. Still, on his day, the Austrian rider is fighting hard at the front of the field and will be desperate to get back on the podium for the second time. However, Jerez is a new circuit for the Kallio Racing rider to undertake, making Free Practice sessions very important if he wants a top result.
Watch out for Lucas Mahias at Jerez, as he looks like his 2017 WorldSSP Championship winning self. Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) is hoping for a good homecoming, whilst Ayrton Badovini (Team Pedercini Racing) and Peter Sebestyen (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) will both want to return to the top ten for a second consecutive round.
The WorldSSP300 Championship will be the busiest it has ever been, with two action-packed races on the horizon at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. It will be a thrilling weekend, with two races meaning that stakes are very high, and riders will need to capitalize on the Free Practice sessions for optimum race pace. Heading the championship standings with a perfect 50 points, Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) will hope to retain his advantage.
Two wins from two races, Manuel Gonzalez has battled hard to take his first career victories. The Spaniard, who heads to his second home event of the season, will be eager to put on a strong show in front of his home crowd. The 16-year-old, from Madrid, wildcarded at Jerez back in 2017 and finished 34th, although he will be sure to improve on that this weekend, in order to remain at the front of the championship battle.
Veteran WorldSSP300 rider and three-time race winner Scott Deroue (Kawasaki MOTOPORT) knows better than anyone that this is the perfect opportunity to take points off Gonzalez. Finishing second at Jerez back in 2017, the Dutchman will hope to capitalize on Gonzalez’s relative inexperience at the circuit at WorldSSP300 level. Can Deroue halt Gonzalez’s charge in 2019?
Just a few points back from Deroue, Hugo De Cancellis (Team Trasimeno Yamaha) has made a strong start to his 2019 campaign. The French rider, who has taken one podium in 2019, will take heart from the fact that his consistency has put him in the championship fight. In the first two seasons of WorldSSP300 action, the eventual champion has never won in the opening two rounds of the season. Will De Cancellis start winning at Jerez?
It is a fourth different nationality lying in fourth in the championship, with Jan-Ole Jahnig (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team) sitting on 29 points, some 21 behind Gonzalez. The German rider was fourth at MotorLand Aragon and third at TT Circuit Assen, highlighting his progression as the season unfolds. The 18-year-old made one appearance at Jerez in 2017 but wasn’t classified. Will he be a race win challenger?
Completing the top five is Omar Bonoli (Team Trasimeno Yamaha), who has shown flashes of brilliance in his young WorldSSP300 career. A seventh place at MotorLand Aragon was followed up by a sixth-place finish and a fastest lap at Assen, meaning the progress is certainly showing for Bonoli. The 17-year-old Italian will look to make up for lost points at Imola with two strong races at Jerez, a circuit which is new to him, despite not being classified in 2017.
There are plenty of other names to keep an eye on, with Galang Hendra Pratama (Semakin Di Depan Biblion Motoxracing) being the last – and so-far only – winner in the class at Jerez. Former Jerez WorldSSP300 pole-sitter Marc Garcia (DS Junior Team) will want to return to the front, whilst reigning champion Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300) will seek to improve on her 11th place championship position. Andy Verdoia (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) will be another rider in the mix, having completed the seventh addition of the VR46 Master Camp.
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