The #WorldSBKFinale: Indonesia hosts fierce 2021 title race at all-new Mandalika
One of the greatest seasons in memory is coming to a close, but does one more twist lie ahead in an unforgettable 2021 WorldSBK Championship battle?
35 races, 12 circuits, five different winners but only one thing to left to decide: who will take the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship? The final round of a sensational season is on the horizon, with all the twists and turns up to this point making for a grand finale. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) leads the way into the Pirelli Indonesian Round, held at the all-new Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit on the picturesque Lombok Island. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is second, 30 points adrift but has three races to keep his crown for a seventh straight season in what would be one of the greatest sporting comebacks ever seen. In a rivalry that has raged all season, this is the final hurdle: Razgatlioglu vs Rea and the showdown that’s been on everyone’s lips.
THE HEAVYWEIGHTS: it all comes down to this
It’s been a phenomenal season of racing, but Toprak Razgatlioglu has raised the bar; despite not winning until the ninth race of 2021, he’s has racked up 13 wins and an astounding 28 podiums. He’s cemented himself as the rider to beat but the results are just the fruit of his hard work, as well as his never-give-in attitude. Never knowing when he’s beaten and fighting with resilient spirit, the 25-year-old Turk is on the verge of becoming World Champion, the first for Yamaha since Ben Spies in 2009. Will Toprak and indeed Turkey hold on for a first WorldSBK crown? His teammate, Andrea Locatelli – already rookie of the year – hopes to get fourth overall in the standings, being just eight points behind Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), whilst also aiming to help Toprak to the title and Yamaha to the Manufacturers’ Championship, as they lead Ducati by 16 points.
At Kawasaki, there’s still a chance of retaining the crown. Jonathan Rea’s season started strongly with a 100th win in WorldSBK at Aragon and he, like Toprak, has demonstrated great consistency and has won 11 races and also taken 28 podiums. However, costly errors at Donington Park, Most and notably Portimao, have put Rea on the backfoot. Despite this, Rea remains in touch and is in a position to pounce if Razgatlioglu can’t capitalise. Rea’s never been in this position before and the 34-year-old Ulsterman will do everything in his power to keep the crown. Teammate Alex Lowes will be wingman, as he hopes to back-up Rea as both aim to give Kawasaki an opportunity of retaining their Manufacturers’ title. Lowes himself has a chance of sixth overall, 23 points behind Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
THE SPOILERS: fighting for their own cause
With the Riders’ Championship not featuring a Ducati rider, Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) may well be the one who can ride at ease the most. He’s currently third in the standings, something that at the bare minimum he will hold on to, but he’s also not too far away from Rea to take second. 36 is the gap between Rea and Redding, meaning Rea has to score two more points than Redding in Race 1 to lock the Englishman out. Redding and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi have the job of keep Yamaha honest in the Manufacturers’ Championship too and may be the spoilers at the front and amidst the title battle. Redding hopes to leave Ducati on a high and win races, whilst Rinaldi looks to secure fourth overall, a respectable result after his first year in the factory team.
Whilst the battle for fourth is mainly a two-horse race, Michael van der Mark has a mathematical chance of snatching it, something that really would be sensational in his first year aboard the all-new BMW M 1000 RR. 42 points back, van der Mark can’t achieve that fourth place without podiums but with a threat of rain looming large, the 29-year-old Dutchman is a contender. Coming back for what could be his final round in WorldSBK, with no clear future on the horizon, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) aims to sign off his three years at BMW well and take advantage of a neutral track, something which could see both BMWs fighting for good positions. BMW have one hand on fourth overall in the Manufacturers’ standings, something they aim to consolidate in Race 1.
Team HRC head to Indonesia after announcing their 2022 line-up of Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge. Current riders Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and teammate Leon Haslam hope to end their season on a high; Bautista comes into the round after a tricky San Juan, but the bike has had podiums in 2021. The Spaniard’s final weekend with Team HRC will see him hope that a good showing proves that two years of development paid off. Bautista can snatch ninth place from Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) in the title and has a mathematical chance of seventh overall, making Mandalika vital. Teammate Haslam hasn’t got anything signed for 2022, so like Sykes, this weekend has the potential to be his last one. Regardless, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ aims to build on four top ten results in the last six races to fend off Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) who is just three points behind.
THE BATTLE OF THE INDEPENDENTS: Gerloff and Bassani set for their own showdown
As well as all the excitement in the factory teams, the battle for the Best Independent rider is still on and is tightening; Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) leads the way by 14 points from Axel Bassani, but the rookie Italian is snapping at the American’s heals. Bassani was in the podium battle in San Juan and will hope to capitalise at the new Mandalika venue. Bassani is also in contention for a top seven overall, with Gerloff tied on points with Alex Lowes. Behind Bassani is Chaz Davies in 13th overall, having missed two rounds through injury. This will be Davies’ last weekend in WorldSBK, with the British rider hoping to end a career that’s seen him win 32 races and finish runner-up three times in WorldSBK in style. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is 14th overall as he faces the final round of his rookie season, four points ahead of Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
THE REST: racing for a strong end to 2021
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) isn’t present, and neither is Eugene Laverty, who has been a substitute for Tom Sykes in recent rounds, meaning there’s chances for Isaac Viñales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) to improve their positions overall in the Championship standings, with Viñales growing in confidence as the year has gone on. Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) is 21st in the standings and will aim to finish his season strongly, whilst Samuele Cavalieri (Barni Racing Team) will likewise have the same objectives. Finally, Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) is out of action after being declared unfit, with new rider Oliver Konig graduating from WorldSSP300, where he was a podium finisher earlier in the year at Most, to lead the team.
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