A different kind of horsepower: WorldSBK’s ferocious title fight gallops to Jerez
On the edge and on the limit, just one point separates Razgatlioglu and Rea as Andalusia awaits
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship rumbles into the tenth round and the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto in Andalusia, Spain. The Motul Spanish Round will see the 100th WorldSBK race in Spain and welcomed the Championship to the country for the first time back in 1990. At the head of the field, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) has a miniscule one-point lead of title rival and defending six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), as both push each other to new levels each round in a style never seen before. Not wanting to give an inch and aiming to beat each other to the next corner, let alone just the race, something special awaits at Jerez.
A DUEL TO REMEMBER: Razgatlioglu vs Rea continues
Aiming for a perfect ten in the beautiful south, Toprak Razgatlioglu is hoping to get back to winning ways at Jerez, having not been able to grab a victory at Catalunya. Currently on eight wins for the season, the Turkish sensation is within striking distance of getting to double figures, which would make him the first Yamaha WorldSBK rider to reach this tally in one season. Struck by mechanical problems in Catalunya’s Race 1 and in the Tissot Superpole Race at Jerez in 2020, he hopes that his luck improves this weekend. Teammate Andrea Locatelli is in the mix and after a tricky Catalunya, heads to a circuit he knows well with the aim of helping Toprak as well as returning to the rostrum.
In the slipstream of his title rival, Jonathan Rea knows that Jerez is vital. A track of which he was a winner at in 2020 in but also a track where high track temperatures aren’t favourable for Kawasaki, it’s hard to tell how the weekend will go. Rea’s form however speaks for itself at the Spanish track, with three wins and seven podiums, although he’s only made it to the podium three times out of the last six races held there, only taking one win in the same period. With the Championship so tight at the top, every point matters for Rea, who comes into the round off the back of a sixth place in Race 2 at Catalunya and where high track temperatures once again played a part. Teammate Alex Lowes couldn’t crack the top six at Jerez in 2020 and seeks a first full-race podium since Donington Park.
RED HOT, RED PAINT: Ducati the ones to beat in the heat?
Perhaps Jerez will be painted red for a second year running; Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is 60 points behind Razgatlioglu but with high track temperatures expected, it may favour the British star and the Ducati Panigale V4 R. Although admitting that they struggle in heat, the capacity to cope with such temperatures seems better for Ducati riders, who maintain a stable race pace and come strong at the end. An inspired tyre choice saw both he and Catalunya Race 2 winner Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) opt for the SC0 rear tyre instead of the SCX used by their opponents, a choice that gave them a double podium. Redding won twice at Jerez in 2020 with high temperatures, heading a Ducati 1-2. Crucial for title aspirations and the manufacturer standings – Ducati trail leaders Yamaha by just a point – could the Ducati riders be the ones to watch?
BAUTISTA BRILLIANCE: Honda ready to challenge at the front again?
In good form and getting stronger, Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) is starting to show the potential of the Honda project, having been right in contention during the dry Sunday running in Barcelona. A return to the podium in the Superpole Race and a solid fourth in Race 2, Bautista wishes for more of the same at Jerez. Having recently completed a private test at the Andalusian venue, he and teammate Leon Haslam could well be in a prime position to make hay whilst the sun shines over the Honda box. Haslam also showed strength at Catalunya and both riders were competitive at Jerez in 2020; could we see them in contention once more?
BMW FIGHTBACK: will Jerez see a surprise?
The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team head to Jerez with mixed thoughts, with Tom Sykes’ participation to be confirmed following his Race 2 crash at Catalunya that brought out the Red Flag and left him with severe concussion. Teammate Michael van der Mark is the lead rider heading to Jerez, a circuit he won at back in 2019, his last full-race victory to-date. He is five points clear of Sykes in the standings and just 29 from a top five placing overall. Firmly in the battle and heading to a track where he took a podium in 2020, van der Mark will be keen to shine.
CLOSING UP: the Independent battle isn’t so nailed on after all…
The Independent battle is alive and kicking with the top two getting closer; Axel Bassani’s podium coupled with Garrett Gerloff’s Race 1 sighting lap crash means just 26 points split the pair, Gerloff ahead. Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) is out for Jerez, replaced by 2020 podium-finisher and current MotoAmerica star Loris Baz. The Frenchman is back in action at a circuit he took two top five finishes at in 2020. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is the next Independent in 14th overall, just a point clear of Japanese rookie Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). At Catalunya, Nozane was top Yamaha in Race 1 and took his first top ten in a full-distance race.
Outside of the main protagonists, Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) hopes he can continue his progress, whilst Christophe Ponsson comes to Jerez off the back of his first ever top ten finish in WorldSBK after Catalunya’s Superpole Race. Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) aims to return to the points at a circuit he won at in 2015’s Moto2™ season, whereas Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) aims to build on a first top ten of 2021 at Catalunya. Samuele Cavalieri (Barni Racing Team) returns to action, whilst Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) heads for Jerez with Lachlan Epis as teammate once again. Two extra riders for the weekend: Marvin Fritz (IXS-YART Yamaha) and Andrea Mantovani (Vince64) both join the field again.