No rest for the best: WorldSBK hits Estoril for Round 2 of 2021
After a lengthy off-season, there’s a second round in as many weekends as World Superbike heads to Estoril with plenty of questions pending after a titanic opening round of the year
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicked off in dramatic style at MotorLand Aragon and there’s no rest as the paddock rumbles onwards to Portugal and the Circuito Estoril. Round 1 featured an array of stories, from tyre choice dilemmas to history-making victories. Estoril returned to the calendar in 2020 and provided huge stories and great parity for manufacturers, with more of the same to come this weekend – it really could be anyone’s round. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leads teammate Alex Lowes by 12 points in the standings, but it may all change at a circuit where they struggled at in 2020, whilst Yamaha were on fine form.
Having started the season with two consecutive 1-2s for the first time ever, the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK duo of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes lead the field to Estoril. Neither rider achieved a podium at the track in 2020 but their start of season form may well be an indication of the capabilities of the new ZX-10RR. Rea was fourth, fifth and 14th in 2020 after a Superpole crash, whilst Lowes was 6th in Race 1 and crashed in the two remaining races. Can they to continue their momentum, or will the opposition continue to strike back?
One of the strongest manufacturers at Estoril in 2020 was Yamaha, as they took a first-ever podium lockout in the Superpole Race. With the YZF-R1 turning a corner by being competitive at their weakest track – Aragon – it may be more of the same in 2021. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) took a podium at Aragon, whilst also taking two wins at Estoril in 2020 and a career-first pole. Teammate Andrea Locatelli took two top ten results at Aragon during the first round and won in World Supersport in 2020. The second-highest Yamaha in the Championship is Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who is top Independent and heads back to the track where he was on the podium twice in 2020 and took a best finish of second. He may well be another contender for victory, especially after an Aragon podium last weekend.
Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) lies third in the Championship standings and was on good form at the Circuito Estoril in 2020 until his Superpole crash. He recovered for Race 2 and was second and won Race 2 at Aragon last weekend. He aims for back-to-back victories for the first time in his career; teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi will hope for better weekend at Estoril, after a tricky Aragon gave the Italian just nine points and one points-scoring finish in Race 1 of 2021. He took the Independent title at Estoril in 2020 and aims to rekindle good memories. Leading Ducati’s Independent charge is Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven), winner at Estoril in 2020 and eager to build on two top five finishes at Aragon from round one, despite his Race 2 crash.
One of the hottest headlines coming into the second round of the season is that BMW have visibly made a step forward in performance in race trim. The new M 1000 RR made major gains in a straight line, as it was not only staying with its rivals in a straight line but passing them too. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is fifth in the standings – the first time inside the top five for him since Losail 2018 – and achieved two tenth place finishes in 2020 at Estoril. Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was on the rostrum in the Superpole Race of 2020 at Estoril, whilst he led a race at Aragon in Race 2 and setting a fastest lap in the opening round’s Tissot Superpole Race.
Aiming to turn a corner after a difficult opening three race of the year, Team HRC’s Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam will hope to put the Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP in front-running contention at Estoril. A best of seventh from Bautista in the Superpole Race at Aragon has left the manufacturer hoping for more this weekend, whereas Leon Haslam returns to a place where he took three top eight results last year – a best of fifth in Race 1 having started on the front row in second. With Haslam 12th in the standings and Bautista one place further behind, a turn-around in fortunes is a must this weekend.
Round 2 is already here… get ready for the Estoril Round!
With Gerloff and Davies sixth and eighth in the Independent standings, next best is Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) who took a stunning eighth in Race 2 at Aragon, having gambled on slick tyres. The German rider rode a Yamaha at Estoril in 2020 as a wildcard but faces a new challenge on the BMW M 1000 RR. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is 14th in the standings, with a tenth in Race 2 at Aragon – he was also a race winner in WorldSSP in 2020 at Estoril. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was mightily impressive and is one of just seven riders who scored points in all three races so far this year, although Estoril will be a whole new challenge with it being a track he’s never visited. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) and Christophe Ponsson (Alstare Yamaha) also all scored points from round one.
Still aiming to get their 2021 underway on the points board is Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team), who failed to finish both full-length races at Aragon; Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) who couldn’t break into the top 15 and TPR Team Pedercini Racing duo Loris Cresson and Samuele Cavalieri. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) will be absent from the grid at Estoril, following the team’s announcement to follow an intensive development programme.
Championship Standings (after Race 2, Round 2)
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (57 points)
2. Alex Lowes (GBR) Kawasaki (45 points)
3. Scott Redding (GBR) Ducati (40 points)