The first opportunity of gold in the land of silver: WorldSBK hits San Juan
Another tango awaits as the Championship tussle heads to the Andes, where the race to the WorldSBK summit is on
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship arrives in Argentina and the Circuito San Juan Villicum in San Juan for the Motul Argentinean Round. Lying at the foot of the Andes and in one of the most picturesque backdrops on the calendar, one question lies ahead: who will reach the peak in WorldSBK this year? Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) has the Championship lead by 24 points, ahead of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), making Argentina his first match-point of the season. Rea aims narrow the margin and keep the title race alive, but who knows what will happen in one of the most unpredictable seasons in WorldSBK history.
RAZGATLIOGLU VS REA: a fierce rivalry heads to South America
With a 24-point lead heading into Argentina, Toprak Razgatlioglu can mathematically clinch the title this weekend. In short, Razgatlioglu must lead by 62 points or more heading to Indonesia, even with countback taken into consideration. He has ten full race wins, compared to Rea current five so even if Rea won the remaining four full races and it finished level, Toprak already has a countback lead in his pocket. For the possibility of Toprak clinching the Championship on Sunday, he must finish ahead of Rea in Race 1 (or score one point more than him as a minimum). That means if Rea wins Race 1, the title race is guaranteed to go to Indonesia. In terms of San Juan form, Razgatlioglu took a second podium of his career in WorldSBK’s first race there in 2018 and took three rostrums in 2019. Teammate Andrea Locatelli has never seen this track, so it’ll be a totally new experience for him.
Whilst Toprak must beat Rea to have a shot at the title on Sunday, Jonathan Rea must beat Razgatlioglu in Race 1 to guarantee the title race goes to Indonesia. The defending six-time World Champion has won four of the five races held at San Juan and he’s been on the podium in all of them – joined by Toprak in four. Rea has momentum as despite crashing out of the lead twice at Portimao, he did manage to take victory in Race 2 whereas Toprak crashed due to a mechanical failure. The Ulsterman has a pivotal Saturday ahead, coincidentally Toprak’s birthday, as he goes to retain his crown. However, there’s yet to be confirmation that teammate Alex Lowes will attend, having been declared unfit after FP2 at Portimao. Will Lowes, if fit, be the perfect wingman in Argentina?
DUCATI: aiming to keep title aspirations alive
Waiting to pick up the pieces and vastly making up ground, Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is still in Championship contention. 54 points back of the #54 of Razgatlioglu and on the podium in all of the last six races, and in eight of the last nine, Redding can’t be more than 61 points back of Razgatlioglu after Sunday. Redding closed the gap by 20 points at Portimao and with the kind of form he’s in, he may be able to do more in Argentina, even if it’s a new track for him. Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi can never be ruled out, even after tricky rounds at Jerez and Portimao. He’s never had a top ten in Argentina but will need to perform if he’s to consolidate his top four in the Championship, which he shares with Locatelli; both on 249 points and eager to push on.
BMW AND HONDA: both in the podium battle
After a first win in eight years, BMW arrive in Argentina with plenty of reason to smile. Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) stormed to a Superpole Race win in the wet at Portimao and was a solid top six contender all weekend. He’s now sixth in the Championship standings, 38 points adrift of Rinaldi and Locatelli ahead of him. However, anything can happen; van der Mark’s last visit to Argentina resulted in him finishing fourth in the full races and then sixth in the Superpole Race. On the other side of the box, Tom Sykes’ presence remains unknown as he’ll need to be declared fit. Eugene Laverty, his replacement in the last couple of rounds, has had a top five at the Circuito San Juan Villicum, and was seventh in his most recent race there in 2019.
It was a story of ‘what could’ve been’ for Honda at Portimao, with Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) once again showing podium potential. Unfortunately, the promise was left unfulfilled as Bautista crashed from third in the last corner of the last lap in Race 1 before he was taken out by Loris Baz two laps from home. Bautista heads to San Juan with the same potential, and he won on his first visit to San Juan in 2019. With big gains and podium aims, Bautista is keen to make up ground in the standings and get more rostrums to his name. Then, there’s Leon Haslam (Team HRC), with the British rider going in search of back-to-back front rows for the first time since Aragon and Assen back in 2015. He’ll also hope to add his name to the podium this weekend, having been in the mix at Portimao.
INDEPENDENTS: a battle at the front and a taste of homecoming success…
The Independent battle is set to rage again as Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) aims to consolidate his lead position. Gerloff is eighth in the standings and just six points behind the factory Kawasaki of Alex Lowes. Behind Gerloff and keeping him in his sights, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) continues to be a revelation of recent rounds and will make his Argentina debut this weekend; he’s 24 points behind Gerloff, neither having been to the Circuito San Juan Villicum. With Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) hopeful of a return to action, he’s aiming to be competitive as he bounces back from injury; Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) will also debut in San Juan.
The Kawasaki Puccetti Racing squad have Tito Rabat for the Motul Argentinean Round as he too makes his San Juan debut, whereas Isaac Viñales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) returns to a track where he took third back in 2019’s WorldSSP season. Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) is next up and will make his first appearance at the track in WorldSBK, whereas home-hero Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado will be flying the Argentine flag high as he hopes to maintain his good form, having returned to the top eight in Portugal. Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) is out of the Motul Argentinean Round after his Portimao injuries, being replaced by Marco Solorza, the Argentine having raced in a variety of Championships from the FIM European Superstock Championship to the Spanish Superbike class. His teammate will be another Argentine rider; Luciano Ribodino debuts in WorldSBK, the 27-year-old being the 2017 Argentine Superbike champion as well as the Brazilian Superbike champion in the same year.
It’s an unmissable round and it’s pivotal in the story of 2021: watch all the races LIVE with the WorldSBK VideoPass!