Outspoken ahead of Mandalika
Asia welcomes WorldSBK action with passion and excitement as Indonesia readies for another chapter of close racing
Just days after the season fired into life, the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is already preparing for round two and the Motul Indonesian Round. The Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit is ready for a third year on the calendar, albeit in a new slot at the start of the season, and there promises to be plenty of fighting at the front. We caught up with some of the main stars, to get their thoughts on another unforgettable weekend in prospect from one of WorldSBK’s most passionate countries.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “Last year, Toprak went fast, Jonathan was really competitive, so I expect them to fight for the victory in all three races!”
“We were celebrating as Champion here but now we are in a new season. I have good memories here and also after last weekend at Phillip Island. Last year, we struggled a bit here, so maybe we have many things to think about. With the weather here, it’s unpredictable, so you have to adapt a plan depending on the track condition. The biggest problem was on the front as Pirelli didn’t bring the tyre I had used for most of last season. This year, they have brought it, so I’m looking to forward to see if the problem I have felt has gone. With what we saw at Phillip Island, I don’t think it is 100% true, as we had tests before the round, so many riders had a good setup and it’s a very particular track. This season, the rest of the riders are closing the gap and when you have a bad day, you have more riders in between. What is sure is that here last year, Toprak went fast, and Jonathan was really competitive, so I expect them to fight for the victory in all three races.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “Normally we’re strong here!”
“I have good memories. This year, we will see. The first round was not really a strong weekend for me, but this circuit is my favourite. Last year, I had the same feeling when we went to Phillip Island. The bike felt different because we used the harder tyres and it’s a different track. It’s not like my style. My style is usually hard braking. Mandalika is my favourite circuit and I try to do my best again last year. Last year, we had three wins. This year we will see because everybody is very fast and very strong; everybody’s improved their bike. Normally, we are very strong here. I hope we have a strong start and are fighting again for the win.”
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “I want to win a race and get my season off to a proper start”
“It’s been a tough week leaving Australia without the points we set out to gain. Everything was going quite smoothly up until race day. Hard to draw any big conclusions as to why. The bike balance is quite different to what we had during testing. Back to square one this weekend with a bike we know should work. We need to try and be more competitive. We’ll forget last weekend, we want to be strong this weekend whether it’s wet, dry, windy, whatever. I think we have a good chance this weekend to fight for podium. Our target is much more than that. I want to win a race and get my season off to a proper start.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I think we can be competitive!”
“We should improve during the wet conditions because maybe here, if it is raining, we should be in the fight for a podium. But overall, I am quite happy with the start of the season. What I learnt is that the base in the wet is not good, so I spoke to the engineers and said ‘if we want to fight all year in top positions, then we have to improve in all conditions’ as it’s not acceptable to finish in P14. If it rains, we’ll have another setup and so I’ll be comfortable. Here is a different track compared to Phillip Island, but I think we can be competitive, but the other riders will be closer. I don’t think one rider will be break away. On the Imola announcement, it is one of my favourite tracks; I won there in STK1000 and I have good memories! I want to ride there as it’s special, like Misano, so I couldn’t be happier about that news!”
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “We will enjoy again… we are confident!”
“In Yamaha, we always try to improve the bike and to work together to understand and compare data. We need to continue to do this as it’s important to work together and improve the bike, and to try and improve ourselves. It’s the same objective we have every year. We need to see what happens here at Mandalika because it’s always a bit strange for the hot conditions. Last year and the first year were great. We will enjoy again! In the end, if we can finish in the same positions as last year, it won’t be so bad but if we can improve and try to fight for the podium in the long race, we will see… it’s always difficult to say before the weekend, but we are confident. When I saw the news about Imola, I was smiling because for me, it’s one of the best tracks! I was really excited, and I can’t wait to ride this bike on that track. It won’t be easy because it’s July and it will be really warm but to get a good result there, we’ll be able to go on the beach a bit more relaxed!”
Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We’ll be more competitive than Phillip Island”
“They weren’t the results we were hoping for but if we look back on my weekend, it wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t that far away from the fight for fourth place but unfortunately the pace dropped a lot at the end of the race. It’s not where we want to be but from my side, I think it was quite positive. We’re not that far away and I feel like we improved the package, but in general we need more corner speed and drive grip. It’s not easy but this weekend we have Mandalika, where it’s a different kind of a track and I’m curious to see how the bike works here. It’s always nice to be in Indonesia! My grandmother is from Indonesia, so I really enjoy this country and the people are really friendly. I’m confident but I have to stay calm; our bike works well in the wet but I’m looking forward to it, and I think in the dry, we’ll be more competitive than Phillip Island.”
Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team): “At the start of the season, scoring one point is better than nothing”
“It’s very close to my home and it’s one of the tracks that I really like. It won’t be easy, but I will try to do better than Australia. This track is suited to my style and we will see what the weather brings this weekend. I wanted to score more points in the Australian Round. I couldn’t challenge where I really wanted to. At the start of the season, scoring one point is better than nothing. We tried to take this motivation or spirit to Mandalika.”
More, from a press release issued by Aruba.it Racing Ducati:
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team already back on track in Indonesia for the second round of the 2023 WorldSBK season.
Only a few hours have passed since the amazing weekend at Phillip Island (Australia) and the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team is already at work in Indonesia setting up for the second round of the 2023 WorldSBK season.
The Indonesian Round will kick off tomorrow at 09.00 (02.00 CET) with the WorldSSP first free practice session followed by WorldSBK’s FP1 scheduled at 10.00 (03.00 CET).
After the extraordinary hat-trick scored in Australia, Alvaro Bautista will return to the Mandalika circuit (Lombok Island), where he won the WorldSBK World Championship title last November. The Spanish rider arrives in Indonesia as leader of the standings with 62 points, 28 more than Locatelli (Yamaha) and 31 more than Rea (Kawasaki) and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
The one at Phillip Island was a Sunday to remember for Michael Rinaldi, second behind his team-mate both at the end of Superpole Race and Race-2. The Italian rider’s goal is to score the first podium of his career at the Indonesian circuit after his best result (P4) in last season’s Race-1.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #1)
“It’s clear that this round will set more difficult challenges than the ones we faced in Australia. Last year in Indonesia we weren’t as competitive as we were at Phillip Island but I have to admit that during the winter tests – and on Saturday at Phillip Island – I felt good even with track conditions not exactly ideal. As always I’ll try to have fun session after session, then at the end we’ll see our results”.
Michael Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #21)
“In Australia, we showed that we can be very fast, especially in dry conditions. For this reason in Indonesia, it will be important to be ready if the weather, as it often happens at the Mandalika circuit, should change suddenly. The start of the season has been positive but the most important thing is to be able to confirm ourselves immediately at the level of last Sunday”.
There are also high expectations for Nicolò Bulega and the Ducati Panigale V2 of the Aruba.it Racing WSSP team. The Italian rider arrives at the Lombok circuit after two victories in the Australian round and, above all, with a year of experience more than his first weekend in Indonesia in 2022.
Nicolò Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WSSP)
“Despite the fact that last year we didn’t manage to get on the podium, the sensations I had at the Mandalika circuit were still very positive. I arrive in Indonesia with a lot of confidence: I feel very good athletically and the feeling with the bike has improved a lot this winter. I think we can also be very fast this weekend”.
More, from a press release issued by Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK:
Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Provide New Perspectives on Mandalika
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Andrea Locatelli return to one of Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK’s favourite circuits on the 2023 FIM Superbike World Championship calendar this week, the Mandalika International Street Circuit, for the second round of the season from 3-5 March.
It is no secret that Indonesia holds fond memories for Yamaha, after wrapping up the WorldSBK “Triple Crown” and Rookie of the Year in 2021, Razgatlıoğlu and Locatelli’s combined results in 2022 signalled the best weekend for the team since Yamaha’s return to WorldSBK in 2016.
Razgatlıoğlu simply dominated the weekend – winning all three races and setting an incredible circuit-record pole position on his Yamaha R1 WorldSBK that was 1.052s clear of his next closest rival. Teammate Locatelli too enjoyed a strong weekend with his first front row start in WorldSBK (P3) followed by a podium in the Superpole Race and two fourth position finishes in the feature races, which were all held in dry conditions.
By contrast, in 2021 the WorldSBK field experienced Mandalika in full wet conditions – and a quirk of the track was that in the wet, this particular asphalt construction enabled the riders to access incredible grip because water drains through very quickly. However in 2022, the track was resurfaced and a revised schedule introduced to avoid the heavy tropical monsoon rains that temporarily flood the track and severely limit visibility – leaving the new construction untested.
After speaking with local track staff last year about the upgraded asphalt, Razgatlıoğlu’s Crew Chief Phil Marron says that the surface should behave in a similar way to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli – however the key difference is that track temperature in Indonesia stays the same in the wet, rather than dropping by around 10 degrees Celsius like in Italy, so the riders can still expect similar grip levels to 2021.
The first opportunity to assess track conditions this year will come tomorrow morning at 10:00 local time (UTC+8) with the first 45-minute Free Practice 1, followed naturally by Free Practice 2 taking place from 13:00.
“There are three main corners to overtake in Mandalika – first one, first corner with hard braking – I like it! Second one, Turn 9 and also the last corner. It is not easy to pass the last corner, but if on the last lap you are trying to win – then anything is possible! I enjoy to ride my R1 here, okay some corners I am not very strong but in general I like this circuit. For all riders, of course the problem is it’s very hot! It is a nice place to be, the people are very friendly and I like it – very relaxed way of life. My goal for this weekend is three wins, like last year I hope… Inshallah!”
“The most difficult part here in Mandalika with respect to the other tracks is this temperature and the humidity – it’s really warm! It’s not easy to do the long races but we train for this, it’s our job, so I think like last year we are fully ready to fight in these conditions. It will be really difficult but it is the same for everybody and you can see who has prepared well. We will continue to work and keep the good feeling we have with our bike – in 2022, here it was a good circuit for me, with the second podium of the year in the Superpole Race and a really good qualifying on the front row. In general, I am feeling really confident especially after the Phillip Island weekend. We need to continue pushing and fight for the good results, but I think we can do well again!”
Paul Denning – Team Principal, Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK:
“Starting the race season in Phillip Island – the WorldSBK “tradition” before calendar changes due to the pandemic in 2021 and 2022 – is always a pleasure, even if the timeframe to be fully prepared is very challenging. In the end, we faced three races in completely different conditions and we achieved three podiums, including a thoroughly well-deserved third place finish for “Loka” in Race 2. His performance at the test and over the race weekend showed that his growing confidence is certainly not misplaced! He also finished on the podium in Mandalika in 2022, so we expect him to continue with this improved performance level. Toprak was again very strong in the wet Race 1 and the Superpole Race (closing on Rinaldi on the final lap and nearly taking second place) for his second podium of the weekend. The Race 2 crash after the mistake by Alex Lowes means we lost many valuable points, but in Mandalika we begin the fightback! Toprak’s style is not perfectly suited to Phillip Island, and there were challenges in some aspects of the testing programme, while Loka is fully up to speed with all Yamaha’s important 2023 developments. However, Mandalika is a very different circuit and we expect Toprak to be back in the fight for victories.”
More, from a press release issued by GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team:
Unpredictable Mandalika Awaits Aegerter and Gardner
The GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team is ready to get back in action on 3rd-5th March at Mandalika International Street Circuit after a thrilling season opener in Phillip Island just one week ago.
As it was at the opening round, it will be the first time for Dominique Aegerter and Remy Gardner with their Yamaha R1 machines on the Indonesian track, which will host the WorldSBK paddock for the third time. With unpredictable weather expected, the riders and the team should be ready to face any last-minute change. Moreover, on Saturday, Race 1 can mark Aegerter’s 300th world championship race, a prestigious milestone in his career.
Throughout its 17 corners, one of Mandalika track’s main challenges will be understanding the tarmac. Damiano Evangelisti, Gardner’s crew chief, highlights that we faced two different types of asphalt in 2021 and 2022, so quick adaption to the surface will be required in 2023 as well. Moreover, ensuring to test all of the different tyre options will be necessary, including a new rear Pirelli. Finally, the GYTR GRT Yamaha duo is looking to focus on longer runs during free practice to prepare for the latter stages of the race.
Filippo Conti, GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team Manager, claims: “The potential was there; what we saw in Australia is proof of how fast we can be this year”. Moreover, “What happened one week ago showed how close we are as a team, and that’s the right spirit to face a long season.”
The riders are also ready to face a new challenge on a different track. Dominique Aegerter is looking forward to racing in Indonesia but is wary of what the weather might do. Furthermore, the Swiss rider calls attention to: “A section of the circuit which is very fast with multiple changes of direction, so you have to be powerful, and it takes a lot of strength”. On the other side of the garage, Remy Gardner is “looking to improve what we learned in Phillip Island”. The Aussie also has already spotted “Turn 1 and the last corner” as possible overtaking points.