It was an electric return for the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto and there’s no time to rest; the Motul Portuguese Round is next. Four different winners in the opening six races, a new Championship leader and new riders making their mark, anticipation levels are high for another thrilling weekend of WorldSBK at one of the most undulating tracks on the calendar: the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve awaits WorldSBK.
Championship leader by 24 points after the first two rounds, rookie Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) heads to round three confident. The Brit took his first wins of his WorldSBK career at Jerez and with the Ducati Panigale V4 R winning Race 2 with Alvaro Bautista in 2019, he could add to that tally. Teammate Chaz Davies enjoyed a return to podium form at Jerez and finished second in Race 2 to Redding, securing Ducati’s first WorldSBK 1-2 since Assen in 2012. Davies was second in Race 1 at Portimao in 2019 and looks good in 2020; don’t discount him.
A contrasting weekend at Jerez for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK); leader in Race 1 and Tissot Superpole Race winner, yet off the pace in Race 2 and outside the top five in a race for the first time since Laguna Seca in 2014. But if one track can host a Rea revival then Portimao is it, as he has the most wins (nine), most podiums (17) and shares the record for pole with Tom Sykes, (three). KRT teammate Alex Lowes was the Championship leader coming into Jerez, but he’s third going to Portimao; he’ll be in the mix again after his first podium at the venue last year.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) lies fourth and has four podiums so far this year, but two technical DNFs have left the Turk behind. He was a podium runner at Portimao in 2019 and set impressive times at the rollercoaster in testing on his Yamaha. If he can have a round without issues, it could transcend into something special. On the other side of the garage, Michael van der Mark also suffered a mechanical issue at Jerez but took a first rostrum of 2020 in the same meeting. He has a best result of second at Portimao; can he go one better in 2020?
Occupying seventh in the Championship is Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), who is promising in 2020. In contention in Spain, Portugal and Portimao await the fastest Independent rider of 2020 so far. Just ten points behind van der Mark in sixth, a special duel awaits in the Algarve. Baz has his own threat for Independent honours; Michael Ruben Rinaldi’s (Team GOELEVEN) stunning Jerez results sent shockwaves through the paddock. A fourth place in Race 2 – after passing Lowes and Rea – gave a fairytale result for the Italian. Can both riders battle at the front again?
Lying between Baz and ninth-placed Rinaldi in the standings is Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC); the 2019 runner-up won Race 2 for Ducati last year. Two races in the points at Jerez and with potential there, Portimao’s intricacies will test Honda, but it should be a track that suits both rider and bike. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) has four podiums at Portimao, including one for Honda in 2008’s Race 2. Tenth overall and yet to finish outside the points, a strong weekend calls the ‘Pocket Rocket’.
It was a dismal Jerez for BMW; Tom Sykes’ (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) third place start was the only real highlight after a Race 1 technical problem. Sixth in the Tissot Superpole Race was followed up by 11th in Race 2, so Sykes comes to Portimao in search of a much-needed result. Two wins at Portimao will lift his confidence and BMW’s best result in 2019 at Portimao was seventh. For teammate Eugene Laverty, Portimao’s almost been like a home event for him and like Sykes, has won there twice. 17th in the standings, the Irishman needs a turnaround in luck and form.
Championship Standings after Race 2, Round 2
1. Scott Redding (GBR) Ducati (98 points)
2. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (74 points)
3. Alex Lowes (GBR) Kawasaki (72 points)
WSSP: Can Andrea Locatelli connect four at Portimao?
The 2020 FIM Supersport World Championship has made an emphatic return to action, with more rookie success coming at the last round at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) made it three consecutive wins, the first Italian rider in World Supersport history to do that and now, he heads to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve searching to become the first rider since Kenan Sofuoflu in 2017 to win four on the bounce.
He’s taken the World Supersport Championship by storm, but this is Andrea Locatelli’s first real test. Portimao is a track he has only tested at and has comparatively less experience at than his rivals. That said, he is the only winner so far this year and the BARDAHL Yamaha squad dominated proceedings last year, with Federico Caricasulo taking head a 1-2. He’s undoubtedly fast but this could be on the biggest opportunities for his rivals.
Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) leads the chase to Locatelli in second, having been second in the opening three races. 15 points behind the Italian rookie, Cluzel’s playing the long game of always scoring points and should Locatelli make a mistake, then the veteran Frenchman is in a position to seriously capitalise. Twice a winner at Portimao, Cluzel knows what it takes to be win again and with his most successful start to a season, would you bet against him?
2017 WorldSSP Champion Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) made a podium return at Jerez in Race 2 with third, just missing out on pinching second from fellow countryman Cluzel. Last year in Portimao, he was in contention for victory until a Red Flag halted his charge, whilst he took an incredible victory in 2018 after another Red Flag debacle. On his day, the 31-year-old is unbeatable and Portimao could be the place for that to happen.
Fourth overall and seven points behind Mahias, Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) strengthens France’s attack on the title race. The Frenchman, still without a podium, aims to hit the top three this weekend having been sixth at the track last year. Should he manage it, you get the feeling that the floodgates would open and that Perolari could regularly challenge his teammate. He’s fast and exuberant, can he convert that into rostrums?
A first career podium last time out at Jerez, Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) makes it two Kawasakis within the top five. The German rider took a hearty third in Race 1 but now, like Locatelli, heads to unknown territory where he will need to hit the ground running pretty swiftly. He’s a consistent threat and with patience, he could make bigger steps forward. However, he’s in at the deep end and will have to adapt quickly to Portimao’s undulations to make the most of the ZX-6R.
Another former Moto2™ World Championship rider who is making his Portimao racing debut is Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Racing). The South African has been quietly impressing on his first appearances, taking two sixth places and an eighth. However, this is a track he doesn’t know so well and that means he’ll be bedding in and needing as much track time as possible. Just a point behind Oettl and 14 points behind the top three, Odendaal’s consistency could see him ghost up the order.
Outsider of the top six, Hannes Soomer (Kallio Racing) has been a consistent top ten runner in the opening three races, whilst reigning WorldSSP300 Champion Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) continues improving in his rookie season, having run as high as fifth at Jerez. An engine infringement saw an Australian disqualification for Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and he’s ninth, with two top five results at Jerez to be shout about. Can Öncü (Turkish Racing Team) is tenth, just ahead of the luckless Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) and British rookie Danny Webb (WEPOL Racing Team). Still yet to score points, Hikari Okubo (Dynavolt Honda) suffered three straight DNFs whilst Axel Bassani (Soradis Yamaha Motoxracing) was impressive at Jerez despite failing to finish.
Championship Standings after Race 2, Round 2
1. Andrea Locatelli (ITA) Yamaha (75 points)
2. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Yamaha (60 points)
3. Lucas Mahias (FRA) Kawasaki (42 points)
The WorldSSP300 battle heads to Portimao
After two thrilling races at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, FIM Supersport 300 World Championship moves to Portugal for the Motul Portuguese Round, the second round of the season for another two races as part of the new-for-2020 weekend format. The Portuguese Round, taking place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve after excitement and battles for the podium that lasted until the final corner in Spain.
The top five in the Championship are separated by just six points with Tom Booth-Amos (RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) topping the standings following his double podium finish in Jerez; the British rookie claiming a second and a third in the two 10-lap races after fighting his way through the field from 15th on the grid. Booth-Amos has competed at Portimao before, albeit not in WorldSSP300, when he was racing in Moto3™, finishing 27th out of 31 riders.
Currently lying in second place in the Championship is Bahattin Sofuoglu (Biblion Motoxracing Yamaha WSSP300) following his victory in Race 2 on Sunday. Sofuoglu, the nephew of five-time World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu, returned the famous name to the top step with victory in the sixth WorldSSP300 race he has started. The Turkish rider has competed in Algarve twice before in WorldSSP300, finishing 17th in 2018 after battling his way through the field from 34th on the grid, and retiring from the race in 2019.
Unai Orradre (Yamaha MS Racing) is third in the Championship after the first two races of the season; the Spanish rider claiming victory in the first race of 2020 after a battle in a lead group of nine riders looking to make their mark early in the season. The 16-year-old competed in WorldSSP300 at Portimao in 2019, finishing 16th after starting the race two places higher. Confidence will be high for Orradre heading to Portugal after scoring two points finishes to start the season.
Heading into Portugal in fourth place is Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec Racing) following her podium in Race 2 at Jerez. Carrasco was fighting for top honours in Race 1 but a last-corner, last-lap coming together meant she had to run wide at Turn 13 and lost ground; eventually finishing in seventh place. Portimao has been good for Carrasco in recent years with a win in 2017 and a third place in 2019; a tenth-place finish in 2018 means she has finished in the top 10 every time she has competed at Portimao in WorldSSP300.
The rider from Murcia is tied in the Championship on 29 points with long-term WorldSSP300 rival Scott Deroue (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT) picking up a third and fourth on his way to fifth in the standings. The Dutch rider goes into Portimao with two consecutive wins at the Portuguese circuit having claimed victory in 2018 and 2019 in World Supersport 300 and will be looking to continue this hot streak at the Algarve circuit.
Thomas Brianti (Prodina Ircos Team WorldSSP300) lies sixth in the Championship after a strong return to the Championship; the Italian having competed in one WorldSSP300 race in 2018 before returning for 2020. The 17-year-old scored a fifth and a ninth in Jerez and will be looking to continue that impressive form into the MOTUL Portuguese Round at Portimao.
A lot of riders showed impressive pace during the two races at Jerez, including Meikon Kawakami (Team Brasil AD 78); the Brazilian scoring an incredible pole position on his class debut by 0.863s from Orradre. The Tissot Superpole session was a rollercoaster for Kawakami as he suffered a crash during the session, but his time was enough to secure pole; the Brazilian declared fit to race following his crash. Hugo de Cancellis (Team TRASIMENO) was running in the lead group throughout Race 2 but a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits meant he finished in 10th place. Koen Meuffels (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT) had to fight his way through the Last Chance Race to make it on the grid for Race 1 and Race 2 before a sensational ride in both races to finish 15th and 16th; claiming a point after a disappointing day. Meuffels has two podiums and a win in his WorldSSP300 career and will be hoping to avoid the Last Chance Race as World Supersport 300 heads to Portugal.
Championship Standings after Race 2, Round 1
1. Tom Booth-Amos (GBR) Kawasaki (36 points)
2. Bahattin Sofuoglu (TUR) Yamaha (35 points)
3. Unai Orradre (ESP) Yamaha (35 points)