Overcast weather conditions welcomed the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship field out to the Circuito de Navarra track for Tissot Superpole. The Pirelli Navarra Round had so far seen three different riders top the three different sessions, and the Superpole session was once again as unpredictable as those that came before it. In an electric end, it was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who made it seven straight pole positions, although a whole host of riders took turns at the head of the field.
FROM THE START: Strategy was key
The session got underway and straight away, strategy was key. Numerous riders went out on the Superpole Q tyre, whilst other opted for race tyres for their first runs. Riders such as Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) opted to stay in the box, just as he did at Most, in order to have a clear track. As the first laps came to a close, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) became the first rider to set a lap time in the 1’36 bracket, before he went two tenths quicker on his second lap. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was up in second after the first run, whilst Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) was provisionally third. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was a surprise in fourth whilst Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was ninth coming into the closing stages, with four Yamahas inside the top ten.
SHAKING UP THE ORDER: All-change with 5 minutes left
As the last five minutes beckoned, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was a big improver, from outside the top ten into second and setting a sub-1’37 lap to back-up his teammate’s efforts. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) was also a vast improver, from 14th to fifth whilst fellow Independent Ducati runner was also in the ballpark, as he went provisional pole with a sublime lap to put his Ducati on top. However, that would be just the start of what was a frantic final push for a lap time.
THE FRONT ROW: Seventh heaven for the pole-sitter
Tom Sykes originally went to the top of the timesheets, but he was then pipped by Scott Redding, who put in a superb lap but it wasn’t enough as pole-hound Jonathan Rea pipped both of them to take a magical seventh pole, and his 30th for Kawasaki, whilst it is the manufacturer’s 99th pole too. Redding held on for second and his tenth front row of his career, whilst Tom Sykes took his third front row of the season to make it three manufacturers on the front row. Rea becomes the second rider in WorldSBK history to take seven consecutive poles, equalling Ben Spies’ record from 2009 – back when Rea himself was a rookie.
THE REST OF THE TOP 10: Revelations and deflations
Heading up row two after a stunning Superpole session is Andrea Locatelli, with the Italian securing his best ever Superpole result since graduating to the WorldSBK class. The Italian just pipped Chaz Davies to the head of the second row, with the Welshman in the middle of row two and taking a joint-best grid slot of the year in fifth – equal with Aragon. Completing the second row is Lucas Mahias, with the Frenchman taking his best WorldSBK Superpole result. With two Independent riders on row two, an upset could be had throughout the races.
Despite Alex Lowes’ vast improvements that initially put him into second, he dropped back to seventh, although it was a disaster for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK), who was dropped to eighth as he couldn’t break into the top six, being outqualified by his teammate in the dry for the first time in 2021. Nonetheless, Razgatlioglu’s renowned fast starts could well bring him right back into contention. Garrett Gerloff was ninth come the conclusion of the session, whilst Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) made it two BMWs inside the top ten, just edging out Axel Bassani who was 11th.
ELSEWHERE ON THE GRID: Honda nightmare…
Notable names outside the top ten include Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and teammate Leon Haslam, as the Honda pair could only manage 12th and 17th respectively, with Haslam one place behind Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team). Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) struggled down in 13th, whilst Suzuki’s return to WorldSBK saw them in 20th with Naomichi Uramoto (JEG Racing).
Top six after WorldSBK Superpole:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’36.122
2. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.093s
3. Eazi-Grip supported Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.424s
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.458s
5. Eazi-Grip supported Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) +0.571s
6. Eazi-Grip supported Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) +0.667s
Scott Redding got the jump on Jonathan Rea in the early stages of the race and didn’t look back as he closed the gap in the Championship
The Circuito de Navarra hosted its first MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship for the Pirelli Navarra Round with Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) claiming his second consecutive WorldSBK win in a row and the ninth of his career after a commanding victory as he closed the gap to title rival Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) to 45 points in the Championship standings.
FIGHTING AT THE START
As the lights went out, Redding got the jump over polesitter Rea into Turn 1 but Redding’s advantage did not last long as Rea fought back at the Turn 6-7 section of the circuit to re-take the lead of the race, also withstanding an early challenge from rookie Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) on the opening lap.
At the start of Lap 6, Redding got a better run out of the Turn 15 right-hand hairpin to make a move on Rea into the incredibly fast right-hander of Turn 1, getting the move completed just before they turned in for the opening turn of the lap, before pulling out a gap of over a second on Rea over the next handful of laps.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) was a rider making moves from the start as he battled from eighth place to fourth on the opening lap and found himself behind teammate Locatelli, but spent numerous lap behind him before he was able to pass his rookie teammate on Lap 7 after he ran wide.
BATTLES UP AND DOWN THE GRID
Rea was running in second place but survived two errors into Turn 9 into just a handful of laps as he first had a big moment before running wide a on Lap 15, losing a total of around two seconds to Redding but did not lose out to Razgatlioglu in either the race or the Championship battle; Rea extending his lead over Razgatlioglu to seven points.
There were plenty of battles up and down the field as riders searched for the best possible position, with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) coming home in fifth place behind Redding, Rea, Razgatlioglu and Locatelli, with Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) leading teammate Michael van der Mark in sixth and the Dutchman in seventh.
Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) had a battle in the latter stages of the race over eighth place, with American star Gerloff unable to make a pass on the youngest rider on the WorldSBK grid, Bassani holding on to take eighth place with Gerloff in ninth. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) completed the top ten after a challenging Race 1, the Italian involved in battles in the midfield throughout the race.
Rookie Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) claimed 11th place after a strong race battling throughout the field ahead of Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team) in 12th; Rabat involved in a long battle with Leon Haslam (Team HRC) with the British rider coming home in 13th place. Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Action) scored his first points since Race 2 at MotorLand Aragon with 14th place, with Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) completing the points. Ponsson found himself on the ground at Turn 3 after an incident involving Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) on Lap 3 at Turn 3 but was able to re-mount his Yamaha machine to secure one point in Race 1; Mercado retired from the race.
COMPLETING THE CLASSIFIED RUNNERS…
Three riders finished the race but were unable to claim a points finish in Race 1 at Navarra with Suzuki wildcard Naomichi Uramoto (JEG Racing) finishing in 16th place, just two tenths behind Ponsson and narrowly missing out on points. Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) had been running in the points-paying positions during the 23-lap race but fell down the order to finish 17th, with teammate Jayson Uribe in 18th; the American having a crash on Lap 13 at Turn 13 but able to recover to finish the race.
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had an incident on his own at Turn 11. Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) retired from the race after he crashed on his own at Turn 9 while, at the same time, Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) had a crash at Turn 12 but was able to re-join before bringing his machine back to the pits.
The top six following Race 1 at Navarra:
1. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
2. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +2.519s
3. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +5.894s
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +9.405s
5. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +16.219s
6. Eazi-Grip supported Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +20.600
Fastest lap Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’37.351s
The top three in the Championship battled it out for Race 2 honours at the Circuito de Navarra with Toprak Razgatlioglu coming out on top
The final race of the inaugural Pirelli Navarra Round for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was a tense and dramatic affair as the top three of the Championship battled it out for honours at the Circuito de Navarra. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) came out on top as he claimed a stunning Race 2 victory and left the round top of the Championship heading into the French Round.
DRAMA FROM THE OFF…
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and teammate Toprak Razgatlioglu got lightning starts from the 22-lap encounter, the race shortened by one lap following a delayed start after the Warm-Up lap had been completed due to an issue with Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) on the grid. Locatelli swept around the outside of Razgatlioglu and Rea at the start while Rea dropped back behind his teammate, Alex Lowes.
Locatelli and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) ran wide in the early stages of the race which forced the pair down the order, allowing Lowes to move up ahead of both of them before Locatelli fought back to run in fourth place; a position he has become very accustomed to over the last couple of rounds.
All three of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Razgatlioglu exchanged positions in the opening laps of the race before it settled down slightly with Razgatlioglu leading the race ahead of Rea and Redding as the lead three in the Championship trio looking to take points out of each other in the Championship battle.
On Lap 17, Rea saved a front-end slide heading into Turn 15 which allowed Redding to close the gap to Rea throughout Lap 18, before the pair went side-by-side into the fast right-hander of Turn 1 on Lap 19. Redding was on the inside, but Rea cut back to keep the position. On the same lap of the race, Redding pulled off an incredible move around the outside of Turn 14 to move into second place after Rea ran wide at Turn 13. It meant Razgatlioglu claimed victory ahead of Redding and Rea with the Turkish star now level with Rea in the Championship on 311 points. The regulations state only results in Race 1 and Race 2 are used in deciding a tie and as Turkish star Razgatlioglu has five full-length victories in 2021 compared to Rea’s four, he is the Championship leader. Razgatlioglu has 17 podiums in the 2021 campaign which ties him for the record of podiums for a Yamaha rider, level with Ben Spies in 2009.
COMPLETING THE TOP TEN
Locatelli made history with his latest fourth place finish in WorldSBK as he became the first rider to secure five consecutive four place finishes, finishing almost four seconds clear of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in fifth place. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) came home in sixth place, less than a second behind Sykes.
Italian rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) finished in seventh place in Race 2 after battles throughout the race, with Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) claiming eighth place as all five manufacturers were represented in the top eight, with Dutch rider Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in ninth place. Van der Mark had crossed the line ahead of Bautista but was penalised for exceeding track limits on the final lap, meaning he came home in ninth. Rookie Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) took another top ten finish as he continues to impress throughout his rookie campaign.
TAKING HOME POINTS
Bassani’s fellow rookie, Tito Rabat (Barni Racing), was 11th place and just 2.4s away from a top ten finish but was unable to overhaul Bassani, while Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Action) came home in 12th and took more points from Navarra after not scoring since the Aragon Round that opened the 2021 campaign.
Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) took home four points with 13th place ahead of Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in 14th, who had an eventful race. The Frenchman had to serve a double Long Lap Penalty for an irresponsible manoeuvre on the grid after he had been delayed on the grid ahead of the second Warm-Up lap. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) secured a 15th place finish and one point despite a crash on Lap 3 of the 22-lap race at Turn 13, able to battle back through the field. OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing Jayson Uribe and Loris Cresson were the last of the classified runners in 16th and 17th respectively.
Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) both were forced out of the race after coming together at Turn 9. Naomichi Uramoto (JEG Racing) had a technical issue on Lap 9 of 22 at Turn 5 which forced the Suzuki rider out of the race on his WorldSBK’s debut. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) was out of the race on Lap 14 after he came off his Honda machine at Turn 2. Kohta Nozane’s (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) race came to an end on the final lap after a 22nd lap crash at Turn 5.
The top six following WorldSBK Race 2:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK)
2. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +1.105s
3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +3.715s
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +10.758s
5. Eazi-Grip supported Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +14.437s
6. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +15.151s
Fastest Lap Jonathan Rea, 1’37.609
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) 311
2. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 311
3. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 273
4. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 169
5. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) 151
6. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 150