WSBK Rolls Into MotoGP Land: Jerez Round This Weekend

ten Kate back on the grid with private Yamaha entry …


These just in:

 

 

WSBK Press 1

If one were asked to briefly describe the city of Jerez, three concepts would immediately come to mind: horses, sherry, and two-wheel racing. Few places on Earth are more motorbike-crazy than this southern Spanish town, so with the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship making its way back to the Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto after a one-year absence a passionate reception from the local fans is expected, in particular for one man. Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) heads into a home round for the second time this season as the man to beat – what has changed since then is that he is no longer unbeaten.

Imola, four weeks ago, was in many ways a throwback to the last few years of WorldSBK before the Spaniard flipped the script this season. The two men trading barbs at the top of the timesheets, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), have endured no shortage of frustrating moments so far this season after years upon years of one-upmanship – but the page may have turned at last. Rea showed imperious form around the sleek Italian track, winning both races, breaking the lap record in Race 1 and overcoming his previously invincible rival by a combined 14.6 seconds. The four-time champion has tasted blood for the first time this year and is all the more dangerous for it.

Meanwhile, anyone browsing through a stats sheet may be led to believe that Davies’ weekend was little better than the four prior, nine points a desperately low tally for one of Ducati’s favourite tracks. The Welshman has been at odds with the new V4 R since the start of the year, and while the battle in Italy was arguably lost, the war may have at last fallen in his favour. Only a mechanical failure and the cancellation of Race 2 kept Davies from taking a hat-trick of podiums at Imola, and perhaps even a first race win since April 2018. From Aragon last year to Jerez 2019, the drought will surely soon be behind him.

From the championship leader’s perspective, the Italian Round was more of an outlier than a change of fortunes. Imola is as old-school as they come: rough and testy for newcomers, a delight for the veterans; and while he fell into the former group in Italy – and still performed above expectations – Jerez is a completely different story. There may not be a track on the calendar where Bautista has ridden more miles or with a wider variety of bikes, even making his WorldSBK debut there back in November. More to the point, on his very first day onboard the V4 R he finished barely a couple of tenths of a second behind Rea. There will be no such warnings this weekend.

Another anomaly at Imola was the lack of YZF-R1s on the rostrum in both races. Illness and an unshackled Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) kept Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) off the podium, respectively; yet it still turned out to be the Japanese manufacturer’s best weekend at Imola in many years. A top-3 return could be on the cards for Jerez, even with the number of potential frontrunners increasing every round.

That leads us to perhaps the biggest story emerging from Team Blue this round: the long-awaited return of one of WorldSBK’s most beloved squads, Ten Kate Racing. The Dutch squad, world champions in both WorldSBK and WorldSSP alongside Honda, have partnered with Yamaha for this new chapter, recruiting Loris Baz for the ride. After last week’s soaked out Misano shakedown, the French racer and Ten Kate are ready to put their savoir-faire into action.

If race pace was the one factor taken into consideration to judge a rider’s merits, few were more brilliant in Italy than Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). Yet wherever the Yorkshireman went misfortune followed, technical and tyre issues leading to a meagre return of two points over the weekend. Silver lining? The S1000 RR looks like a rocket in the making, particularly in his hands. A first podium cannot be too far off for the increasingly competitive BMW Motorrad project – but will it arrive in Jerez?

Elsewhere down the field, Yuki Takahashi replaces the injured Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Racing) to form an all-Japanese alliance with Ryuichi Kiyonari. Tommy Bridewell will once again be filling in for Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), after his outstanding, last-minute replacement job in Italy, while ‘Tati’ Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) is set to return from his scaphoid injury after a two-month absence.

The Acerbis Spanish Round kicks off at 10:30 local time (GMT+2) on Friday, June 7th with Free Practice 1, FP2 following at 15:00. The Tissot Superpole kicks off the action on Saturday 8th at 11:00, with lights out for Race 1 at 14:00; before a double serving of racing on Sunday 9th: the Tissot Superpole Race at 11:00 and Race 2 to close the weekend off at 14:00.

WSBK Press 2

With five wins, Ducati is the most successful team in Jerez: Chaz Davies contributed heavily, recording three of them thanks to a victory in 2015 Race 2 and a double in 2016 (previously they had recorded a double with Raymond Roche in 1990). Ducati shares the record of podiums at Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto with Kawasaki: 11 each.

Kawasaki won three times in Jerez: in 2015 Race 1 and in 2017 with a double of Jonathan Rea. They are one of the three teams which won here behind Ducati with 5 wins and Aprilia with 4.
Kawasaki has been a consistent podium finisher at the Spanish track since 2013: they made 11 rostrum appearances since then, becoming them the most successful team for podiums with Ducati at Jerez. With three poles straight from 2014 to 2016, Kawasaki is the only team which recorded three poles in Jerez.

Four podium finishes were recorded for Honda at Jerez: the first three came in 1990, while in 2015 Michael van der Mark was able to finish third in Race 1. In 2017 they were marred by several problems and scored points only with Takumi Takahashi, who finished 15th in Race 2.

Yamaha constantly improved in Jerez: up to 1990 their best result there had been a 6th; became a 5th in 2016 (Guintoli, Race 1) and a 4th in 2017 (Lowes, both races).

BMW stood on the podium here in 2013 with Marco Melandri (2nd) and has scored points in every race since then. In 2017 their best result was the 10th of Jordi Torres in Race 2.

Ducati

The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team are back in action this weekend in Andalusia with Álvaro Bautista and Chaz Davies chasing the wins in the sixth event in the SBK World Championship – the Spanish Round at Jerez de la Frontera

After the last rounds at Assen and Imola, where only two of the three Superbike races on the schedule were held because of the appalling weather conditions, World SBK is back in action this weekend at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Andalusia, where it is expected to be a ‘scorcher’ of an event in more ways than one.

The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team riders, Álvaro Bautista and Chaz Davies, prepared for the sixth round with two days of group testing last week at the Misano World Circuit, and so they will arrive at the Spanish Round anxious to fight for the win after two victories by Rea (Kawasaki) at Imola.

After eleven wins in thirteen races, Bautista continues to have a vice-like grip on the championship standings with 263 points. Even though the 34-year-old from Talavera de la Reina has never raced an SBK machine at Jerez, he has been there every year in MotoGP since 2010 so the circuit, which is back on the calendar after a gap of one year, will not be an unknown factor for him.

For his team-mate, the 32-year-old from Wales Chaz Davies, Race 1 at Jerez, where he triumphed three times in 2015 and 2016, will be his 190th participation in World SBK. Chaz is still searching for his first win this season on the Panigale V4 R and the medium-fast Jerez circuit could be a good opportunity for him to break the fast of wins that has lasted since April of last year.

Of the 12 races held so far at Jerez, Ducati riders have been victorious five times, and on two occasions have scored a double win, once with Davies in 2016 and once with the legendary Frenchman Raymond Roche in 1990.

The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will be out on track on Friday at 10:30 CET for the first free practice session, while the weekend schedule sees Race 1 take place at 14:00 on Saturday, the Superpole Race at 11:00 on Sunday, followed by Race 2 at 14:00.

Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #19) – 1st (263 points)
“After the last round at Imola, the next race on the calendar is at Jerez, a track I know very well, and so I hope for me that everything will be back to normal! Last week we tested for two days at Misano with a good feeling even though the conditions weren’t great. It was an important and positive test for a series of reasons, also for the future, and we did back-to-back tests with various components on the bike rather than aiming for a fast time. For me Jerez is another home race, so we hope to enjoy ourselves here and put on a good show for the increasingly numerous Spanish crowd.”

Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 6th (85 points)
“I’m really looking forward to Jerez, which is going to be a bit of a change to the scenery and the temperature from the last couple of rounds because it’s hot down there now. I’ve had a mixed bag of results at Jerez before but despite this I’ve managed to take a few wins over the years so it’s a track where I know I can go well. Hopefully we can start from where we left off at Imola, where we were very strong, and just keep improving the Panigale V4 R in these different kinds of tracks.”

The Jerez de la Frontera circuit
Built in 1986, the Jerez circuit hosted its first World Superbike Championship round in 1990, when French rider Raymond Roche scored a double win on a Ducati. The circuit is surrounded by the hills of a valley in Andalusia in the south of Spain, offering spectacular views and nearly always characterized by excellent weather. Its numerous grandstands provide perfect viewing facilities for over 100,000 spectators and the track was resurfaced in 2017, the last time SBK came to Jerez.

Circuit Record: Melandri (Ducati), 1’38.960 (160.90 km/h) – 2017
Fastest Lap: Rea (Kawasaki), 1’40.640 (158.22 km/h) – 2017
Track Length: 4.423 km
Race Distance: 2 x 20 laps (88.460 km), 1 x 10 laps (44.230 km)
Corners: 13 (5 left, 8 right)

2017 Results (not held in 2018)
Race 1: 1. Rea (Kawasaki); 2. Davies (Ducati); 3. Sykes (Kawasaki)
Race 2: 1. Rea (Kawasaki); 2. Melandri (Ducati); 3. Davies (Ducati)

Álvaro Bautista
Bike: Ducati Panigale V4 R
Race Number: 19
Age: 34 (born on 21 November 1984 in Talavera de la Reina, Spain)
SBK Races: 13
First SBK Race: 2019 Phillip Island
Wins: 11
First Win: 2019 Phillip Island
Pole Positions: 3
First Pole: 2019 Buriram
World Titles: 1 (2006 125cc)

Chaz Davies
Bike: Ducati Panigale V4 R
Race Number: 7
Age: 32 (born on 10the February 1987 in Knighton, UK)
SBK Races: 189
First SBK Race: 2012 Imola
Wins: 29
First Win: 2012 Nürburgring
Pole Positions: 6
First Pole: 2015 Laguna Seca
World Titles: 1 (2011 Supersport)

 

Honda

Ryuichi Kiyonari and Yuki Takahashi ready to tackle the Jerez round for the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team

The Moriwaki Althea Honda Team is preparing for the Spanish round of the WorldSBK season, set to take place at the Jerez circuit this weekend. The squad will field former 250cc/Moto2 rider and current All Japan Road Race JSB1000 rider Yuki Takahashi alongside Ryuichi Kiyonari, since Leon Camier is still recovering from the injury to his left shoulder, sustained during the Imola Superpole session.

The Brit is keen to be back on his bike as soon as possible but his recovery, although going well and precisely as expected for ligament damage, still requires a little more time.

The Japanese duo have already taken part in a two-day testing session at Misano last week, and despite some bad weather drastically reducing the available dry track time, they were still able to work on the set-up of their CBR1000RR bikes and gain more valuable experience in the saddle.

As usual, the race weekend will get underway with the first free practice session on Friday morning at 10:30 local time (CET).

Ryuichi Kiyonari 23

“I have never ridden at Jerez, but on paper it looks like a good track, the final sector especially, and I always enjoy racing in Spain. We had two days of testing at Misano last week and although we had some bad weather, there was enough dry track time to allow us to complete some productive work that we don’t usually have time for during the race weekend, mainly regarding the balance and set-up of the bike. So, I’m ready to do my best. A new track is always a challenge of course, but I’m looking forward to getting started at Jerez.”

Yuki Takahashi 72

“First of all, I am very sorry about Leon’s injury, which wasn’t even his fault, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’m also grateful and wish to thank the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team for giving me the chance to race for them at Jerez. I have raced several times at Jerez in the past [best result 3rd in 250cc in 2008 ed.] but last time I rode there was back in 2013, so it won’t be easy. Having said that, I like the track and I’ll try to provide the team with some useful feedback. I’ll try my best and will no doubt really enjoy the experience!”

 

Yamaha

Confidence High as Yamaha Riders Head to Jerez
Setup

Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, head into Round 6 of the FIM Superbike World Championship in Jerez this weekend with their sights set firmly on the podium, following a positive two-day test in Misano last week. Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri also head into the Jerez weekend with some confidence following the Misano test, which provided the two GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders with an opportunity to further refine the set-up of their R1 machines after a difficult weekend last time out in Imola. Jerez will also see a fifth Yamaha R1 on the grid for the first time, as the Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK team make a welcome return to the championship with Frenchman, Loris Baz.

The Misano test was an important one for all five Yamaha riders but the weather refused to cooperate, with all but a few hours of the two-day test affected by rain. Despite the limited dry track time both the Pata Yamaha and GRT Yamaha riders managed to complete most of their planned test programs, with positive results. For Baz the Misano test was the first opportunity he’s had to familiarise himself with the Ten Kate Yamaha R1 that he’ll race for the first time this weekend in Jerez.

After narrowly missing out on the podium in Imola, where he finished fourth in both races, van der Mark is confident that he has the pace to challenge for the top three this weekend in Jerez. With three podium finishes to his name already this season, the Pata Yamaha rider currently lies fourth in the championship standings with 134 points, just six points behind his teammate, Lowes.

Lowes showed incredible resilience in Imola, where he had to contend with a debilitating stomach bug all weekend. Despite being far from fit, the 28-year-old Briton rode to two impressive points scoring finishes, with seventh place in Race 1 and a hard fought fifth place in Sunday morning’s Superpole Race. Lowes is now back to full fitness and is keen to add to his tally of four podiums in Jerez, as he looks to consolidate his third place in the championship standings.

Imola proved a difficult weekend for the GRT Yamaha pairing of Cortese and Melandri, with crashes and set-up issues limiting the competitiveness of both riders. Jerez is a track that Cortese and Melandri know well and both head into round six of the FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend with renewed confidence, after a productive test in Misano, despite the inclement weather.

For Baz and the Ten Kate Yamaha team the Jerez weekend will be an opportunity to continue the familiarization process with the Yamaha YZF-R1 that they will campaign for the remainder of the season. The Frenchman, who last turned a wheel in anger at the final round of the 2018 season in Qatar, is under no illusions about the weekend ahead, but is very much looking forward to making his return to racing after his enforced seven month layoff.

Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK

“Fortunately, we got a window of good weather on the second day of the Misano test and we managed to work our way through a lot of the test program, with the boys working hard to test as much as we could. Going back to Jerez is always nice, as we do a lot of testing there in the winter. This year there is a new surface again, so it will be interesting to see how the bike will feel compared to the tests. I feel really good with the bike at the moment and the base set-up has worked well at the last few tracks, so I think we can be really strong this weekend in Jerez. The podium is the target; we were close in Imola, but not quite close enough.”

Alex Lowes
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK

“We got a lot done with the limited amount of dry track time we had on the afternoon of the second day in Misano. We managed to complete most of our test plan but, obviously, we didn’t get the chance to do any long runs. We made some steps forward with the bike and I’m happy with how the test went. Jerez is a track I really enjoy and one where we do a lot of laps in the winter, although the temperature will be a lot higher for the race weekend. In the past it’s also been a track that suits our Yamaha R1 and, with the steps we’ve made this year with the bike, I’m heading to Spain confident we can be in the fight for the podium in all three races this weekend.”

Sandro Cortese
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK

“I’m quite happy with what we achieved with the limited amount of dry track time we had at the Misano test. We managed to test a lot of things that we don’t have the time to try during a race weekend and it was a good opportunity to rebuild my confidence after a difficult weekend in Imola. I’m really looking forward to going back to Jerez, a track where every rider has done a lot of laps in testing, but one I like a lot. I’m looking forward to getting back to work this weekend in Jerez, where I’m confident we can put the disappointment of Imola behind us and be competitive once again.”

Marco Melandri
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK

“We found a good base early on the second day of the Misano test, but then we tried different settings to understand better how these impact on the feeling with the bike. It’s something we just don’t have time to do during a race weekend and, while we didn’t finish as good as we would like, we did get a lot of information that will allow us to start with a better base this weekend in Jerez. The key to Jerez is race pace; it will be hot and many riders will be fast for just a few laps, but maintaining this pace across race distance will be critical, so that’s where we need to focus our efforts this weekend.”

Loris Baz
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK

“While conditions at the Misano test weren’t ideal for me or the team, given that this was our first outing with the Yamaha R1, we were certainly all happy to be back! We managed to work thought a lot at the test, although it would have been nice to get a third day with full dry conditions. But I was happy with the test; I managed to improve my lap time with every exit, which was cool, but I still need to work out how to get the best from the bike on a new tyre. Now we head into our first race weekend in Jerez, a track I know very well indeed, which is an advantage. It will be fun to race again and I’m really happy that we now have three races each weekend, because this provides us with more opportunity to learn the bike and the tyres. Friday will be about finding a base set-up on the bike and me finding my pace after such a long break from racing, but our goal is to try and reduce the gap to the front with each session. I’m looking forward to it!”

 

 


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