Cluzel presents himself as a title contender

Tuesday, 24 April 2018 10:37 GMT

The French rider took his first victory of the year in the Netherlands and gained ground on the leaders

After a stumbling start to the season, with a modest 7th place at Philip Island and a fall in Thailand while he was leading the race, Jules Cluzel (NRT) seems to be finally finding his groove in the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship.

His triumph last Sunday in the MOTUL Dutch Round race was a triumph of faith, defended with ferocious determination, and starring a rider who hadn’t climbed to the top of the podium since October 12th, 2016, at Magny-Cours in the French Round. Much too long for a man who aspires to be consistently amongst the leading title candidates. The French rider is no there, in the small, segregated group that occupies the highest part of the rankings, separated by just a handful of points. With his third place at MotorLand Aragon and his win at TT Circuit Assen, Cluzel has climbed to fourth in the standings, 21 points off Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) and 20 away from Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team), the two men who have, up to now, led the championship.

“I can’t describe what I’m feeling right now, because it had been a year since my last victory, at Magny-Cours, so it’s fantastic to be again at the very top”, described the French rider, heated and happy, just minutes after climbing off his YZF R6, but also minutes away from his agonising struggle with Raffaele de Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) and Krummenacher, from which he emerged victorious by just under 3 tenths of a second.

“It was a very difficult race, really very difficult. I felt like I wasn’t the fastest man out there, but even then, I remained in the lead, I tried not to make any mistakes, trying to improve where I could, to understand where I could be better. After, when Raffaele passed me, I stayed there, seeing if I could recover my position. And when I did, I opened a small gap, nearly a second, but then I was about to fall on every right-handed turn, it was scary”.

The Nerds Racing Team rider focused on that final, heart-stopping lap, in which he was able to close all the doors the Swiss rider – unchained after an amazing comeback – tried to open: “I’m very happy to have kept there right to the end and to have won the race. Of course, the last lap was red-hot, those last turns were incredible, I really gave it my all, without making any mistakes. We entered that chicane too fast, really way too fast, but I didn’t fall, so it’s all very good!”.

With the five first riders in the championship standings separated by no more than 22 points, the battle for the WorldSSP leadership promises strong emotions at the next stop of the season, from May 11-13 at Imola. Follow everything that happens that weekend, and relive all the amazing action from the Dutch Round, thanks to the WorldSBK VideoPass.