Coronations, frustration and an emphatic entrance: the five biggest moments from the past five years
Jerez de la Frontera: land of sherry, equines and burnt rubber. The Circuito de Jeréz – Ángel Nieto features 13 turns, including a couple of the hardest braking points on the calendar, and conversely, some of the speediest corners. It’s a tricky, technical track where Superbikes continuously thrive – no less those in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship.
The circus visits the Spanish track after a one-year hiatus, although testing here has been extensive since then; no rider has won more than three races in WorldSBK, meaning the spotlight has been stolen by many a man. Since every race from 2014 onwards is available at all times for WorldSBK VideoPass subscribers, let’s look at a shining moment from each of the past five years:
2014 – ‘Magic Michael’ becomes Supersport King
That Michael van der Mark possessed the pure talent to take on the elites of motorcycle racing was clear from very early on in the Dutchman’s career – but this was the moment where it all came together. After a non-score at Phillip Island the then Ten Kate rider had not finished one single race outside of the top two positions, extending his advantage to 53 points before the summer break, three races remaining.
Van der Mark needed just to improve upon Cluzel’s result here to set home as champion, and a crash for the Frenchman left the title race mathematically decided with two laps to go. But the King wanted a golden coronation, stealing the lead from Florian Marino that same lap and defending steadily in a thrilling finale. In a championship renowned for its balance, van der Mark had dominated like no other and proven that he was ready for stardom.
2015 – Podium? The champ doesn’t need a podium
Is winning a championship with your worst performance the epitome of an anti-climax? Perhaps, but you wouldn’t have seen Jonathan Rea complaining. If anything, the fact that the Northern Irishman could afford to finish 4th in Race 1 at Jerez – after TWENTY consecutive podiums – stood as a testament to how incredibly he had adapted to the Kawasaki after six years with Honda.
What mattered here was crossing the line in one piece; setting emotions and nerves aside for 35 minutes and getting the job done, either in Race 1 or Race 2. And as it happened, Rea didn’t need a second chance – 13 points were enough to seal the deal. It didn’t quite matter who was celebrating on the rostrum, because Team #65 finally had their number one.
2016 – Davies delays the festivities
Jerez was the penultimate date on the 2016 calendar and also the last year the title chase went down to the wire, a three-horse race between Rea, Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies. The Spanish round was where the Welshman’s title options vanished… But not without the Ducati putting up a fight.
These were two races with all three men on the rostrum, and Davies above them all, slap bang in the middle of the best streak of his career: six consecutive race wins, not enough for the title (or second position, as it happened), but enough to allow Davies and the Aruba team to end their season with a statement of intent.
2017 – One Rea to rule them all
WorldSBK has visited 16 different tracks since 2014, some regulars on the calendar, others for special one-offs. And Jonathan Rea has managed to win at every single one of them. Surprised? Quite possibly not, with good reason. But that wasn’t always the case: Jerez was a bit of a stumbling block for the Northern Irishman, the one track where he seemed to always be on the back foot.
Until 2017, when Rea was on the middle of a rampant late-season run of seven victories in the last eight races. Two of them came at the Spanish circuit, the Kawasaki rider’s final frontier finally defeated. A mechanical failure for leader Marco Melandri in Race 1 sealed the deal for the then three-time champion, who completed his collection in style. Winning Race 2 – going 9th to 1st inside the opening lap – was just the icing on the cake.
2018 – Raceless… But made up by an astonishing debut
WorldSBK and Jerez took a breather in 2018, with no races scheduled in Andalusia. But the track was still very present on the testing calendar as one of the few venues with reasonable temperatures and dry conditions through the winter months. The circuit held the final laps of 2018 before teams and riders closed up shop for the Christmas holidays – with a very special debutant.
Álvaro Bautista jumped onboard the Ducati V4 R for the very first time at the Spanish track and immediately caused a great impression on his Borgo Panigale companions: second fastest after Day One, just three tenths of a second behind Jonathan Rea. A sign of the fierce rivalry to come.
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