Looking to become the first ever South African WorldSSP Champion and with more goals after that, Steven Odendaal previews his World Supersport season
The 2021 FIM Supersport World Championship promises to be one of the fiercest fights yet, with a whole host of world-class talent coming from a variety of classes to mix it with the best talent WorldSSP has to offer. Now a melting pot of all kinds of riders, 2021 is one of the most unpredictable yet. Going into his second year, Steven Odendaal (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) moves to Fabio Evangelista’s team, which is gunning for a third consecutive crown and his aims are high.
“Obviously, I am very excited but of course, it comes with its pressure: going into a team who have won the Championship for the last two years,” he started. “I’m excited because I know they have the package it takes to win, so there is no doubt that the team is good enough to do it. Also, they have a lot of input and data from the past two years. They pretty much have the fastest laps at every track and that data becomes very valuable to a rider like me, who is in his second season and looking to fight for the title.”
Odendaal stepped into the WorldSSP category in 2020 with the EAB Ten Kate Racing squad and finished all but one race, of which 13 of them were inside the top ten. Yet to achieve a podium, his consistency will look to be transferred into title-challenging pace for the year ahead and he’s got one of the best teams in the paddock around him.
“It is a massive confidence booster to have the belief from the team,” said the 28-year-old. “To realise that they see the potential in myself is great but at the same time, I know that I have it within myself to win races and fight for the Championship. It’s a good thing to know the team is backing me 100%. Being the only rider in the team is also good, feeling that their support and belief in me is just as high as my own about myself.
“The clear target is to be World Supersport Champion; that is what I’ve been focusing all my efforts on this year. It won’t be easy but definitely that’s one of my goals. I think we can be a power package in 2021, with some competition coming back from WorldSBK such as Federico Caricasulo and the likes of Randy Krummenacher returning, alongside Dominique Aegerter, Philipp Oettl and Jules Cluzel. These are some of the top dogs, but I believe I’ve got the best team to fight for the title. Cluzel has always been a consistent and clever rider, if he can’t take first then he’ll take second, which is dangerous for the title as he is always there at the end.”
South Africa is enjoying something of a resurgence in motorcycle racing, with Odendaal flying the Rainbow Nation’s flag high alongside MotoGP™ race winner Brad Binder and his younger, M oto3™ race-winning brother, Darryn: “It would be nice to have myself doing really well in World Supersport, and then Brad in MotoGP™ and Darryn in Moto3™. That will bring South Africans to focus their interest on motorcycle racing.”
For now, Odendaal can only enjoy the South African circuits in a testing capacity, getting up to speed on his own R6: “I’ve been testing in South Africa already, on my own R6. My team sent me some parts to try out already. I’ve been to some circuits testing down there and the weather is super nice there now, around 30 degrees. The team and I have some plans for testing, including the Misano test coming up next week as well as the Barcelona test. There may be one more test at Aragon, but we will see how it goes.”
Talking about his future should he take the title; Odendaal has a firm target: “I need to see the opportunities that arise from that. If there’s a nice open door in WorldSBK then I’ll happily take it but if nothing opens up in my direction, then I’d like to make sure that I can make the best choice for my career by staying in WorldSSP again, to defend the title and try and take it again. However, the main goal is to get to WorldSBK.”
He’s already enjoyed time with his new team too and has taken to the Italian squad like a duck to water. “My excitement is a mixture of everything,” he stated. “I’m excited to be back in the WorldSBK paddock, I really enjoyed the atmosphere there in 2020 and the nature of the WorldSSP category is a great environment to be in. I’ve enjoyed the team welcoming me for 2021; I spent a week in Italy with them already and it feels like my second home. They’ve really taken me on as a team member and it’s been fantastic. Both things combined have got me very excited for 2021.”
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