The Italian outfit has seen Garrett Gerloff and Kohta Nozane give them the crown of Best Independent, whilst Gerloff will now look to give the team top six representation overall
With one round to go in the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the title race is still alive between Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with 30 points between them. However, one title already decided is the Best Independent Team’s title, going to the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team and their riders Garrett Gerloff and Kohta Nozane. The team is sixth in the overall Teams’ Championship standings and despite a late charge from Motocorsa Racing and their rider Axel Bassani, will not be overhauled for Best Independent honours.
The season started well for GRT Yamaha, as American Garrett Gerloff continued his front-running form from the end of 2020 and took a podium in the second race of the season, before in the battle for the lead in the early stages of Race 2. Gerloff would have a solid round at Estoril and Misano before heading to Donington Park for the first time. He crashed out of a podium in Race 1 but bounced back in Race 2, taking second, his last podium of the season to-date.
Since then, he’s taken five top six finishes and in recent rounds, has been a consistent force, inside the top ten in all but two of the last ten races – in those two, he was still tenth. Tied on points with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) in eighth in the standings, Gerloff hopes he can crack the top six overall, need to out-score Michael van der Mark by 23 points in Indonesia to do so, as well as out-scoring Lowes.
On the other side of the garage, Kohta Nozane’s rookie season of WorldSBK has seen plenty of highs. In the second race of the season – the Tissot Superpole Race at Aragon – tricky wet conditions couldn’t perturb the Japanese rookie, who took ninth place, his first top ten, made even more remarkable by the fact he had never raced with the Pirelli rain tyres. Of the first nine races, Nozane scored points in seven of them as he continued to adapt to the WorldSBK-spec R1 Yamaha, the European tracks and the Pirelli tyres.
Having picked up a nagging injury during a test at the Circuito de Navarra in June, Nozane missed Donington Park, before bouncing back and scoring points in six races prior to Barcelona. A wet Race 1 saw Nozane deal with the conditions well at Catalunya, finishing tenth for the first time in a full race and crossing the line as first Yamaha. Five points-scoring finishes since then have seen him move into 14th place in the Championship standings, where he’ll aim to defend, whilst also hoping to show that he can be a top ten contender again on neutral territory at the Mandalika International Street Circuit for the Pirelli Indonesian Round at the end of November.
Whilst the Independent Teams’ Championship may be wrapped up, the Riders’ is not as Garrett Gerloff is coming under attack from a late-charging Axel Bassani. The rookie Italian has finished the last 12 races in the points and has got himself to just 14 points behind Gerloff. Will GRT Yamaha’s lead rider be able to hold on to top Independent honours?
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