Gerloff claimed GRT’s first podium of the year but Japanese rookie Nozane impressed on his WorldSBK debut with two points finishes on Sunday
It was a dramatic weekend of action in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship as the season started in sensational fashion at MotorLand Aragon for the Pirelli Aragon Round. It was a strong race for the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team as American star Garrett Gerloff claimed the team’s first podium while Kohta Nozane claimed his first points in WorldSBK.
The reigning Japanese superbike champion came into the weekend after some test days at the Alcañiz circuit, but was still learning his Yamaha YZF R1, the Pirelli tyres and the Championship in general, but still managed to add to his first WorldSBK points from Saturday with ninth in the Tissot Superpole Race and 12th in Race 2; both races impacted by weather and tyre selections.
Nozane had started the Superpole Race from 16th on the grid before showing strong pace in the closing stages of the 10-lap race as he secured a third row start for Race 2. An error-free race in Race 2 meant the rookie was able to come home in 12th place and claim his second points finish in WorldSBK in his third race. His Superpole race meant he became the first Japanese rider to secure a top ten finish since Yuki Takahashi in 2019 at Misano.
Discussing his strong debut weekend, Nozane said: “The conditions were different today, so the tyre choice was a bit tricky. The track kept changing too, so, at the beginning of the race, I was too cautious, and I lost positions. I still managed to finish the race and learn so many things. I also took note of so many different aspects in which I have to improve. The next race will be my first time in Estoril, so it will be tough for me, but I will try to be as prepared as possible to do my best for the team. They are working so well with me and helping me a lot, so I will try to get a good result for them in Portugal.”
It was a strong weekend for Gerloff too despite a Race 2 crash with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the American sensation taking a podium in the Tissot Superpole Race before briefly battling with Rea for the lead of Race 2 before the two came together at Turn 14. Rea was able to continue through the gravel while Gerloff came off his bike, although recovered to take seventh place in the race.
Race 2 was won by Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) after the British rider took the gamble to start on slick tyres, while most riders went for the intermediates. Gerloff, who apologised to Rea after the crash, explained the thinking behind his decision: “As soon as I came around from the sighting lap, I was confident to use intermediates. But then after eight minutes on the grid, I could see that the track was drying, and I could see the line coming. It was too late to change tyres, but I could see that it was going to be a race for slicks. At that point, you have to accept what you pick. I was definitely glad I didn’t pick rains because that would’ve been a long race. At least there were a lot of other guys on intermediates, so it was more level but, in the end,, I was riding with myself most of the time.”
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