Steeman’s victory on Sunday postponed the crowning of a Champion until the final round of the season, a tradition in WorldSSP300…
After the exciting Catalunya Round, the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship will be decided during the last round of the season, the Pirelli Portuguese Round. Alvaro Diaz (Arco Motor University Team) had numerous options to be crowned Champion on Sunday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but Victor Steeman’s (MTM Kawasaki) dominant victory in Race 2 prevented Diaz from being crowned on home soil. Diaz finished that race in fourth place, a result that leaves him just one point away from securing the Championship.
Heading into Race 2, Diaz was on a history-making streak of seven consecutive podiums as his consistency vaulted him to the top of the standings. Adding an eighth podium to this streak would have been enough to secure the title but he missed out by just 0.046s at the end of the 12-lap race. It means the title race goes to Portimao, the final round of the season, with a 50-point gap between Spanish rider Diaz and Steeman. It means Diaz only needs to secure a top-15 finish in either Race 1 or Race 2 to be crowned Champion.
The Valencian rider was, after Race 2, already looking ahead to Portimao as he looks to become World Champion for the first time. He said: “It was a super chaotic race, because in the first group there were many riders, very strong and aggressive, so there was constant overtaking, I have even managed to go 12th in one lap.
“It has been difficult to manage, because it doesn't depend much on you whether they overtake you or touch you… so the difficult part was managing the reflexes of the other drivers and all these elements,” continued Díaz. “But we are very happy because we are only one point away from winning the Championship. We already did a test in Portimao at the beginning of the season and it went very well for me, so we'll see how the races go.”
Heading into the Catalunya Round, the closest rival to Diaz was fellow Yamaha rider Marc Garcia (Yamaha MS Racing) as he looked to become the first two-time WorldSSP300 Champion. Garcia in the early stages fought in the lead group but dropped down to record two non-scores in Barcelona and his third consecutive non-points scoring result. It means the Barcelona-born rider dropped out of title contention with Steeman now the only rider who can prevent Diaz from winning the title. Steeman’s options to win the title are very limited, however, as he needs to win both races and hope Diaz does not score a single point in both; this would tie the pair but Steeman would be crowned Champion on countback.
Although the balance is very much in favour of Diaz, the two Championship contenders will face the final round showdown in fighting spirit. Discussing his plan for Portimao, Diaz said: “I have already talked about it with the team and they have told me that it is very difficult to make two zeros, or that the bike fails twice, so that we will try to win the first race, like every time I go out on the track, which in the end is what takes away all your nerves, and keep a cool mind.”
Steeman isn’t giving up on claiming the Riders’ Championship, as demonstrated by his dominant victory in Catalunya, and it is this philosophy he is taking into the final round of the season: “Bringing the title fight to Portugal is really good," he explained on Sunday after his display in Race 2, his fourth win this season. “There is some possibility, but it will be difficult. Can I win two races? Yes, I can, but I need to have a bit of luck and get my best performance.”
Every season bar 2019 has seen the WorldSSP300 title fight go down to the final round, including the last two seasons where two MTM Kawasaki riders were involved. Last season, there was a fight between teammates Adrian Huertas and Jeffrey Buis, while in 2020 it was between Buis and compatriot Scott Deroue. Of course, if you go back to the first two seasons in WorldSSP300, the title was decided by a single point in the final round of the season: Ana Carrasco, in 2018, got the better of Deroue and in 2017 it was between Garcia and Alfonso Coppola.
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