The Italian showed his pace and consistency in Race 1 as his won his first race since 2021 on a dramatic day in WorldSBK
MotorLand Aragon has always had a special place in Michael Ruben Rinaldi’s (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) heart. Five years ago, he made his MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship debut at the Spanish venue and, in 2020, it was the scene of his first podium and win. Now, in 2023, the circuit ended his two-year win drought after he battled his way to victory in Race 1 of the Tissot Aragon Round ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK); the latter of whom he beat in 2020 on his way to his first win.
Rinaldi started the race from fifth on the grid but was immediately into the top four as he closed down Rea and Razgatlioglu ahead. Rea was putting pressure on Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) ahead although it looked like the Spaniard was in control of the race before it abruptly unravelled at Turn 8. He lost the front of his Panigale V4 R and crashed, dropping down the order. This promoted Rea, Razgatlioglu and Rinaldi into the podium positions.
The #21 had been keeping his distance but slowly started closing the gap to his rivals before he made his move on the #54 for second. The move came on the 2021 Champion came on Lap 13 to move into second place before he overtook the six-time Champion a couple of laps later to move into the lead. From there, he was able to extend his lead to claim his first victory in almost exactly two years: his last one was on the 19th September 2021 in Barcelona, where Razgatlioglu also finished second.
Reacting to his first win of the year, Rinaldi said: “It’s incredible! At Aragon, strange things happen, I had my first race win here and then this victory today is one of my best, as I fought! It was a race where I had to manage the tyre and think a lot. There’s been some really dark moments this year but this is the best road to come back. I decided to not give up and here I am, really happy and enjoying this moment.”
Although Rinaldi was able to win, his outright pace was not as quick as those around him, but it was more consistent which allowed him to first close in on the leaders and then pass. Rinaldi’s best lap was a 1’50.020s, on Lap 2, and 10 of his first 11 normal lap times – excluding Lap 1 – where in the 1’50s bracket. His pace did drop into the 1’51s but never slower than this. In contrast, Razgatlioglu’s fastest time was a 1’49.585s but he only set seven lap times slower than the 1’51s, while Rea was similar: his best lap was a 1’49.568s, but only seven race laps were in the 1’50s or lower and both dropped into the 1’52s towards the end of the race.
Explaining his race, Rinaldi said: “I think that the problem for them was at the beginning of the race; I was lapping in the 1’50s but they went away, and I think they were using too much tyre, so at the end, it was the key as I was able to catch them. It’s what I thought at the beginning of the race. I’m sorry for Alvaro’s crash and I’m sure his pace was even better, but I took the opportunity and won the race. These things happen and I wish him the best for tomorrow. My target is to always be there fighting for the victory and we’ll see tomorrow if we can repeat it with Alvaro.”
Can Rinaldi add another Aragon win to his collection? Find out on Sunday using the WorldSBK VideoPass – now only €9.99!