There was plenty to celebrate from Portimao but also some downs that teams and riders might want to forget…
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship headed to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, and no one could’ve predicted what was in store. Ducati had plenty to celebrate as they wrapped up three titles, there was an EXTRAORDINARY battle between the two title protagonists which will go down in WorldSBK history but there were also some downs along the way. Kawasaki will want to forget Sunday as soon as possible and there were contrasting fortunes at both BMW and Honda across the Pirelli Portuguese Round.
BAUTISTA’S HISTORIC WEEKEND AND DUCATI TITLES: plenty to cheer in red
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) put one hand and four fingers on the 2023 title with a hat-trick and, while he was unable to secure a second Championship, his Portimao hat-trick still gave him and Ducati plenty to cheer. His Race 1 win secured the Italian brand their 19th Manufacturers’ Championship and his hard-fought Race 2 win after an EPIC battle with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) moved him ahead of Carl Fogarty in terms of wins for Ducati. Having gone level on 55 after the Tissot Superpole Race, the #1 moved clear in Race 2. Also, for Ducati, they took their first Manufacturers’ Championship title in WorldSSP courtesy of Nicolo Bulega’s (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) Race 1 win on Saturday; this win also secured him the Riders’ Championship.
THE RACE 2 FIGHT: gloves off, elbows out, everything put on the line
Need we say more? Bautista and Razgatlioglu swapped first place upwards of 30 times during the 20-lap fight as the pair duelled it out in what was a crucial race for the title fight. Ultimately, it came down to the exit of the final corner and the run to the line. Bautista was ecstatic, Razgatlioglu devastated. Both riders gave everything as they made overtakes at Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 5, Turns 10 and 11, Turn 13 and the exit of Turn 15 in what will surely go down as one of the best head-to-head battles ever. If you missed it, catch up on everything HERE.
GARDNER’S BEST WEEKEND YET: four in the Superpole Race, unlucky in Race 2
It was a challenging start to Remy Gardner’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) WorldSBK career as he adapted from MotoGP™ machinery, but there’s been a clear step in recent rounds. From the Czech Round onwards, the Australian has scored points in all but three races but undoubtedly his strongest weekend so far was at Portimao. He converted ninth in the Tissot Superpole session to sixth in Race 1, before an impressive fourth in the Superpole Race – his best result to date He was running in the podium places in the early stages of Race 2 but a technical issue forced him to retire.
BMW’S CONTRASTING FORTUNES: Gerloff and van der Mark shine, Baz and Redding struggle
Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) was once again BMW’s lead rider in races, taking fourth in Race 1 and Race 2 and the American’s now had four top-five finishes since WorldSBK returned from its mid-season break. The #31 is also the lead BMW rider in the standings on 135 points in 13th place with a round to go. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) had a strong weekend too with two seventh places, with the Dutchman seemingly back to his best following his injury. However, on the other side of their respective boxes, it was a tricky weekend at the ‘rollercoaster’. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was forced to start both feature-length races from the pits after exceeding the engine allocation rules, with the Frenchman’s best result 12th in the Superpole Race when he could start from his grid slot. He crashed out of Race 2. Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) took a best of 13th – also in the Superpole Race – and scored just three points all weekend; his lowest points haul in a weekend since Catalunya when he scored 0. His Race 2 result was impacted by a collision with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the six-time Champion penalised.
A SUNDAY TO MOVE ON FROM: KRT’s synchronised crash, Rea’s Race 2 penalty and Lowes unfit
The Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK will quickly want to move on from Sunday. After starting from first and second for the Superpole Race, both Rea and Alex Lowes crashed at Turn 5 on the opening laps. They crashed on their own but went down in sync which ended their chances of a good result. Lowes was declared unfit with a left knee contusion after this and missed Race 2, while Rea started from tenth and finished there – albeit, not as easy as that sounds. A Turn 3 collision with Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) and Redding earned him a Long Lap Penalty and he had to fight his way through the field to take tenth.
VIERGE ON THE BACK FOOT: Lecuona ahead all weekend
Although Vierge’s Race 2 was ‘destroyed’ – as Rea put it – due to the Lap 1 incident, he had been behind teammate iker Lecuona all weekend. Lecuona was 11th in Friday’s combined classification with Vierge 17th because the #7 took sixth in Superpole with Vierge 14th. In Race 1, Vierge was able to battle to the top ten with his teammate in eighth and, again, the #97 fought his way to ninth in the Superpole Race as Lecuona took a top-five. The one-time polesitter secured seventh in Race 2 to cap off a decent weekend while Vierge had to recover from his Turn 3 crash to score just a single point. In the standings, Vierge is eighth on 140 points with Lecuona 12th on 136. There’s a group of six riders separated by just five points heading into the season finale…
Catch up on all the action from Portimao and watch every moment from Jerez using the WorldSBK VideoPass for only €9.99!