UPS AND DOWNS: Gerloff shines, teammate clashes and technical issues hamper…

Monday, 11 September 2023 10:09 GMT

There were plenty of moments to remember from France with some highs and lows for the WorldSBK grid

The Pirelli French Round provided plenty of talking points as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship burst back into action from its mid-season break. At an unusually hot Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, there were surprises, riders for the same manufacturers colliding, more twists in the title race and much more. With the round now in the history books, it’s time to take a detailed look at some of the ups and downs from a dramatic trip to France.

GERLOFF HOOKS IT TOGETHER: fast from start to finish

In recent rounds, Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) had been threatening to have a breakthrough weekend with BMW but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. That changed at Magny-Cours – a circuit that’s been good for BMW in the past – with the #31 second in FP1, second in FP2 and second in FP3. He was able to go one better in the Tissot Superpole session as he took his first pole position, the team’s first pole and BMW’s first since Barcelona 2021. He followed that up with fourth in Race 1 and fifth in Race 2 as he enjoyed his best-ever BMW weekend and helped the German manufacturer move clear of Honda in the Manufacturers’ Championship, although perhaps it could’ve been more if not for a crash with Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in the Superpole Race.

RAZGATLIOGLU CLOSES THE GAP: two hard-fought wins adds pressure to Bautista

Magny-Cours is one of Toprak Razgatlioglu’s (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) favourite and most successful tracks, with the #54 making a small piece of history by becoming the first rider to win four consecutive races at the French venue (2022 Superpole Race and Race 2, 2023 Race 1 and Superpole Race). With title rival Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) enduring a difficult Race 1, the 2021 Champion closed the gap by 19 points and then by another three in the Superpole Race before the #1 responded in Race 2. The gap is now 57 points with three rounds remaining.

DUCATI’S DIFFICULT WEEKEND: mechanical problems and teammate crashes

One of the reasons for the big swing in Race 1 was Bautista having a technical issue on Lap 3, when his bike came to a stop on the exit of Turn 5. He was able to restart it and fought back for tenth place, but it was not Ducati’s only issue in France. In Race 2, teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi suffered an issue when fighting in the top-five which ended the Italian’s race. Plus, the pair collided in the Superpole Race. Razgatlioglu, Rinaldi and Bautista were fighting for the win, with the #54 ahead of the #21, when Bautista hit the back of his teammate. The reigning Champion was able to continue and finish second, with the FIM Stewards taking no further action after investigating the incident, while Rinaldi retired.

CONTRASTING FORTUNES FOR BMW: Bonovo star, factory team falter

BMW did show strong pace in France, particularly with the Independent Bonovo Action BMW team, but results at the factory team were harder to come by. Redding’s seventh in Race 1 was the factory team’s best result of the weekend, and the #45 served a total of three Long Lap Penalties on Sunday. He got one for the Gerloff collision while the FIM Stewards gave him a double Long Lap Penalty for a crash with Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) at Turn 5 in Race 2. Van der Mark, on his second round back from injury, scored no points. He was 16th in Race 1 and 13th in the Superpole Race before a Turn 5 spill ended his weekend a few laps earlier than anticipated.

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