#EstorilWorldSBK Weekend Preview: World Superbike, World Supersport, WorldSSP300
The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is coming to a close as we come to the grand finale and the Pirelli Estoril Round. The title is on the line this weekend and whilst Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is a clear favourite, Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) will do everything in his power to take the title race to Sunday. There’s 62 points available, 59 split the two riders and only one can be Champion. Let battle commence on WorldSBK’s much-anticipated return to racing at Estoril.
Jonathan Rea’s season has been staggering; perhaps not as dominant as we’ve seen from seasons gone-by but nonetheless, spectacularly consistent and devastatingly fast. The Northern Irishman should be able to wrap the Championship up on Saturday afternoon, barring acts of God and minor miracles elsewhere. This is motorcycle racing and it’s good to expect the unexpected, but Jonathan Rea’s form suggest he won’t be handing a 60-point swing to Scott Redding anytime soon. There’s an expectancy which brings pressure naturally, but Rea’s done this before…
For Scott Redding, the task in hand is easy to understand; win three races. The bigger, and arguably more pressing question is: will it be easy to execute? Redding has good experience with Estoril from his Grand Prix days and will at least head to the circuit without having to familiarise himself with it. However, he will have to understand a WorldSBK bike’s characteristics at the circuit. Heading to Estoril, Redding does have the experience, but it could be a disadvantage as he has that prior taste of the track and a comparison. For Rea, he knows no difference and starts from a blank canvas. An interesting dynamic, as much as the one for the title.
Away from the tussle for the title is the third-place battle between Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team). In the last two rounds, Davies has taken a total of nine points more than van der Mark and the Dutchman now needs to overcome a gap of 19; he’s not done that all year and the last time he did do it was at Laguna Seca last year, when he scored 45 points more. Van der Mark was third overall in 2018 and he so dearly wants it back – but it was the same year that Davies was second in the title race, a place he’s not been near since. Can he hold off van der Mark for one more round?
24 points behind van der Mark, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leads the top five battle. He’s four points ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) whilst Team GOELEVEN’s Michael Ruben Rinaldi is nine further back. All three riders know the importance of finishing inside the top seven overall and all three have been winners in 2020. It’s a battle that’ll go down to the wire on Sunday but who will come out on top come the close of the season?
Rinaldi is in another battle however, as he and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) go in search of being best Independent rider of 2020. The battle is split by 31 points but that could be overcome. Three podiums in the last five races has meant that Baz is back in contention, but he’ll need a very special Estoril points haul to topple Rinaldi. The Italian in turn would need to have a difficult weekend and if he outscores Baz by seven points in Race 1, he can guarantee Independent glory.
The battle for top Honda also continues as Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) lies ninth in the Championship, eight points ahead of teammate Leon Haslam – they are on 99 and 91 points respectively. Bautista had a disastrous Magny-Cours event but hopes to bounce back at a circuit he won at three times during his GP career. For Haslam, he achieved his best 250cc Grand Prix World Championship result here and hopes this can be the circuit he cracks the podium at. If not, it’d be his first full year since 2013 where he’s missed it.
Elsewhere, Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) will aim to pinch a top ten place in the standings from Haslam. Currently on 78 and 13 behind Haslam, Gerloff has shown before he can surprise at new circuits, like at Catalunya with a podium. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is 12th and two points behind his arch-rival Gerloff and will take to Estoril for the first time, whilst in 13th is Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team), four points ahead of Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), who’s been to Estoril in GP.
Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) lines up for the last time with Puccetti Racing, two points behind Laverty. Leandro Mercado (Motocorsa Racing) is behind the Spaniard by some margin with Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) and Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) also close to Mercado – Chilean Scheib is subject to being declared fit after medical tests on Thursday. Takumi Takahashi’s (MIE Racing HONDA Team) hunt for points will see him bring an end to his first full season whilst stepping into WorldSBK for the first time is Belgian Loris Cresson (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR), replacing the still-recovering Sandro Cortese after his Portimao injuries.
Finally, the Manufacturers’ Championship is up for grabs and if Kawasaki can outscore Ducati by 11 points in Race 1, then they’ve got the Championship. If Kawasaki win, Ducati must have a rider finish on the podium. However, if Ducati take points off Kawasaki in Race 1 then the title will go to Sunday regardless.
The FIM Supersport World Championship heads to the Circuito Estoril for the Pirelli Estoril Round as the Portuguese circuit hosts the WorldSSP season finale; the first time World Supersport machines will race around the 4.182km track. The circuit features 13 turns and a start and finish straight of almost 1km, where action is guaranteed down into Turn 1. Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) are already confirmed as first and second in the Championship but it’s a big battle for third.
While Andrea Locatelli may have wrapped up the title with four races to spare, he will be looking to bounce back from an up-and-down French Round; he was victorious in Race 1 but crashed out on the Warm-Up lap of Race 2 and was unable to take the start of the race. Will Locatelli be able to master another new circuit and end the season with more wins to his name? A new track always brings neutrality, but can he overcome it? Locatelli goes into the season finale with his future secured: the Italian will race for the PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team in 2021.
Frenchman Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) ended his win drought in sensational style in Race 2 at Magny-Cours and has now secured second place in the Riders’ Championship for 2020 and has been rewarded with a move to WorldSBK for 2021. Mahias has won eight races in his WorldSSP career and will be looking to add to that tally before he moves into WorldSBK full time. Mahias like many others doesn’t have any experience at the circuit but you can’t discount him.
Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) was unable to compete at his home race following an injury sustained in a crash with Raffaele de Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) at the Teruel Round. Missing two rounds and four races meant Cluzel has been unable to fight for the Championship and has now lost second to fellow Frenchman Mahias. Should he be declared fit for the Estoril Round, Cluzel will be hoping he can secure third in the Championship where he is currently in a battle with Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
German rider Oettl is currently 15 points back from Cluzel after a challenging weekend at a wet Magny-Cours where he finished 14th and 11th in Race 1 and Race 2 respectively. Oettl will be looking to finish the season strongly as he tries to overhaul Cluzel for third in the standings while he will also need to hold off the challenge from De Rosa with the Italian just 12 points behind. Oettl is one of a few riders across WorldSBK, WorldSSP and WorldSSP300 who has experience of the Estoril circuit having raced there and scored a best result of second in 2012 in the Red Bull Rookies Cup; finishing alongside WorldSSP300 riders Scott Deroue and Karel Hanika.
Raffaele De Rosa lies fifth in the Championship as the highest placed MV Agusta Reparto Corse rider in the standings with the Italian closing in on Oettl courtesy of the six-point net gain he made across the Magny-Cours weekend. While he’ll have one eye on catching Oettl ahead, he will also need to keep an eye on what is happening just behind him in the Championship.
The Championship battle for fifth is heating up with South African rider Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Racing) just seven points behind de Rosa with two races to go and will be looking to haul himself above De Rosa. Odendaal is yet to stand on a podium in 2020 but has been scoring consistent top ten results; the South African will be hoping that elusive podium comes sooner rather than later.
Hot on the heels of Odendaal is WorldSSP rookie and 2019 WorldSSP300 Champion Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). The Spanish rider trails Odendaal by just four points and will be looking to overhaul the South African, having been extremely impressive in recent rounds. Gonzalez will need to be careful of Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) who is only seven points behind the Spaniard and will be hoping he can move up in the Championship.
There is also a tight battle between Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) and teammate Hannes Soomer for ninth and tenth in the standings with just three points separating the duo. This follows Soomer making history at Magny-Cours when he became the first Estonian rider to stand on the WorldSSP podium. Who will come out on top in this intra-team battle?
There will be some new faces on the grid too as Vincent Falcone makes his WorldSSP debut, replacing the WorldSBK-bound Loris Cresson at OXXO Yamaha Team Toth. Angolan rider Victor Alexandre Da Silva Barros (Parkalgar Yamaha – Evan Bros) will also make his debut in WorldSSP as a wildcard rider at Estoril and will thus become the first ever Angolan rider on the grid across any class in WorldSBK’s history, alongside Pedro Nuno Romero Barbosa.
While the 2020 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship Manufacturers’ title has already been decided – in favour of Kawasaki – two teammates head into the season-ending Pirelli Estoril Round in battle as they duel it out for the 2020 Riders’ Championship with everything to be decided at the Circuito Estoril. All season, it’s been between Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT) and his fellow countryman and teammate Scott Deroue and with it all resting on one final fight, the title could go either away.
Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT) heads into the finale as the points leader and is ahead of teammate Scott Deroue by 28 points with 50 available. Buis can wrap up the Championship in Race 1 and the simplest way for him to do this is finish ahead of Deroue; however, he can afford to lose three points to Deroue in Race 1. If Buis is 25 points clear of Deroue heading into Race 2 he will be Champion as Deroue will be unable to match Buis’ win tally for 2020, even if he wins both races at Estoril. It’s a new track, just like Catalunya, where Buis was also in formidable form.
For Deroue, he’ll need to outscore Buis by four points to take the title battle into Race 2. Should he win Race 1, he will gain a minimum of five points over his teammate meaning the duel will go down to the wire. Deroue has one win so far this season and will be looking to add to that in order to become World Champion; both himself and Buis fighting to become the first Dutch WorldSSP300 Champion. Deroue has some experience at the Circuito Estoril having raced there in 2011 and 2012; taking two wins in 2012 in the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
Turkish star Bahattin Sofuoglu (Biblion Motoxracing Yamaha WorldSSP300) sits 48 points behind Deroue and, while he has a very long shot at taking second place, will be looking to ensure he stays third in the Championship, especially now he can’t win it. He’s currently 29 points clear of Unai Orradre (Yamaha MS Racing) and will be hoping he can finish ahead of the Spanish rider in the standings.
The battle for fourth in the Championship is also a tight affair with three riders separated by just four points. Orradre lies fourth at the moment with Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300) fifth, although she will not be racing at Estoril after she was injured in a testing crash at the track, and Tom Booth-Amos (RT Motorsports by SKM-Kawasaki) in sixth. All three have claimed race victories throughout 2020 but, with Carrasco not present, Booth-Amos and Orradre will be looking to secure fourth in the standings.
Booth-Amos crashed out of the lead of Race 1 at Magny-Cours and will be looking to bounce back from that disappointed with a strong performance at Estoril, while Orradre had to fight through the Last Chance Race; making it onto the main grid despite finishing seventh in the Last Chance Race. He will be hoping to avoid the additional race and progress straight to Superpole and the main races. Booth-Amos comes into the round confident and settled, with his 2021 ride already in the bag.
Magny-Cours race winner Marc Garcia (2R Racing) has shown impressive pace since returning to the Championship, having claimed two podiums in his four races so far in 2020. The 2017 World Champion will hope to add to that tally as the season comes to an end. There will be two wildcard entries on the grid with Tomas Alonso and Miguel Santiago Duarte joining the Championship; Alonso making his second appearance of the season. There are also two One Event riders with Luca de Vleeschauwer (RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) and Petr Svoboda (WRP Wepol Racing) lining up at Estoril.