#FRAWorldSBK Magny Cours, race weekend preview: World Superbike, World Supersport, World SSP300
The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is all packed and ready to go to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours for the penultimate round of the 2020 season for the Pirelli French Round. Reigning five-time Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has his first chance to claim his sixth World Championship.
Should Rea leave Magny-Cours with a points lead of 63 points or greater, Rea will be crowned Champion for a sixth consecutive time, although he could win it after the Tissot Superpole Race with an 87-point lead. Magny-Cours is a circuit Rea has finished on the podium in five consecutive races, as well as clinching titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019, so he has good form and good reason to believe that a heroic sixth title could be clinched here. Teammate Alex Lowes will be looking to get back onto the podium, something he has not done since his Phillip Island victory. He secured three top-ten finishes at Catalunya and will be hoping to build on that at a track where he has two podiums – including in Race 2 last year.
Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) is still in title contention and currently sits 51 points behind Rea. After securing a podium in Race 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Redding fell back in the next two races and will be hoping he can carry more of his speed from Race 1 across to the Magny-Cours weekend. Coincidentally, Redding leads teammate Chaz Davies by 51 points in the standings with Davies scoring four podiums, including a win last time out, in his last seven races as he hauled himself up the standings. Davies has won three times at Magny-Cours and will be hoping to add to that tally, although he’s not been on the top step of the rostrum there since Race 2 in 2017.
Just behind Davies is Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team), who occupies fourth in the Championship after his win in Barcelona and will be hoping he can claim more podiums at a circuit he has five already. Teammate Toprak Razgatlioglu has won twice in only five races at the French track, both from 16th in 2019, his first ever wins, but was declared unfit after a high-speed Warm Up crash at Catalunya; the Turkish rider will need to be declared fit after he was diagnosed with a chest injury but hopes he can return to action at a track he won his first ever race in the WorldSBK paddock at, back in 2014 in STK600.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) is the highest placed Independent in the Riders’ Championship standings despite being outscored by Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) at the Acerbis Catalunya Round; Rinaldi suffering a technical issue towards the end of Race 2 when fighting at the front while French star Baz was able to secure his second podium of 2020 with third place in the Tissot Superpole Race. Baz was a podium contender at Magny-Cours last year on his way to fourth in Race 1 and hopes for a first home rostrum in front of his fans this weekend coming.
Another rider who had an up and down weekend was Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC), who finished fifth in Race 1 and was leading the Tissot Superpole Race until a spectacular highside just a few corners later ended his race. Unable to start Race 2 due to a technical issue, Bautista will be hoping to better last year’s showing at Magny-Cours, when he secured two top-five finishes. Teammate Leon Haslam has lots of experience at Magny-Cours, having raced at the circuit back in 2003 for the first time, with three podiums to his name – his last coming on a Honda in 2014.
BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team duo Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty come into the Pirelli French Round full of confidence having both secured their best finishes of the year in Race 2 in Barcelona. Sykes has 11 podiums at Magny-Cours and shares the record of pole positions with Rea, with four each, meaning Sykes will be hoping he can score more top five finishes. Sykes’ most recent podium of his career came at Magny-Cours, also the most recent for BMW. Laverty also has three podium finishes at Magny-Cours and after his strong showing last time out, will be hoping for another good weekend.
After securing his maiden WorldSBK podium, Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) comes into the French Round full of confidence; the rookie became the first American to stand on a WorldSBK podium since the late, great Nicky Hayden in 2016. His teammate, Federico Caricasulo, has raced at the circuit four times in WorldSSP and secured one podium, in 2017, and aims to use this experience to help him secure a top ten finish.
Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) comes to the Pirelli French Round with four consecutive point scores and hopes to be competitive given his past podium pace from 2018. Valentin Debise (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR) will continue to substitute for the injured Sandro Cortese having scored a best finish of 14th at Catalunya. Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) will be looking to make a step forward on a circuit he secured his joint-best WorldSBK result on, with tenth. Barrier and Debise being on the grid mean there are three French riders lining up for their home race.
Samuele Cavalieri (Barni Racing Team) finished just outside the points in Race 1 in Barcelona but retired from the Superpole Race and Race 2 with the Italian youngster looking to bounce back at Magny-Cours. Leandro Mercado (Motocorsa Racing) underwent successful surgery on a right wrist injury and is aiming to return for Magny-Cours, while Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) will be not be racing after he underwent surgery on a separation of the right acromioclavicular joint injury and aims to be back for Estoril. He will be replaced by Xavier Pinsach this weekend.
After the drama of the Catalunya Round, the FIM Supersport World Championship heads to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours for the penultimate round of the Championship, with the Riders’ Championship decided but plenty to play for up and down the grid at the Pirelli French Round. There’s a strong home presence which promises to bring battles of great magnitude to Champion Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team), as the Italian heads to another new circuit.
Locatelli’s run of victories may have come to an end in stunning fashion during Race 1 at Catalunya but he responded in perfect fashion in Race 2 to claim his tenth victory of the season and secure the Riders’ Championship. Magny-Cours is a new circuit for the Italian, but new circuits have not stopped him winning so far in 2020 as Locatelli will look to continue his dominant season and end the year with more victories and more records in what is already an historic season. His BARDAHL Yamaha team suffered a double DNF last year and will hope that luck is back on their side this year.
Now second in the Championship, Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) took two second-place finishes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and now, the Frenchman looking to go one better at his home race and claim his first victory of 2020. He won at Magny-Cours in 2019 after a last lap scrap with Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) and has three podiums in his last four races, not finishing outside the top four in WorldSSP. Mahias could be a home hero once more.
Having been unfit for Catalunya, Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) is currently on the entry list for WorldSSP’s visit to Magny-Cours but will need to be declared fit for the round; Cluzel suffering two fractures to his left leg following a crash in the Pirelli Teruel Round with Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse). It’s a circuit that Cluzel goes well at having won four times in WorldSSP and is the home round for the GMT94 Yamaha team.
Following a strong Catalan weekend, German rookie Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) visits yet another new track but hopes his momentum from Montmelo will carry him forward. Oettl may be competing at Magny-Cours for the first time in his career but the German has shown strong pace all season and will be hoping he can stand on the podium once again and perhaps even bag his first win.
Italian rider Raffaele de Rosa lies fifth in the Championship after battling from the pitlane in Race 1 to 14th and fourth in Race 2 and will be looking to continue his strong race pace. De Rosa’s best finish in WorldSSP at Magny-Cours is fourth, achieved last year, but has continually improved his results with every race here. He was 12th in his first race at the circuit in 2013 before returning in WorldSSP five years later with seventh. The Italian also has WorldSBK experience at Magny-Cours, securing a top ten finish in Race 2 in 2017.
Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) seemed to thrive as the sole full-time rider in the GMT94 Yamaha squad over the Catalunya Round and showed strong pace throughout; fighting in the lead group and, in the early stages of both races, leading the field. Perolari has raced at Magny-Cours twice in WorldSSP, securing a top-seven finish in both 2018 and 2019.
Catalunya Race 1 winner Andy Verdoïa (bLU cRU WorldSSP by MS Racing) is full of confidence following his shock victory and will look to be fighting in the top ten once again – this time, in front of his home crowd. He secured a fourth-place finish at Magny-Cours in 2019 while in WorldSSP300; the experience of the track is something he will hope will give him a slight advantage over some of his competitors.
There are two One-Event riders taking part in the Pirelli French Round with Stephane Frossard (Moto Team Jura Vitesse) and Karel Hanika (WRP Wepol Racing) lining up on the grid. Hanika has experience in WorldSBK having secured two points finishes at Laguna Seca in 2018 and joins Danny Webb in the team managed by James Toseland, while Frossard last competed in WorldSSP in the same year. Yamaha will be able to seal the Manufacturers’ Championship for 2020 by outscoring Kawasaki by three points across the two races; one Yamaha bike in the top 12 will crown the Japanese manufacturer as Champions, regardless of Kawasaki’s performance.
The 2020 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship heads to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours with the possibility of the Championship being wrapped up at the French track for the third consecutive season. Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT) leads teammate Scott Deroue by 16 points meaning that the Championship can only be done and dusted after Race 2. Mathematically, any of the top nine riders in the Championship can still take the title (besides a side-lined Ana Carrasco), making WorldSSP300 even more hectic than ever.
With three race wins, three other podiums and since Portimao, nothing but top five finishes, Jeffrey Buis has been a sensation in WorldSSP300 this year and has Championship match-point this weekend. The 18-year-old will be hoping that he can continue his strong run of form at a circuit where he took his best result of the 2019 season at with eighth. Can Buis boss his way to the top again?
Teammate Scott Deroue emphasises the MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT team’s work and backs up his teammate at the head of the field. Deroue only has one victory this year at Portimao but five other rostrums keep him in contention. A best result of third from last year, the 24-year-old aims to better that this weekend. A Dutch rider has never won at Magny-Cours in any class of the current WorldSBK paddock; can Buis and Deroue change that this weekend?
Or perhaps, we will see a resurgence from Bahattin Sofuoglu (Biblion Motoxracing Yamaha WorldSSP300), with the Turkish rider some 47 points behind Buis. Whatever happens, Sofuoglu’s title chances won’t be dashed in Race 1 but he needs to build on his two race wins and one other podium so far. Just 23rd in the race last year, Sofuoglu will surely be further up the order this weekend, but will he be in the title race come the end of Sunday?
60 points back and at risk of being locked out of the title fight after Race 1 on Saturday in France, Unai Orradre (Yamaha MS Racing) needs to be in the battle for victory from the off. Fourth in the standings and supporting Sofuoglu and Yamaha’s charge to the top, Orradre’s form of late has been troubling, with his worst results of the season at Catalunya. 19th in the Magny-Cours race last year, the winner of the first race of 2020 needs a return to the fore.
Lying fifth in the Championship, Ana Carrasco (Provec Kawasaki WorldSSP300) continues her recovery from a testing crash and has now left hospital, although is out for the rest 2020. That means that sixth in the standings, Tom Booth-Amos (RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) could move up with strong results. He took Great Britain’s first pole and win at Catalunya and looked on course for a double until being wiped out on the last lap of Race 2. A new track for Booth-Amos, 64 points behind the Championship leader is sizeable and his title hopes could go after Race 1.
Elsewhere on the grid, you can’t rule Thomas Brianti (Prodina Ircos Team WorldSSP300) for a strong challenge, nor his teammate Mika Perez or Brazilian star Meikon Kawakami (Team Brasil AD78), all seventh, eighth and ninth overall respectively. Completing the top ten in the Championship is Yuta Okaya (MTM Kawasaki MOTOPORT), who, after five races without points, took a thrilling first victory at Catalunya in Race 2 in an audacious final corner, last lap pass. With three top eight finishes in the last three races, Okaya’s teammate Koen Meuffels can’t be ruled out either, whilst one place him is Samuel Di Sora (Leader Team Flembbo), who took his first podium in Race 1 last time out.