History is everywhere in Alcaniz but this modern classic track promises to bring more stories in 2023
It’s the final quarter of the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, all of which will be contested in the Iberian Peninsula and it kicks off at MotorLand Aragon in the arid lands of central Spain.
A place like no other, where the locals feel the passion, the Tissot Aragon Round has news and rumours aplenty with regards to 2024. As usual, all the best bits from Thursday’s media day are here.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “Anything is possible, you can’t expect anything”
Championship leader coming into the round and winner five times out of six aboard Ducati machinery, Alvaro Bautista previewed his weekend: “It’s always very special to race in Spain; it’s my home race so I will share the weekend with my friends, family and all the Spanish fans. Aragon is a challenging circuit with lots of different kinds of corners. The last test we did here three weeks ago, we had a good feeling and I hope to have the same feeling this weekend as the rest of the season so far. I’ll try to do my best and enjoy the weekend. I have good memories as I have won five races here with Ducati but also a podium with Honda. This track is really nice for me and I enjoy it a lot. However, in the races, anything is possible; in the end, you can’t expect anything.”
Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “I’m staying with BMW for two more years!”
Remaining in the BMW family for 2024 but being moved out of the factory team and into the Independent Bonovo Action BMW squad, Scott Redding spoke of his future being secured: “Finally, I can give an answer after some time! It’s a done deal; I’m staying with BMW for the future for two more years which is important for me. I believe in the project but it’s coming! I’m excited to work in Bonovo, it is a great atmosphere and a great team, so I’m not worried from that side. To be honest, I’m very happy. To stay in WorldSBK or any paddock at this moment is very difficult as riders are coming up. I’m looking forward to the journey. There’s been big changes in BMW this year and the steps forward are coming already ahead of next year, as is the momentum. The improvements of the bike were still coming; I think for the future, we can see bigger benefits. I look forward to making another step to where the bike should be. Garrett has been good on the bike this year and he’s impressed me a little bit.”
Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We have a good friendship… he’ll push us even harder”
Michael van der Mark is confirmed as Toprak Razgatlioglu’s 2024 teammate: “It’s nice for me that I’m staying with the team; there’s a good group of people around me and I think it’s really nice to see the commitment of BMW. They’re pushing really hard and I’m proud to still be part of this plan. 2024 should be better than this year, but, unfortunately, that’s what I said this year! I’m pushing hard, I’m almost fully fit again; I just need to get some speed back. All four bikes next year will make a big step. First of all, Toprak’s always pushing so that’s really nice. We have a good friendship. It’s nice to have him there. He’s a fast teammate; without a doubt, he’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest, on track. He has a lot of experience and he’s fast. He’ll always push and he’ll push us even harder. Every year, we’re making steps but so is everyone else. We need to make a bigger step. It’s always difficult when you’re racing but looking at BMW’s plans for this project, they’re going to shift up a gear.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “The Championship isn’t finished”
Taking another chunk out of Bautista’s lead in France, Toprak Razgatlioglu hopes to overcome his and Yamaha’s struggles at the technical Aragon venue: “I’m happy to be back at Aragon because it’s a really nice track. OK, we’re not really strong because of the unbelievable back straight which is very long. We keep fighting like before and try for the best position this weekend; I don’t know, maybe we’re fighting for the win or a podium. It won’t be an easy weekend but we’ll try our best. We’ll try a different setup and try to adapt. Nothing is finished, maybe Alvaro makes a mistake and it changes everything. We’ll keep fighting, the Championship isn’t finished. I’m very happy that Michael will be my teammate next year, he’s a good teammate, he’s funny and I love him! Next year, I think we’ll improve a lot together.”
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “The bike is in a good window… much better from the start of the year”
Seven podiums on the spin for Jonathan Rea as he touches down at the track where he’s won nine times at before, all with Kawasaki: “It’s a great circuit and we do a lot of testing here in the off-season as typically we get good weather here. I enjoy the layout with fast and flowing corners, it suits my style. I managed to win a race here last year and my 100th win in 2021 was nice, a huge milestone. I felt good with the bike in the test here; we’ll roll out with something like how we finished there, which is something like how the bike was at Magny-Cours, so it seems the bike is in a good window. The biggest step forward has been mentality; we started the season in bad shape, I have to take responsibility for that as well but also the bike was very challenging. We have to try and maximise our opportunities and then confidence comes up; this game is so punishing but when you have a bit of magic, it’s a lot easier. It’s much better from the start of the year.”
Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing): “I can’t say a lot… I hope this week or next week, we can say something”
Talking about his future, Axel Bassani couldn’t reveal too much, but did give an answer on 2024: “I can’t say a lot; we’ve spoken with some teams and we’ll try to find a good solution for 2024. I can’t speak, this is the reality. I hope that this week or next week, we can say something. We want a factory team and to have a good solution for me and also for them so we will see what will happen in the next days.” Take a full look at Bassani’s story here.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I’m as free as a bird… I don’t care about the pressure”
Competitive throughout Magny-Cours, a winner at Aragon in 2020 and looking for a ride in 2024, Michael Ruben Rinaldi knows this weekend is vital: “It’s a special track for me and there are positive vibes, however, the past is the past and we have to work for a strong weekend. I’m as free as a bird and I ride the bike because I enjoy it; I don’t care about the pressure or stuff like that. If it’s possible to achieve a podium or enjoy a fight like with Toprak in Race 1 at Magny-Cours, it’s OK but there’s no pressure if not. After the announcement that I won’t race again with Ducati, I received a lot of calls and that was a super nice thing. Teams want me and for sure, I’m looking to have a good project, bike and package to firstly stay relaxed but also to find a challenge where in some years, I can achieve great results. I haven’t decided my future but I think soon, I have to. We’ll see what happens.”
Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): “The target is to stay with Honda; the place or the spot, we’ll see”
With his and indeed Team HRC’s 2024 plans yet to be announced, Iker Lecuona gave his latest update: “It’s difficult to say; I hope that I can say something in a few weeks but like always, I am happy here, the target is to continue here but still, nothing is signed. You know the situation right now is difficult with many rumours. The target is to stay with Honda; then, the place or the spot, we’ll see. The podium is not realistic right now; the optimistic target is to finish in the top ten. My teammate or me are close but this year hasn’t been easy. We’ll see race by race.”
Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW): “I know we can do this… I am sad for Loris”
With his 2024 teammate confirmed as being Scott Redding, Garrett Gerloff spoke of next year, as well as being the form guy after a stellar weekend at Magny-Cours: “The whole year, we’ve been making small steps but it is so nice when it all comes together. You’re in a different category, so it was nice to break out at mid-pack and go higher. I know we can do more and we had the test here a few weeks ago and it wasn’t the best, which was why Magny-Cours was a little bit of a surprise. It felt better and it didn’t feel that way here. Hopefully, changes at Magny-Cours will help us this weekend too. We’ll try and bring the same energy. I know we can do this; the focus we all have, it’s just trying to put everything together. Having a P4 was good momentum, as was the pole position, so when everything goes right, we can be the guys to beat. I like Scott, I’ve known him since 2013 at Colin Edwards’ bootcamp, when he rode my 125cc which was quite funny! He’s a good guy, a fast racer and it’ll be good to see him stay with BMW. I am sad for Loris though, as he’s been a great teammate and friend. He deserves the best and I wish him the best for whatever he does next.”
Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW): “I expected this decision”
Now without a ride for 2024, Loris Baz is one of the big names on the market: “I’m OK and I expected this decision, so it hasn’t come from nowhere. I’m working on my future with my manager, trying to find the best option and doing everything I can to stay in WorldSBK. It’s a bit early to know what I can do, but I want to stay here. I’m lucky enough to have one of the best managers around; we have three rounds remaining with Bonovo and they’re a great group of guys, so they deserve the best for myself and we’ll try to have fun on the bike as much as we can. We’ll see what my manager brings me between rounds.” Get the full story on Baz’s future here.
Xavi Vierge (Team HRC): “We expect to be more competitive”
Like teammate Iker Lecuona, Xavi Vierge’s future has also yet to be confirmed, but he’s looking forward to the Aragon weekend nonetheless: “Magny-Cours was hard, but it was harder after the crash on Friday. We come to Aragon, a home round is always special and we have been testing here. The feeling was good, and we expect to be more competitive at this kind of track. Right now, we are too far away from the podium. This kind of track is better for us. We are more competitive. A podium will be really difficult, but our goal needs to be fighting for that. There’s no news on my future. We still need to wait a little bit longer; every time, it’s getting closer.”