Rea vs Razgatlioglu, manufacturers resurging and the unknown quantity of a new track: it’s time to check-in to the Czech Republic for what is set to be an unmissable weekend.
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads for round six of the season and the Tissot Czech Round at a new circuit for the Championship: Autodrom Most. The Czech venue, constructed in 1983 near the coal-mining city of Most in the north-west Czech Republic, is ready to deliver one of the most unpredictable rounds in recent times, with it being a completely new track for almost all. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) resumed control of the Championship in the Netherlands at Assen and, after a Race 2 crash for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK), has a 37-point lead over the Turk.
THE PENDULUM SWINGS AGAIN: Rea heads Razgatlioglu
Having given up 37 points to Toprak Razgatlioglu over the Misano and Donington Park weekends, Jonathan Rea now leads Toprak by 37 in a title race that swings from round to round. Upon arrival in the Czech Republic, Rea’s in fine form – a first hat-trick of 2021 at Assen and five straight poles at the start of the season – and will look to extend his run into Most. He’s won first-time at four new tracks (Chang International Circuit, Sepang, San Juan Villicum and Barcelona-Catalunya), so could he be the favourite this weekend? Teammate Alex Lowes is also in positive spirits coming to Most, with a new 2022 deal with KRT secured, meaning he can focus on the job in hand.
Seeking redemption and aiming to reignite his title aspirations, Toprak Razgatlioglu will be targeting a return to winning ways at Most. Razgatlioglu, like Rea has good form at new tracks, with a podium in Argentina in 2018 and winning two races on WorldSBK’s return to Estoril in 2020. 11 podiums in 2021 and off the back of his first DNF, Toprak will be desperate to establish his pace at Most and, having already gained 37 points on Rea before, will be looking to starting that process once again on a level playing field. For teammate Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK), his first career podium will spear him; a new track could be the perfect neutral territory for the rookie to continue his strong showings of late and build on Assen’s solid foundations.
DUCATI’S RESURGENCE: another step closer…
Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi were back in the mix at Assen, as both riders placed Ducati second in all three races of the weekend. Redding took second in both Race 1 and Race 2 whilst Rinaldi was promoted to second in the Tissot Superpole Race, after Razgatlioglu and Locatelli got demoted a place for exceeding track limits. Coming to Most, both took part in a track day at the circuit to get a basic understanding of the layout and to try and gain an advantage on their opposition. If they can get the Ducati Panigale V4 R operating in its sweet spot, expect to see the Bologna bullets at the sharp end again, as both aim to return to the title fight.
BMW AND HONDA: in the podium fight this weekend?
An up-and-down Dutch Round at Assen left BMW with a ‘what could’ve been’ as they left the Netherlands. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was able to place to take two seventh place finishes and a 15th after a Race 2 crash, but it was Michael van der Mark who shone brightly with a fourth in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2; a big highside in the Tissot Superpole Race blotted his copybook from what was otherwise a strong home showing. Van der Mark and Sykes’ form is promising ahead of Most, a circuit they’ve not visited. The fast and flowing nature, like Assen, may well see the BMW M 1000 RR perform strongly, particularly with the neutral Most territory.
Achieving their best full-race result of 2021 so far, Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) hopes that Assen’s Race 2 was a turning point for Honda, despite crashes in Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole Race. His late race pace was exceptional, faster than Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) ahead of him and at one point, more than half-a-second faster than his ex-teammate. Can he take advantage of the unknown quantity of Autodrom Most and the high-speed nature of the track? Teammate Leon Haslam had a tricky Assen, with just an eighth in Race 1 and a tenth in Race 2 as his point-scoring rides.
INDEPENDENTS AND ROOKIES: neutral territory for potential revelations
Remaining in the lead in terms of the Independent riders and placing sixth in the Championship standings overall, American Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) will put Assen’s Race 2 controversy behind him and tackle the all-new Most venue. He could be one of the key fixtures at the front, as he usually goes well at tracks unknown to the opposition (podiums at Catalunya and Estoril in 2020). Chaz Davies is next up, with the Welshman in ninth in the overall standings, 20 points behind Gerloff. Davies took a fourth place in Race 2 at Assen, something he’ll hope to gain confidence from going to the Czech Republic.
Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) lies 12th overall, after another splendid double top ten at Assen with tenth and ninth in Race 1 and Race 2. Like Gerloff, Bassani could benefit from Most, as he also took part in the track day with Redding and Rinaldi. Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team) will aim to make more progress and break back into the top ten. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is next up in 16th, whilst Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) is 17th, having taken his best WorldSBK result at Assen in 11th in Race 1. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) scored his first points last time out, as did Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing).
HOUSEKEEPING: a fresh complexion throughout the entry lists
Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) will not be in attendance as the team continues their internal restructuring whilst Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) will also be out, following his Race 1 crash at Assen, where he picked up a left scaphoid fracture. Mahias returned to France for surgery, but the Czech Round will come too soon for Mahias. Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) will have to wait until Thursday before the round be declared fit or not, whilst Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) returns. There’s also a wildcard in 2013 Red Bull Rookies Champion and ex Moto3™ rider Karel Hanika (IXS YART Yamaha).
The Czech rider will hope to enjoy a strong presence at his home round and has previously enjoyed WorldSBK action before when he was 13th and 14th at Laguna Seca in 2018 on the Guandalini Racing Yamaha. He’ll be joined in the team by Marvin Fritz, with the German being a double IDM champion: 2014 in the IDM Supersport class and in 2016 in the Superbike class on a Yamaha R1. American Jason Uribe (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) will debut in WorldSBK this weekend, as he is the second rider in the Italian team this weekend. This will be the first time since Magny-Cours 2018 that there’s been two American riders on the grid of a WorldSBK race, when it was Jake Gagne and PJ Jacobsen.
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Championship Standings (after Race 2, Round 5)
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (243 points)
2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (TUR) Yamaha (206 points)
3. Scott Redding (GBR) Ducati (162 points)