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Yamaha Riders on Podium at Aragón Season Opener

Yamaha Riders on Podium at Aragón Season Opener

Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK, GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team and the Alstare Yamaha WorldSBK Team were in action for the opening round of the 2021 FIM Superbike World Championship season, with riders Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Garrett Gerloff scoring podium finishes, as all five impressed across the weekend.

After setting the benchmark in Friday’s combined times, Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK’s Razgatlıoğlu had initially qualified in sixth during the Superpole, but had his best time deleted due to track limits. It meant the Turkish rider started Race 1 from 10th on the grid, but he wasted no time in making his way through the field, moving up to the podium places in just five laps. He went on to have a thrilling scrap with Alex Lowes’ Kawasaki, but narrowly lost out, seeing Razgatlıoğlu finish third, his first podium at MotorLand Aragón.

In the Superpole Race, the 24-year-old made positions once again, climbing from 10th to sixth at the finish and as the lead rider on the full rain tyres. In Race 2, Razgatlıoğlu battled amongst the lead group for much of the 18 laps, but eventually finished sixth on the intermediate Pirelli tyres as the track dried.

In the GRT Yamaha camp, Garrett Gerloff qualified as the highest placed Yamaha R1, starting sixth for the opening race of the season. The American endured a difficult opener, struggling for grip as track temperatures continued to rise and eventually finished ninth. 

Resetting for the Superpole Race, Gerloff showed what he could do in tricky wet conditions and, despite dropping to 14th on the opening lap, battled his way back through to put his Yamaha R1 onto the podium, finishing third. In Race 2, the 25-year-old showed race-winning pace, but fell while making a move on Jonathan Rea’s Kawasaki for the lead. The Texan resumed the race outside the top 10, but fought back to finish seventh, picking up important championship points.

Andrea Locatelli, taking part in his maiden WorldSBK weekend with the Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK team, showed good progress throughout the weekend. The Italian qualified 14th in the Superpole, but made up places in all three races. In the opener, the reigning WorldSSP champion climbed to 10th by the finish, just behind Gerloff, and he again moved forward to 12th in the Superpole Race.

The Italian youngster’s best performance came in the final race of the weekend, where he finished just five seconds behind teammate Razgatlıoğlu in ninth place.

GRT Yamaha’s rookie, Kohta Nozane, also enjoyed a strong first WorldSBK round. The Japanese rider lined up 16th on the grid for Race 1 and went on to take his first points in 14th. In the Superpole Race, despite his lack of experience on the Yamaha R1 with the intermediate and rain tyres, Nozane produced a superb ride through the field, passing seasoned opposition, including last year’s race-winner Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, and eventually finished ninth, just behind Ducati’s Scott Redding.

In Race 2, although he dropped back, mainly due to his cautious approach on the opening lap, Nozane gained vital experience and still came home a strong 12th, meaning he left Aragón having scored points in each race.

For Alstare Yamaha’s return to the WorldSBK championship, Christophe Ponsson made steps forward to kickstart his 2021 campaign. After qualifying 17th, the French rider battled with Jonas Folger’s BMW just outside the points-paying places in Race 1, and came home 17th. In the SPRC, Ponsson was 19th but his first point of the season came in Race 2, as the 25-year-old produced an error-free run to 15th.

In the FIM Supersport World Championship, two thrilling contests saw Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team newcomer Steven Odendaal take home a pair of victories, with the one on Saturday being his first in the series. 

On both occasions, the South African made his move to the lead on the final corner of the last lap – in the first, beating WorldSSP rookie Dominique Aegerter, riding for the Ten Kate Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team. The Swiss rider also claimed a podium on debut in second, while GMT94 Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team’s Jules Cluzel fought back from last on the grid, due to a tyre pressure infringement, to finish third in the second race. The French rider had been leading Saturday’s opener, but was hit on the way into Turn 12 and was forced out of the race.

bLU cRU rider Unai Orradre got his FIM Supersport 300 World Championship campaign underway with a second-place finish in Race 2 from Aragon, although he had initially crossed the line in first, but was penalised a position for track limits on the final lap. The Yamaha MS Racing WorldSSP300 Supported Team rider had finished fourth in the red-flagged opener. Biblion Motoxracing Yamaha WorldSSP300 Supported Team’s Bahattin Sofuoğlu recorded a DNF in both races, having been fighting inside the top 10 on Saturday and Sunday.

The WorldSBK and WorldSSP riders now look ahead to Estoril this weekend for round two of the 2021 season. Last year, Yamaha took its first-ever all-Yamaha podium at the Portuguese venue during the Superpole Race, with the Yamaha R1 working well at the undulating  4.182 km circuit.

Toprak Razgatlıoğlu: Race 1 – P3 / SPRC – P6 / Race 2 – P6

Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK

It’s a good start for the first race to be on the podium, quite close to the winner, and I am very happy after starting on row four! It was a great battle with Alex, because we touched but this is racing and congratulations to him for passing me on the last corner – we were fighting so much for second position! In the Superpole Race, my strategy was to choose the wet tyre because I saw that it was starting to rain again on the grid – my target was to finish well and to start from a better grid position in Race 2. Sixth was good considering the conditions, the riders in front all chose the intermediate tyres so it was a hard fight to get this result. The second race, I tried hard again to fight for the podium and I was strong in the opening laps – taking the lead for some laps and enjoying fighting. The feeling was not good in the middle of the race and I had to manage some problems, but sixth position can still be important points for the championship. We will see next weekend in Estoril, I love the track, now my R1 is better than before and I have good memories from last year!

Garrett Gerloff: Race 1 – P9 / SPRC – P3 / Race 2 – P7

GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team

I felt good in the Superpole, and I was happy about the second row, since I have never been particularly good at qualifying and this track has never been the best for us. The bike felt great, so I was really looking forward to exploiting that in the first race, but then the sun came out and the track lost some grip. It was a bit difficult for me to ride consistently. Our Sunday started off really well with a third place in the Superpole Race. The team and I made a perfect decision to go with the intermediate tyre, and it worked. It was nice to be on the podium, even though I felt like I could have gotten second place. In Race 2, I felt really good from the start, and wanted to at least fight for the podium, so I’m very frustrated with the mistake I made. After the off, the bike was a bit bent, but overall it still felt good, so I tried to give the team the best possible result despite the mistake. It was nice to be the top independent rider at the finish. Next weekend we go to Estoril, a track that both I and my Yamaha R1 really like.

Andrea Locatelli: Race 1 – P10 / SPRC – P12 / Race 2 – P9

Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK

I’m really happy about the first race, because in the end we finished 10th, which is not so bad for my first attempt! I was also quite happy because in the second race we went one better and finished ninth. It is not easy on the first and second lap for me, so now we need to work on this but for sure Sunday’s races were difficult in the wet conditions. In the middle of Race 2, I was able to go quite fast here and the feeling was good. Overall I learned a lot during the weekend, and with the guys on the team together we did a really good job. Maybe if we tried to use the slick tyre in Race 2, it could have been a good chance for us to do something – but okay, we lose this opportunity but it is only my first race weekend in WorldSBK. Now we go on to Estoril and hope to push much more because I have more confidence on the R1 and I think this track is a really good opportunity for us.

Kohta Nozane: Race 1 – P14 / SPRC – P9 / Race 2 – P12

GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team

In the Superpole I achieved my best lap time so far here. I tried to push for a 1’49 and wasn’t able to make it happen, but I’m still happy with my performance in qualifying. In the first race, the start was really good, I managed to get up to 11th, but I couldn’t hold on as my pace was dropping, which was a bit disappointing. I was able to manage the race to the finish, though, and I am very satisfied with this. The conditions were different on Sunday, so the tyre choice was a bit tricky. The Superpole Race was good for me, we made the right decision with the tyres and I was able to make up lots of positions. The track kept changing and at the beginning of the second race, I was too cautious and I lost positions. I still managed to finish the race and learn so many things. I also took note of so many different aspects in which I have to improve. The next race will be my first time in Estoril, so it will be tough for me, but I will try to be as prepared as possible to do my best for the team. They are working so well with me and helping me a lot, so I will try to get a good result for them in Portugal.

Christophe Ponsson: Race 1 – P17 / SPRC – P19 / Race 2 – P15

Alstare Yamaha WorldSBK Team

My first race weekend in WorldSBK with the Yamaha R1 didn't go as planned even though we saw an improvement from the pre-season winter testing. Sunday was complicated for tyre choice due to the weather conditions, but 15th in Race 2 was a step in the right direction. The Alstare Yamaha mechanics have done a good job in making sure I feel comfortable on the bike and we'll get back to work this weekend in Estoril.

Andrea Dosoli

Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager

After an unusually long winter break, we were all looking forward to getting back to racing. The expectations have been all met with fantastic races across all three classes. We can leave Aragon satisfied with the performance shown by our riders, teams, and technical packages. In WorldSBK, both Toprak and Garrett have shown great speed and motivation, achieving two important podiums - promising signs for the season. Andrea and Kohta have impressed in their debut weekend, in such variable weather conditions. A promising and encouraging point for Christophe is his learning process. The hard work carried out by the Yamaha engineers during the winter has improved the performance of the Yamaha R1 on a track where we’ve been struggling in the past, we’re now all looking forward to seeing how the bike will behave on different circuits. In WorldSSP, congratulations to Steven Odendaal and his team, a double win, while still not 100 percent recovered from his injury, means a lot, well done also to Dominique Aegerter for his first podium in his debut race. Unlucky Race 1 for Jules Cluzel, who really deserved a better start of the season, his reaction in Race 2, with an impressive comeback from last on the grid was fantastic! I also would like to congratulate Unai Orradre for two important results in a very difficult class, well done.