Double Podium for the bLU cRU at Imola
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders occupied two spaces on the podium at the third round of the 2017 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship after an exciting and dramatic race in Imola. 19-year-old Italian Alfonso Coppola only just missed out on the win in the sprint to the line by 0.177s as he claimed his second rostrum of the season, while it was 18-year-old Ukrainian Mykyta Kalinins first visit to parc ferme as he secured an impressive third.
Coppola was on form throughout the weekend, only missing out on the chance for pole position in qualifying because of some front-end chatter issues. Starting from second on the grid, the Italian was involved in the scrap for the race win right from the word go and led for most of the race, before an unfortunate miscalculation that saw him overtaken on the last lap in the final chicane. As he was starting the last lap, he saw another riders pit board and thought there was actually two more laps to go, meaning he did not take a defensive line through the final chicane. In the end, he finished less than two tenths of a second behind the race winner to record his second podium in a row and collect 20 championship points. Coppola is currently leading the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge and is second in the overall championship standings with 41 points, just 14 behind leader Scott Deroue.
Kalinin had looked quick in free practice, but qualifying did not go to plan and he had to start Sundays race from ninth on the grid. A great start saw him involved in the fight for the podium with the leading group, but as the race went on the 42°C track temperature at Imola started to take its toll, and he began to fade. Summoning all his energy for the last lap, the Ukrainian had fought his way up to third before Borja Sanchez attempted an overtake, cut a chicane and re-joined ahead of him on track. Kalinin crossed the line in fourth, but Sanchez was given a one-place penalty for the illegal move, and the 18-year-old Ukrainian was deservedly awarded third place to claim his first podium of the season and 16 vital championship points.
It was also a good weekend for Robert Schotman, who recorded his first finish of the season in ninth. The Dutch rider was in the mix for the podium at Aragon and Assen, before crashing out of both races. Determined to finish, the 18-year-old showed great patience in Imola while battling in the leading group, not wanting to record another DNF, and crossed the line in ninth, 2.5s behind the winner.
Enzo De La Vega had a solid race, starting from 18th on the grid the Frenchman managed to cross the line in the same position, only just missing out on the points and also recording his first finish of 2017
Kimi Patova and Renzo Ferreira unfortunately both crashed out during the race after qualifying in 19th and 23rd respectively, and will now look to bounce back at the next round at Donington.
It was actually a Yamaha lock-out on the podium as race winner, Spaniard Marc Garcia, was also riding a Yamaha R3, claiming his first victory of the year. In fact, there were 8 Yamahas in the top ten, showcasing just how competitive the R3 is.
The six Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders return to the track for round four of the 2017 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship at Donington Park on the 26-28th of May.
I had a good feeling with my bike throughout the weekend, but in qualifying I struggled a bit with front-end chatter. My race result is amazing! I tried to push for the win throughout the whole race, right to the last lap. Then when I started the last lap, I saw another riders pit board that said there was two more laps to go, so I thought I had another lap. Therefore, I did not brake strongly for the chicane. I am not happy about this mistake, but for the championship the result is good. At Donington I will push from the very first practice session right up until I see the chequered flag at the end of the race. I want to thank Yamaha for allowing me to be a part of the bLU cRU project; I also want to thank my team SK Racing for all of their work and my fans for supporting me. They were so loud I could hear them on the grid!
It was a really tough weekend. I needed to push myself, because I could not go fast here. Its a little bit of a scary track, and not like Aragon where I could go fast on my own. During the second free practice on Friday I managed to catch some fast guys, and I finished the day in fifth. I could not do the same in SP2, as its only a 15-minute session, so its a bit of a lottery. In the race, I know I always get good starts; I started from 9th and by the first corner I was up into third. Then I found myself fighting with the top five and I wanted to try and get the podium, but during the race I was getting tired because of the temperature. I am used to riding in 14°C maximum! By the end of the race I did not feel so good and as I started the last lap I was outside the top five, so I made some overtakes and some guys ran off track and I came third. I had good luck in this race, making up for other races so far this year where I did not have good luck! Sometimes it happens like this, it was unexpected, but a great result for me. I would like to dedicate my podium to the whole Yamaha family, everyone that supports me and all my friends who gave us money for this round. We dont have a permanent sponsor for the championship. Each round I go home and have to raise the money to race at the next round from friends. There was even a chance I might not have been able to come here because of this! I am looking forward to going to Donington, another track that will be new to me. I will try to learn the track on a computer game, because it really helps, and I will be giving it full gas!
GRT Yamaha WorldSSP300 Team
The weekend started quite well. Imola is a new track for me so first I had to find my lines and where I had to brake, so I was happy with sixth position in FP1.The second free practice became a little bit harder, as I couldnt find a good group and I did many fast laps, but not one really fast lap, so I finished 12th. I felt that I had the speed to be in the top ten, but had to go into SP1, which actually went really well. I finished in second to make it through to SP2. Unfortunately, I couldnt find a good slipstream; every time I did find one the rider would slow or go straight on at a chicane, so I couldnt qualify any higher than tenth. I started the race okay, and held my position. I was just trying to follow the front group in the beginning, because in Assen and Aragon I crashed, mainly because of other riders. Therefore, this time I started slowly so that I had less risk of contact with another rider. As the group went faster, I felt I could keep up but we had some problems with the grip in the front so it was impossible for me to attack and get to the front of the group. I have mixed feelings about the race as it the first that I have finished and my first championship points, but I had the feeling that if we could have got the front end a little bit better, I could have fought for the podium. In Assen and Aragon I was fighting for the podium before I crashed, but here in Imola I could only manage to follow the front group, but I am very happy with my first finish and for being in the top ten.