Coppola Wins Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge at Magny-Cours
Alfonso Coppola (SK Racing Team) romped to his sixth podium of the season on Sunday at Magny-Cours, round eight of the 2017 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, after a brilliant race that saw him finish in second and be crowned the 2017 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge victor with one race remaining. He is also still in the main championship battle, although he has relinquished his lead and is now second in the overall standings, just four points behind race-winner Marc Garcia with one round remaining in the season. He was joined on the podium by the ever-improving Robert Schotman (GRT Yamaha WorldSSP300 Team), who crossed the line in third, while his teammate Enzo De La Vega (GRT Yamaha WorldSSP300 Team) also recorded his best finish of the season in 10th. Mykyta Kalinin (Team MotoX Racing) was 14th across the line, with Renzo Ferreira (Team Kallio Race System) finishing in 27th, whilst his teammate Kimi Patova (Team Kallio Race System) was, unfortunately, taken out by another rider on the opening lap.
The Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge is designed to provide a clear career path for young riders into the WorldSBK Championship and sees six riders battling it out in the WorldSSP300 class for 2017. The prize on offer to the rider with the most points at the end of the season is a Yamaha supported ride in a higher class for 2018.
Mixed conditions where in store for the six Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders at the Circuit Nevers de Magny Cours, with it hot and sunny on Friday, then qualifying on Saturday took place in the wet and there were spots of rain in the air for Sunday's race. Coppola arrived in Magny-Cours leading the championship by one point and ended Friday's practice in second overall, just behind Garcia on the combined timesheets. He then struggled with the feeling with his Yamaha R3 in the first wet qualifying session of the season, eventually ending SP2 in tenth. When the lights went out he enjoyed a great start and picked his way superbly past a number of riders to get involved in a five-rider breakaway at the front as the race progressed. In usual WorldSSP300 style, elbows were out and there was fairing bashing aplenty in the leading group, with riders swapping places at pretty much every corner. On the final lap, Garcia made a break and Coppola attempted to hunt him down but just missed out on the frantic dash to the line, eventually crossing the line in second just 0.273s behind his championship rival.
This result sees Coppola secure top spot in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU challenge with one race remaining by that fact he has a 54-point lead over the second placed rider, Robert Schotman, with just 25 points up for grabs at the final round in Jerez. The 20-year-old Italian has been the stand out rider of the inaugural Yamaha R3 bLU cRU challenge, crossing the line first at Donington - although he had later had his points taken away due to a technical infringement - taking victory at the Lausitzring and recording five further podiums in the first nine races. Therefore, it is fitting that he got to lift the trophy and fully deserves the chance to be an official Yamaha rider in a higher class in 2017. He will now focus on resuming his excellent battle with title-rival Garcia, knowing that a victory in Jerez would guarantee him the 2017 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship title, due to his better podium record.
Schotman impressed throughout the weekend, finishing Friday's practice sessions in fifth overall and then qualifying in fourth. In the race, he immediately burst to the front and battled in the leading group for the entirety. Showing excellent maturity, the 18-year-old Dutch rider timed his move to perfection on the last lap to blast his way to third and finish just 0.646s behind the winner. It was the former Red Bull Rookie's second podium of the season - after he crossed the line in fourth in Germany before being promoted to third a few days after the race after another rider was disqualified due a technical infringement - but the first time he has actually had the chance to stand on the rostrum in the WorldSSP300 championship. This result sees Schotman secure second in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge with 68 points with one race remaining and he is now up to seventh in the overall championship standings.
It was 18-year-old Frenchman De La Vega's home round and he did not disappoint his army of loyal fans by pulling off his best weekend yet in the championship. He ended Friday in tenth overall, making it through to SP2, before recording his best qualifying of the season in fifth, despite a crash that meant he could only set two flying-laps. In the race, contact with another rider at the Adelaide hairpin on the first lap cost him his chance to stick with the leading group but he rode superbly to finish in tenth. After this result, he now moves up to 21st in the championship standings and fourth in the challenge with 10 points.
Kalinin was feeling confident after ending Friday's practice in 18th as he adapted to the 4.411km track but the 18-year-old Ukrainian ended up disappointed by only managing to qualify in the wet conditions in 26th. After a steady start to the race, he battled superbly in the latter stages, passing a number of riders on the last three laps, to cross the line in 14th. He is now 11th in the overall championship standings with 40 points and has secured third in the challenge.
Ferreira felt good on Friday and was looking forward the first wet qualifying session of the year, but unfortunately, he crashed twice during the session and ended up being black-flagged, which meant he had to start from the back of the grid in 37th. Determined to finish the race, he battled hard to finish in 27th and will be looking to secure his first points-scoring finish at the final round in Jerez.
After ending Friday in in 31st overall, Patova made the most of the wet conditions on Saturday to record his best qualifying result of the season and started the race from 17th on the grid. When the lights went out, he got a great start and was battling near the front when, unfortunately for the 15-year-old Finnish rider, he was taken out by another rider at Turn 12 on the first lap, bringing an early end to a positive weekend. After his DNF, the youngest rider in the challenge is now 27th in the overall standings and fifth in the challenge with 5 points.
With Garcia winning, Coppola second and Schotman third, they completed a Yamaha lockout of the podium for the third time this season to round off an excellent day for the Japanese manufacturer. The six Yamaha bLU cRU R3 Challenge riders return to action for the final round of the 2017 FIM Supersport World Championship at Jerez on the 20th-22nd of October.
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 2nd +0.273s
"In this moment, I am extremely happy to be the first ever Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge winner, but also disappointed to have lost out on the race win to Marc and relinquish my championship lead. I am very excited to be an official Yamaha rider next year but first I will concentrate on this season and give my best to try and win the championship before I even think about 2018. I am a little bit angry I didn't win today but the last lap was very difficult, after an excellent six-rider battle during the race. Marc opened up a small gap and I just couldn't catch him before the line with all the overtaking. It was a good weekend, I was quick in Friday's practice, but I struggled a bit with my feeling in a wet SP2 and could only qualify in tenth. I rode well in the race to make up the positions and I am happy that I recorded another podium, but as a racer you always want to win. Now it is all about keeping calm and working hard for the final round at Jerez so we can give it full gas from Friday morning. Thank you to Yamaha for their amazing support and this incredible bLU cRU project, which has given me a chance to develop and take the next step in my career but first of all, I want to win in Jerez!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 3rd +0.646s
"While this was not a new track to me, the last time I rode here was 5 years ago, so I had to start again really from Friday morning and learn the track, but I felt confident on my Yamaha R3 straight away and finished FP1 in fifth, riding on my own and without a slipstream. In FP2, it was almost the same story, I just went out to try and do as many laps as possible, but at the end, I looked for a good slipstream because it can make such a difference at Magny-Cours and I made it through straight to SP2. On Saturday, it was raining hard and it was the first wet qualifying session for us this season. The track was very slippery and it was kind of scary because I didn't know what to expect. I can either be very fast in the rain or just plain rubbish. Luckily for me it was the former and I had quite a good feeling with my R3, plus I was following the man who got pole, so I had a good reference and I qualified in fourth, which is obviously not as cool as being on the front row but still pretty good for the race. On Sunday, it started to rain on the sighting lap and as we lined up on the grid we were just hoping it would stay dry, so for the first few corners, we were assessing the grip levels. Luckily, I took the lead immediately and I was battling in the front three for most of the race. Sometimes I dropped back a bit due to the nature of battling in a group like that, but I loved the race. There was a lot of elbows and fairing contact as everyone was pushing as hard as they could. The chasing group managed to close the gap towards the end and it became tricky because one mistake and you could go from first to fifteenth. With this in mind, I managed to set my fastest lap of the race on the last lap and I am delighted to have finished in third. Although it is my second podium of the season, it was the first time I have actually got to stand on the rostrum at the track and I am really happy. I have raced at Jerez before in the Red Bull Rookies and I am looking forward to riding it on my R3. I am confident I can fight for the podium once more!"
Enzo De La Vega
GRT Yamaha WorldSSP300 Team - 10th +7.656s
"I am very happy with this weekend! It was my home round and was happy to qualify in fifth, especially because I crashed during on my second lap in SP2 and only had time to go back out and do one flying lap. I am a bit disappointed with the race because another rider made contact with me at the Adelaide hairpin on the opening lap and I lost some time to the front riders. After that, it was very hard to try and close the gap to the group in front without a slipstream but I am happy to have finished in tenth as it is my best result of the season. Thank you to my team, Yamaha, and all the French fans!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 14th +22.303s
"I was disappointed with my qualifying because I had to start the race from 26th on the grid. My plan was to try and make a good start, but after the first lap, I was still in 26th. As the race went on, I was progressing step by step and I felt good on the R3. I was very strong in the last three laps and managed to overtake eight riders. I finished in 14th, which I think is a good result and probably the best we could have hoped for here in Magny-Cours from where I started on the grid. I now look forward to finishing the season in the best way possible in Jerez!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 27th +1:04.441s
"The weekend wasn't really what I was expecting it to be, especially because I crashed twice in SP1 and I ended up being black flagged. It was very wet, which was frustrating because I usually go well in tricky conditions like that. Friday was good in the dry, I had a good lap time and I felt really good on the R3 and I was really confident for Saturday, but I got a little bit too excited about it being wet and that's why I crashed and I had to start the race from the back of the grid in 37th place. In the race, I was focused on finishing and crossed the line in 27th. The weekend, in general, wasn't really what I expected but it was pretty good and now I am looking forward to finishing the season on a high in Jerez!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - DNF
"This was my first time riding at Magny-Cours and I like the track! I spent free practice learning the track and I felt good. SP1 was wet and I like riding in the wet and I managed to qualify in my best position of the season, 17th, which was very good. In the race, I got a good start and was up into 14th when at Turn 12 on the first lap another rider unfortunately crashed and took me out with him. I was so disappointed but that is racing. The good thing is I now feel more confident going to Jerez, although it is another track I haven't raced at before and I hope to end the season with a good result."