Galang Hendra Storms to Fifth as a bLU cRU Fightback Begins at Imola
It has not been the easiest start for the five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders to the 2018 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, but all of that changed on Sunday at Round 3 of the season at a sun-drenched Imola. Galang Hendra Pratama showcased his talent to the world as he charged from 14th on the grid to take a stunning fifth-place finish after battling for the podium the entire race. Local hero Luca Bernardi was on fire too and had a sensational race, blasting his way through the pack and putting on a show for the Italian fans as he rode from 39th on the grid to cross the line in 12th. Dennis Koopman followed up his 15th in Assen by crossing the line in 14th in Italy, while Hugo de Cancellis rode from 32nd on the grid to 18th and Joep Overbeeke made up 14 places from his starting position to finish in 22nd.
New technical regulations were brought in for Imola aimed at making the championship more of a level playing field with the different capacity bikes to keep in line with the unique ethos of the championship. These new regulations were further adjusted over the course of the weekend, giving the bLU cRU riders the perfect chance to showcase their potential on Sunday riding their Yamaha YZF-R3s against the other manufacturers machines with larger capacity engines, despite the fact that local hero Luca Bernardi was the only bLU cRU rider to have ridden the infamously technically challenging Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
Galang Hendra Pratama (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | Biblion Motoxracing Team) has been a sensation in his rookie year in the WorldSSP300 championship. Finishing 16th in Aragon and having been the fastest bLU cRU rider in almost every session in 2018 he, unfortunately, crashed out of the race in Assen while battling in the podium group and the 19-year-old Indonesian was determined to bounce back at Round 3. The man from Yogyakarta hit the ground running in FP1, finishing Friday's free practice in 5th overall after setting a 2:09.029, which was incredibly over a second quicker than the pole record from 2017 and it saw him maintain his 100% record of automatically making it through to SP2 on Saturday. In SP2, he tried to follow other riders in an effort to continue learning the track, but could not quite match his practice pace, setting a 2:09.635 which was good enough for tenth. Unfortunately, he was one of a number of riders to receive a grid penalty for riding slowly on the racing line and he was penalised nine positions but due to the fact lots of others had also received penalties, he lined up for Sunday's race in 14th on the grid.
When the lights went out he enjoyed a superb start and from the back of the fourth row and blasted his way up to eighth by the end of the first lap. As eventual race winner Ana Carrasco disappeared off into the distance on her own, Galang fought to catch the chasing group, battling bravely with more experienced riders and showing just how good he is around an infamously technically challenging track he had never ridden before Free Practice 1. When it came to the last lap, he gave it everything to secure his maiden podium, at one point being forced onto the grass in the frantic seven-rider fight, but even this could not slow him down. The man from Yogyakarta passed a number of riders with some superb and brave overtaking manoeuvres in the final few corners, trying everything he could to stand on the rostrum for the first time in WorldSSP300, before crossing the line in a superb fifth place. This saw Galang record his WorldSSP300 first points-scoring finish, but with the 11 points, he collected he is now 14th in the championship standings and leading the way in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge.
Local hero Luca Bernardi (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) was looking forward to racing in front of the passionate Italian fans after he was forced to retire from the race in Assen due to an electrical fault on his bike. The only bLU cRU rider to have ridden the circuit before ended Friday's practice in 24th overall with a 2:11.011. In SP1, he was denied the chance to set a lap due to an issue with his bike which meant the 16-year-old Italian would have to start the race from the back of the grid in 39th. In Sunday's race, he put all of his local knowledge to use, getting a superb start and charging his way through the field at a blistering rate. Passing rider after rider and hunting down the group in front of him, he put on an incredible show for the fans to meet the chequered flag in 12th position - having made up 27 places from his starting grid spot - and collecting four championship points to move into 19th in the championship standings and second in the bLU cRU challenge.
Fresh from recording the first bLU cRU points scoring finish of the season in Assen after crossing the line in 15th at his home round, Dennis Koopman (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | GRT Team) was relishing his first opportunity to race at the iconic Imola circuit. Ending Friday in 21st on the combined timesheets with a 2:10.006, the 21-year-old Dutch rider qualified in 26th after setting 2:10.914 in SP1. He did not get the best of starts in Sunday's race but fought back brilliantly from 26th at the end of the first lap to secure 14th place at the line, collecting two championship points for his efforts. This result sees Koopman 23rd in the overall standings with 3 points, and third in the bLU cRU challenge.
Hugo de Cancellis (Yamaha Pata | Toth - YART Team) was another bLU cRU rider to excel during the race, although he did not have the easiest of starts to the weekend. Spending practice learning the complex Imola layout, he ended Friday in 33rd with a 2:12.546 and showed good progress in SP1 by improving to a 2:12.110 to qualify in 32nd. When the race came around, the 16-year-old French rider showed his class by scorching his way through the field to cross the line in 18th, only missing out on his first championship point by just over a second.
Another rider in search of his first championship point at Imola was Joep Overbeeke (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team). The 18-year-old Dutch rider struggled at the start of the weekend to find the right sprocket setup with his R3 and ended practice in 35th after setting a 2:14.313 before going on to qualify for Sunday's race in 36th with a 2:13.505. He had a lightning start during the race but, unfortunately, another rider ran wide and then made contact with Overbeeke, meaning he lost a lot of time. Showing true bLU cRU spirit, he got his head down and carved his way through the field to record a 22nd-place finish.
To cap off a resurgent weekend for Yamaha, local wildcard Kevin Sabatucci (PROGP Racing) secured the manufacturer's first podium of the season by finishing in third and there were three R3s in the top ten for the first time in 2018. After showing such incredible fighting spirit at Imola, up next for the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders is Round 4 of the 2018 WorldSSP Championship Donington Park in the UK on the 25th-27th of May. Check out the full bLU cRU results from the race at Imola.
Galang Hendra Pratama
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 5th +14.318s
"The new regulations have made it a more level playing field and I am happy because this is the first time for me riding at Imola and I made it directly through to SP2. It is a very difficult track to learn as it is very technical and in SP2 I tried to set a fast time in a group as I am still learning the track, but all the riders in front of me were riding slowly on the racing line and I could not set a very fast time. Therefore, I am very happy to have finished in fifth during the race! I had a great start and my R3 felt really good. I stayed calm and focused during the race to catch up with the podium group and on the final lap, I managed to pass a number of riders to finish in fifth. I am looking forward to Donington where I will once again give it my best, never give up and show the Semakin di Depan spirit once more!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 12th +28.079s
"I am very happy! This weekend has been very difficult because I had to start in 39th after a technical issue meant I could not set a lap time during SP1. In the race, I passed many riders, which was fun, and finished in P12 which I am very happy with and it was a good result, plus I scored four points! I am looking forward to Donington, I have not ridden there but it looks like a fun track to ride!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 14th +36.961s
"For me the track was new so I didn't know if I was going to be competitive. After a good track walk with my team, I was eager to get on the bike because the track looked very cool! After the first free practice, I had a good feeling with the bike and I had some good lap times. In FP2, I started to make more progression and my fastest time was faster than the pole time of last year! In SP1, I was in the wrong group and didn't improve my lap time. But I knew I had the speed to make up some places. After a bad first lap I knew I had to make up some places and slowly but surely I made up places and with 4 laps on the board, I knew points were possible. In the last-lap battle I overtook 3 more riders which made me finish in 14th place. So overall I'm happy with the result!"
Hugo de Cancellis
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 18th +38.597s
"Imola was a new track for me but I really enjoyed riding here! The beginning of the weekend was difficult as I was trying to learn the layout and my lap time was not very good but during the race, I pushed very hard to fight back from my grid position and I managed to fight back to 18th position and I am very happy with the result. I would like to thank Yamaha, my team and my family for all the support!"
Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Rider - 22nd +55.778s
"It was my first time riding at Imola and it is quite a difficult track to learn. I felt really good straight away in FP1 but we chose the wrong sprocket in FP2, which was too long and meant we did not have enough power to go up the hills. In SP1, I didn't find a very good group and the red flag meant I did not have enough time to find a good rhythm. In Warm Up, we tried a shorter sprocket but it was too short. We had good acceleration but not enough top speed. So in the race, we tried a sprocket in-between the two but it was still not perfect. My start was really good and I was right behind Dennis Koopman and battling in the same group when another rider ran off track and came back and hit me, so we lost a lot of time. This meant I fell back to the group behind and I could not close the gap again. Then I made a mistake in one of the fast corners, I was in the wrong gear and on the limiter and so I fell back from that group. They were slipstreaming each other and I was all on my won, so I kept on pushing but could not close them down. I have not been to Donington but I know the track from TV and from playing video games and I cannot wait to ride it!"
Yamaha Motor Europe bLU cRU Racing Manager
"It was a very positive race weekend for all five of the riders at the technically complex Imola circuit. They all showed the true bLU cRU spirit and are learning step by step and making good progress. I am happy with the attitude shown and behaviour of all of the riders, on and off the track, especially with the tough start to the season they had while the technical rules were still being adjusted. They have all shown great maturity and patience and in the race at Imola, each of them got a chance to really showcase their undoubted talent. The new technical regulations have had a really positive effect all five bLU cRU riders are now looking forward to the next race at Donington Park!"