Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Riders March on to Imola
The five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders are revved up and ready to return to action this weekend for Round 3 of the 2018 Supersport 300 World at Imola. It is Dutch rider Dennis Koopman who leads the way in the challenge and overall championship after crossing the line in fifteenth at Assen and securing the first championship point for a bLU cRU rider in 2018. Galang Hendra Pratama, Joep Overbeeke, Hugo de Cancellis and Luca Bernardi will be looking to fightback in Imola with a raft of new technical changes in place designed to level the playing field for the Italian Round.
After the opening two rounds of the 2018 WorldSSP300 championship, the series organisers have tweaked the technical regulations once more as they continue to attempt to balance the playing field between the different bikes in the series, with the larger capacity KTM & Kawasaki machines having their rev limit reduced after the last two rounds. Only local hero Lucas Bernadi has ridden at the historic Imola circuit before, so the bLU cRU riders will be looking to make the most of Friday's practice in an effort to learn the tracks layout.
In Assen, it was local hero Dennis Koopman (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | GRT Team) who secured the best result for the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders so far in 2018 after he stormed from 25th on the grid to a 15th-place finish and collected his first WorldSSP300 championship point. The 21-year-old Dutch rider will be looking to build on this result at Imola as he looks to take advantage of the new regulations to hopefully battle inside the top ten.
Crossing the line in 16th at Assen, 0.352s behind Koopman, and just missing out on his first championship point was 16-year-old French rider Hugo de Cancellis (Yamaha Pata | Toth - YART Team). After being forced to miss the opening race of the season in Aragon through illness, de Cancellis showed why he was selected to compete in the 2018 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge at the TT Circuit Assen. Charging through the field from 32nd on the grid, he managed to make up 16 places during the race and will be looking to take home his first point-scoring finish at Imola.
Joep Overbeeke (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) also impressed at his home round in Assen, with the 18-year-old Dutch rider relishing the chance to ride in front of the local fans, he showed his potential by producing a superb ride from 29th on the grid to cross the line in 20th. Looking forward to riding at Imola on his Yamaha R3, Overbeeke will now look to build on this promise in Italy.
Galang Hendra Pratama (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | Biblion Motoxracing Team) was the leading bLU cRU rider across the line at the opening round of the season in Aragon (16th) and the 19-year-old Indonesian impressed once more in Assen. He ended Friday's practice as the leading Yamaha and then went on to qualify in 10th for Sunday's race before a three-place grid penalty meant he started from 13th on the grid. When the lights went out, he was battling in the leading group but after contact with another rider he, unfortunately, crashed out of the race on lap 4, luckily escaping unhurt. Determined to bounce back in Imola, expect fireworks from Galang Hendra at the Italian track as he looks to take the fight to his rivals.
Luca Bernardi (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) did not have the best end to his weekend in Assen, despite the 16-year-old Italian showing glimpses of his pace. Qualifying in 24th, he was fighting hard during Sunday's race before he was denied the chance to fight for his first championship point after he was forced to retire on lap 3 with an electrical issue. After finishing the opening race in Assen in 19th, Bernardi is now hopeful of battling for the points and putting on a show for the passionate Imola fans at his home round.
The iconic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola first hosted a motorcycle race in 1953 and is a firm favourite amongst supporters and riders alike, due to its fast but technical nature. Located 40km east of Bologna the 4.936km circuit is named after the Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari and his son Dino. The layout of the track has changed considerably over the years and it is one of the few tracks on the calendar that runs anti-clockwise. It now consists of 22 corners and combines high speed turns along with a number of chicanes and the Tosa Hairpin, with a longest straight of just 358m.
The five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders hit the Imola track for the first time on Friday at 11:45 am local time (CEST) for Free Practice 1, with Saturday's qualifying scheduled to start at 11:30 am and Sunday's 11-lap race kicking off at 2:20 pm.
Yamaha Motor Europe bLU cRU Racing Manager
"All the bLU cRU boys are ready to discover the fantastic layout of the Imola circuit! Apart from Luca, the rest have never been there before and it will be a big challenge to learn the rollercoaster nature of this legendary track. All are fit, Galang has recovered quickly from his bruised shoulder and all the riders are excited to show their potential in Italy. It is great that the organizers have made another revision to the technical rules after Assen in order to find a correct balance in bike performance and we are confident now that our boys will have the chance to showcase their skills. The weather forecast at the moment is mixed with some thunderstorms along with sunshine predicted, and we hope it stays dry for the many Italian fans that will out to support us at Imola. I think it will be an amazing weekend I am looking forward to seeing what the bLU cRU boys can do!"