With the cancellation of the WorldSSP race in Imola due to adverse weather conditions, the six Yamaha R3 Challenge bLU cRU riders faced two races in Jerez, which made for a packed schedule and not a little pressure.
All six riders worked hard during free practice to master the 4.424km Jerez circuit, with its combination of tight, technical corners and fast, sweeping curves that placed high demands on both bike and rider. It was work that paid off in Superpole, with Galang Hendra securing a front row start for both races by qualifying in an impressive third place.
Verdoïa, who was still feeling the effects of a heavy crash in free practice, qualified in sixth position on the second row, with both Beatriz Neila and Jacopo Facco also securing an automatic start by qualifying inside the top 30, in 23rd and 24th place respectively.
Superpole proved more problematical for Kevin Sabatucci and Finn de Bruin, who qualified 34th and 42nd and were forced to battle for the final six grid positions in Saturday afternoon's Last Chance Race. Fifth place was enough to secure Sabatucci a start in both WorldSSP300 races, but de Bruin was unfortunate to crash on the debris deposited by a rider crashing out in front of him and did not finish.
A heavy crash during free practice on Friday meant it was a battered and bruised Verdoïa who lined up on the grid for Race 1 on Saturday. But the French youngster didn’t let the effects of the crash slow his pace and battled at the front for the whole of the 11-lap race, eventually claiming fifth place at the line, just ahead of his bLU cRU teammate, Galang Hendra, in sixth.
Neila and Sabatucci picked up valuable experience by completing the 11-lap race, which they finished one behind the other in 21st and 22nd places respectively. It proved a tough outing for Facco, however, as he crashed uninjured at turn four on the penultimate lap.Race 2 on Sunday was red flagged on the opening lap due to incidents in turns one and two in which four riders crashed. The race was restarted over just seven laps and Galang Hendra took maximum advantage of his front row start to get away with the leading group, where he was joined by Verdoïa, who'd once again started from the second row.
The French youngster's challenge didn't last long, however, as he crashed after contact with another rider in the final corner two laps into the race. Verdoïa showed remarkable presence of mind, holding the clutch in as he slid through the gravel, which meant he was able to immediately rejoin the race, which he eventually finished in 27th position.
At the front Galang Hendra was involved in a five-way battle for the race win, that was only resolved on the run from the final corner to the chequered flag. With the inside line blocked, the young Indonesian ran a wide line through the final turn to exit in third position, but was out dragged to the line by Carrasco, who was awarded the final place on the podium after a photo finish. Galang Hendra, who thought he'd clinched third on the line, was disappointed to learn he'd missed out on the podium by the narrowest of margins.
The next bLU cRU rider to take the chequered flag was Neila, who secured her first ever World Championship points in 13th place, before going on to keep the big crowd entertained with a starring role in the popular WorldSBK Paddock Show.
Facco and Sabatucci were disappointed to finish outside the points, in 20th and 21st position respectively, but both picked up more valuable World Championship experience and departed Jerez determined to improve next time out.
The Yamaha R3 Challenge bLU cRU riders will return to action in just over a week's time at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, the venue for Round 5 of the FIM Supersport 200 World Championship.