WorldSBK Barcelona: best results of the season to date and a very solid debut.
Barcelona. Garrett Gerloff and the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team certainly achieved the goals they had set themselves for the fourth race weekend of the 2023 FIM Superbike World Championship in Barcelona. The Texan racer reached the top 10 in all three races to also secure the best race results of the season so far for himself and his team. In the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team, Ivo Lopes made a very solid WorldSBK debut as he replaced the injured Michael van der Mark in Barcelona. Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) suffered a difficult weekend, as bad luck with the Superpole interruption was followed by a crash and tyre problems in the two main races. Loris Baz (Bonovo action BMW Racing Team) was still hampered by the leg injury he suffered in Indonesia that had also caused him to miss out on testing in Barcelona at the end of March.
Around two and a half minutes before the end of Superpole qualifying on Saturday morning, a red flag interrupted proceedings with the riders chasing fast lap times. The session then restarted a short time later for the very brief period that still remained. Gerloff secured ninth place to record his best grid position so far on the BMW M 1000 RR. Redding, who had been on course for the top eight before the red flag, finished the session in 13th but was later demoted by three places. Baz was 16th and Lopes completed his first WorldSBK Superpole in 20th position.
The red flag appeared again on Saturday morning, interrupting the first race after three laps. Gerloff restarted from 14th and worked his way gradually up through the field during the remaining 17 laps. He finished ninth to claim the best race result of the season so far for himself and the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team. His team-mate Baz crossed the line in 14th position, with Lopes in 16th. Both then moved up one place after the subsequent disqualification of a better-placed rival. This put Baz in 13th and Lopes was classified in 15th, scoring his maiden world championship point in his first WorldSBK race. After the restart, Redding initially moved up from 12th but was forced to retire after a collision in the turmoil on the first lap.
Gerloff improved again in the Superpole Race on Sunday morning. The Texan racer secured seventh in the 10-lap sprint to chalk up another season-best result. Redding overcame wrist pain after his fall on Saturday to finish 12th. Rookie Lopes improved by five places to cross the line in 15th. Baz ended up in the gravel at the start of the race but was able to continue, chasing his way from the back of the field to take the chequered flag in 18th. Gerloff finished tenth in the second main race on Sunday afternoon to finish in the top 10 again. Baz finished in 16th, right ahead of Lopes in 17th. Redding had to head for the pits a few laps before the end as his tyres had deteriorated too severely.
Next Thursday and Friday, the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team and the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team will be taking part in WorldSBK testing in Misano. The fifth round of the 2023 WorldSBK will take place at the same location from 2nd to 4th June.
Quotes after the Barcelona races.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “Garrett delivered a great performance from Friday onwards, especially with P4 in FP2. Scott was also able to keep up the pace, just not over the same distance. On Friday, Ivo was concentrating on getting used to a new motorbike and new tyres in a new championship. However, he did really well over the whole weekend. He improved constantly, provided some good input, and certainly learned a lot for himself, too. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ivo for his efforts, while also wishing Michael van der Mark a speedy recovery. We have now found out that a set-up issue was the cause of his crash at Assen. Back to this weekend: Friday’s lap times gave us a decent level of expectation for Saturday. But that red flag meant that qualifying was pretty chaotic, and, unfortunately, we were unable to make the best of it. Garrett finished ninth to secure the best grid position for the BMWs. In the first race, he was able to convert this into the, at that time, best race result of the season, for himself and for the team. Ivo also produced a solid performance and was rewarded with his first world championship point. A strong performance from Garrett in the Superpole Race saw him fight his way up to seventh place, but the other three unfortunately did not make it into the top nine. Garrett also made another good start in the second main race and he was able to keep pace until the halfway point of the race. But his tyres deteriorated after that, which cost him a few positions. Scott was on the pace briefly, before increased slip led to severe tyre degradation and forced him to head for the pits. Ivo and Loris were battling for the final point. Barcelona remains a tricky circuit for us. Now we are heading to Misano for testing, and to prepare for the race there.”
#31 Garrett Gerloff
“I’m so happy with the Superpole race. The bike felt awesome. I was there with the group and was super happy about my best finish so far this year. Seventh place isn’t where I want to be, I want to be higher up, but we have to take the positives and we are going in a good direction. That was super good. In the main race, I had an epic start. I was in sixth place in the beginning, I was super happy. But we went with the harder compound rear tyre and I had a big moment because I had no edge grip. On the last corner of the first lap, I almost had a huge highsider. Then two guys passed me and I was just struggling with the tyre. It was difficult to go forward. I was able to stay with the Hondas in front of me, but in the end, I’m a little disappointed. I feel we had the pace to be closer, but I made that big mistake on the first lap and it’s just a bit of a shame. Anyway, it’s still a top ten and I know that Jürgen Röder and the team want a top ten, so I’m happy to give them that. But we all want more and I know we can do more. Overall, I think it was a positive weekend and I’m ready for Misano now.”
#76 Loris Baz
“I made a mistake going into turn five on the first lap of the Superpole race, lost the rear and released the brake to then lose the front in the gravel. It was not a crash, I just went straight. Then I picked up the bike and I had a good pace until lap seven, when it started to rain. Then I had a much better pace than everyone in these conditions. So, I was confident for the long race. I had a massive drop on the rear tyre yesterday, so I changed. But in the end, it was the same like the other one. In the beginning, I had a pace where I could at least follow, but later I just killed my rear tyre and the grip. We’ve been running behind that all weekend. It was tough to miss the test here and big parts of FP2, plus I’m not at 100 %. This is not an excuse though, because we are here to do our best. But it wasn’t good enough. My leg is not ideal, I can’t move on the bike, and it’s tough to change directions. But it’s not the leg that made me slow today. Now we have to find a solution, as I definitely need to improve my feeling on the bike.”
#75 Ivo Lopes
“My day was perfect. In the Superpole race, I pushed a lot and I had a great feeling because now it was my bike. I just had an issue in the traffic at the start but the pace was good, the bike was great. I understood the bike better and was so happy. Just the final laps have been difficult because it started to rain a bit and I tried not to risk anything as race two was more important. I was also very happy with race two. My start was not so good and I lost two or three positions, but then I was able to make use of my good feeling for the bike and was able to really push. In the final part of the race the tyre dropped, but I understand now that this is normal in this championship. Overall, I am really happy. Thanks to BMW Motorrad Motorsport, thanks to the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team, thanks to BMW Motorrad Portugal and everyone who made this possible because I am so happy that I got this chance.”
#45 Scott Redding
“The Superpole race was not really good, to be honest. I just can’t find the speed with the bike here. I am struggling quite a lot. I thought the Superpole race would be better, but with the better pace from the other guys it was more difficult for me. Then in race two today I felt that I could maybe stay there a bit more and I stayed in the group longer, but I was pushing so hard to be there that in the end I destroyed the rear tyre completely so that it was unrideable, and I also destroyed the front tyre. But this is because I needed to work so hard to just stay with the group and here I’m overriding the bike. So I am a little bit upset with the results this weekend. We knew that it would be hard here but we tried anyway. Now we get back to the drawing board and work for the next race.”