The opening round of the new-look WorldSSP300 Championship took place last weekend at the Spanish circuit of Motorland Argaon, with a win for Kawasaki and two podium places for the Ninja 400 in total.
Spanish rider Manuel Gonzalez, only 16 years of age, took his Kawasaki ParkinGo Team to the very top step of the podium at his home race.
Last year he scored three podiums in this exciting class, designed around young riders, but to record his first WorldSSP300 race win a home left the teenager from Madrid almost speechless. He had also taken pole position after Superpole Qualifying, with a new best lap of 2’06.938.
Title challenger in previous season Scott Deroue (Kawasaki Motoport) had a remarkable ride from 14th on the grid to third place, picking off rivals at just the right time to get him into the leading bunch in the final lap.
Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec), the reigning champion, was well in the multi-rider fight for the podium places but was unlucky to fall on lap six after being hit from behind, losing the chance to start her title defence in style. Like all her competitors she will have eight more chances to go all-out for race wins, in a season that runs from Motorland in April to Losail in October.
Ana, the first woman to win a full FIM World Championship in roadracing, does not leave her home around without any reward. She set a new lap record on lap two with a 2’07.487 on her impressive run through the leading positions.
With over fifty young hopefuls trying to take ultimate glory in the FIM Supersport300 World Championship in 2019, qualifying has to be split into ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups, with the fastest few from each group joined on the final starting grid for the race on Sunday afternoon by the top rider from a ‘last chance race on Saturday.
A few talented riders needed to qualify for the grid via that last chance race route, and even some others like Deroue and Carrasco found it relatively tough in qualifying. No less than 36 riders started the 11-Lap race today.
Bruno leraci (Kawasaki GP Project) was another top ten rider at Motorland on a a Ninja 400, in eighth place. Robert Schotman (Motoport Kawasaki) just missed out on the top ten places in 11th. No fewer than 11 of the top 20 riders were on Kawasakis today.
Proof of just how competitive this class can be found in the fact that the top seven rider were covered by just 0.891 seconds at the chequered flag in Motorland.
In the current championship standings with just one race gone, Gonzales leads with 25 points, Hego De Cancellis has 20 and Deroue has 16. The next round will take place in a few days time, as Assen in the Netherlands, with raceday on Sunday the 14th of April.
Manuel Gonzalez, stated: “I do not have words for this race win because it was so difficult – but I enjoyed it a lot! The last lap was so tough because the slipstream in the main straight was difficult to manage. But I overtook De Cancellis in the last corner. Thanks to all the team for the hard work they have done here. See you all at the next races.”
Scott Deroue, stated: “Yes it was incredible to come through for a podium. This weekend was quite hard and in qualifying I was not really good. I was not the best place on the grid so I knew we had to do something. I was just pushing, pushing – like unbelievably hard I think this is one of my best races ever. I already won some races in this class but I think this race was the best ever.”
Ana Carrasco, stated: “It is a pity to not score. We had some issues in the practices sessions and I started the race from the fourth row the race itself I felt to be very fast, and comfortable, so much that we actually set a new lap record. Some bikes had better acceleration but in braking and top speed I was super strong. In the crash two guys in front of me touched and I had to close the throttle – then some hit me from the back. It is a shame because I am sure I could have finished on top. I just wanted to say thanks to all the people that come to see me here at Motorland, to my team and Kawasaki, I am on the bike again in only four days, at Assen – I can’t wait!”
Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) became the first female winner of a full FIM World Championship road-racing category when she finished just one single point ahead of her closest rival in the WorldSSP300 championship race at Magny Cours.
Starting in a lowly 25th position on the grid Carrasco was involved in a fight for 20th place for much of the race but she made progress to 19th spot. In the closing laps she moved to a 13th place that would be enough to give her a one-point lead over Mika Perez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) in the final points table.
Perez was in a position to win the championship himself on the last sector of the final lap but his race leading position was taken from him with two corners to go, and his 20 points were not quite enough to give him the crown.
Carrasco was unaware that she had won the championship on her slowdown lap almost until her team stopped her for a trackside celebration, with her championship-winning T-shirt having the phrase ‘Ride Like A Girl” emblazoned on the front. In her post-race interview Carrasco dedicated her championship win to the late Moto2 rider Luis Salom, who was a friend of Ana’s and the cousin of David Salom, her team manager.
In another astonishingly close and battling WorldSSP300 race, Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) was also in contention for both the race and title wins until he was forced out with a technical issue.
Perez and Deroue battled it out for the championship up front but when Deroue suddenly slowed with problems changing gear, Perez was in the lead. He was then the driving seat for the championship itself until Daniel Valle ambushed him in the final two turns. Perez lost out on the title by just 0.168 seconds, in a race that was so close that Carrasco, in 13th place, was only 2.468 seconds behind the race winner.
Kawasaki wrapped up the championship at the previous round, and finally ended up with a 61-point advantage at the end of the eight round championship.
Nick Kalinin (GP Project Kawasaki was seventh today, but front row qualifier Robert Schotman (Motoport Kawasaki) did not finish. Enzo de la Vega (GP Project Team Kawasaki) led the race twice but finished ninth, while Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) tenth. Tom Edwards (Nutec – Benjan Kawasaki) was another non-finisher.
In the final championship standings Carrasco has 93 points, Perez 92 and Deroue 80, putting three Kawasaki Ninja 400 riders in the top three positions overall.
Ana Carrasco, stated: “It is unbelievable to win the championship and we worked so hard to be here. I did not know I had won on the slowdown lap. I tried to see some TVs to check but I did not see any. I only realised when I got to turn five and I asked the spectators if I was first. I can only say thank you to a David Salom and all the Kawasaki DS Junior Team, it is for all of them. I also want to say thank you to my family who have done so much for me. I want to dedicate this title to Luis Salom. The day we lost him I promised to dedicate my first title to him. At the moment I am happy because we have achieved our goals, but I do not realise all of the things about being the first woman in history. I think after a few days I will be more conscious of this.”
Mika Perez, stated: “I gave my maximum today. I knew it was win or crash, and finally I got second. I tried everything and the team did a great job. We were very close to the win but we have to congratulate Ana and the race winner Dani because they did an incredible job.”
Scott Deroue, stated: “We had a really good weekend until now and I think we were one of the fastest. Every session we were in the top positions so I was feeling really good. I felt the same in the race and I was in the top three all the time. Then with seven laps to go my gear lever broke and it was over. We had good speed this season and were really consistent but in Misano we had a problem and today we were supposed to finish on the podium again, and then this happens.”
Jonathan Rea (KRT) completed his championship-winning weekend with a second race win on Sunday, after securing his fourth consecutive WorldSBK title on Saturday. His team-mate Tom Sykes (KRT), like Rea, started from the third row today under the reverse grid rules, and he finished fourth.
After his unprecedented fourth consecutive championship win on Saturday Jonathan Rea rode in celebration livery today, unfettered by thoughts of potential championship positions.
Starting from the ninth grid slot and with data from his first race win to help his cause in race two, he rode with freedom to go third on lap three and take the lead on lap 12.
Rea eventually beat Chaz Davies by 1.8 seconds to record his 14th win of the season so far, and his fourth double win in succession. It is still possible for Rea to even exceed the record of 17 race wins in a single season, as there are two rounds and four races remaining.
In race two Rea also set a stand-alone record for the number of podium places in WorldSBK, with a new total of 131 across his career.
Now almost fully recovered form a training injury suffered during the summer break, Sykes pushed in the early laps to go from eighth on the grid to fifth. He passed Marco Melandri in the final two laps to add a fourth place to his second place finish on Saturday.
In the championship, after 11 of 13 rounds have been completed, Rea has 470 points, Davies 335, Michael van der Mark 309 and Sykes 273.
The next round will be held at the all-new Argentine circuit of El Villicum, between the 12th and the 14th of October.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) followed up yesterday’s eighth place with 12th today. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) got a point for 15th as he approaches his home round next time. Roman Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) ended his Sunday in France 18th. Substitute rider Jeremy Guarnoni (Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) was 19th.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It was an awesome weekend. With the pressure off I was able to ride a bit more aggressively. I put myself in great positions in the first laps and found great track position early on. It proved pretty hard to get past van der Mark, as he kept counter-attacking but once I got clear track I was able to catch up to Davies. But he had, again, proved quite difficult to pass. My team gave me the perfect bike today, also in terms of final gearing. Especially on the straight, I could really make some inroads into Chaz and draw alongside. I tried to outbrake him twice and just went long, missed the apex and then he cut back. So I readjusted the strategy a little bit to go and pass on one of the other corners. My bike was turning really tight and I could see he was struggling to find that apex in turn eight. Then I made my rhythm and rode to my pit board. It was a really nice feeling.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “Overall it was not too bad and consistently we were there, but it is a little bit of the same story as we had at previous events, where we have not got the initial lap time from the race tyre. Pirelli has two rear tyre solutions and we tried both of these of the races and finally our set-up is really quite good. It has advantages and disadvantages. I felt quite comfortable on the bike in race two, but I just missed a little bit of turning. I felt good while turning yesterday but missed a bit of edge grip. We started from row three and got through the traffic, but this race was a lot closer than yesterday and there were two guys in between Jonathan and me. It was nice to actually close some guys down at the front and make some passes at the end of the races, but we just lacked the initial speed again.”
2018 KRT Rider Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018
2018: Races 22, Wins 14, Podiums 19, Superpoles 2
Career Race Wins: 68 (53 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 131 (89 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 16 (12 for Kawasaki)
Tom Sykes: World Champion 2013
2018: Races: 22, Wins 1, Podiums 7, Superpoles 5
Career Race Wins: 34 (34 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 107 (106 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 47 (47 for Kawasaki)
6 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
3 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017)
3 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016 & 2017)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 124 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 375 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 80 – second overall