Overpowering Rea – almost all opponents struggle with setbacks
As the reigning world champion had asserted after his second victory on Sunday, he was still convinced on Friday evening to operate pure damage limitation in Estoril. After he hadn’t had a chance to catch Redding and overtake Toprak in the first race on Saturday with the harder SC0 tire, hardly any viewer would have bet on the Kawasaki ace for on Sunday. Especially not when it became clear that he was even running in the morning sprint race with normal racing tires. The two of them had already been on the softer SCX tires in the first race and of course also relied on these rear tires in the Superpole Race. What followed on Sunday morning, however, was a demonstration by the World Cup leader, which not even he had expected before.
Jonathan Rea tho the Superpole Race: „ he races are never easy, but it was fun, kudos to Pirelli because the SC0 tire obviously works in a pretty wide range and also kudos to my crew for making amazing decisions all weekend. To get a podium now, even my first win in Estoril, that really means a lot to me. Of course, it’s unbelievable that I finally won my first race at Estoril with it. This is also very important for the second race. But it is particularly important to me to emphasize at this point that his thoughts are with Jason Dupasquier and his family at the moment. With this in mind, I can’t be particularly happy at the moment, even if I’m grateful to my team for what a great bike they made available to me.“
The winner of the Saturday morning race after the Superpole race, Scott Redding: “I have to admit that I am very confused because Johnny Rea was so fast over 10 laps on the normal racing tire. It looks like Kawasaki has found an extra grip that makes it almost unbeatable. After a race like this, I am almost speechless for the time being, so of course they are the absolute favourites for the afternoon race.“
This was said by the man who had won the first race the day before. Toprak Razgatlioglu admitted that the world championship leader was very strong this time, and it just wasn’t enough for him because he also had a drop on his SCX tire towards the end. For the Ducati driver, however, things should turn out to be much worse in the second race on Sunday than losing just a few points in the sprint race. With 13 points after the Superpole race, his deficit on the world championship leader was still manageable. Things looked worse for Honda, however, because neither driver had scored points that morning. The same goes for BMW newcomer Michael van der Mark and his brand colleague Jonas Folger, who had to digest positions 13 and 18.
Drama without end in the last race on Sunday
Redding and Toprak had jump-start, as we immediately recorded in our live blog on Sunday. It was interesting that the FIM commissioners needed until after the race to find out about the same thing for the Englishman. The Turks, however, punished them with a long-lap penalty during the race, after which he fought his way back to P3 with a knife between his teeth. At the top there was the first real duel of the year between the reigning champion and his strongest challenger and runner-up world champion of 2020, Scott Redding. The Ducati rider should actually have won the race because his new team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi almost knocked the Kawasaki driver off the track. He then lost several positions and had to fight his way back from P6.
The duel between the two WSBK titans with a clear winner
What many could hardly imagine came true, and the world championship leader caught up with the Ducati rider who was at the top. We already noted in our live blog that he should now wait for a mistake from his rival and may just put him under a little pressure for the time being. This is exactly what he did at first and the second time at start and finish he decided not only to show Redding his front wheel, but also to walk past him before Turn 1. The Ducati Hope fought its way back briefly, but was caught again by Rea at the next opportunity. Immediately afterwards it happened and the Ducati Hope made its first fatal mistake of the season and crashed seven laps before the end in Turn 4, which clearly decided the duel between these two and Rea drove towards a sure victory. Scott then rose again and still drove to P14, but the points were later stripped from him due to a punishment from his jump start. Behind Davies, Toprak was the laughing third and despite two long-lap penalties, he took the third podium this weekend and is second in the World Cup, 3 points ahead of Redding but already 35 behind Rea.
Jonathan Rea after his one-two on Sunday and the overall victory in Estoril: „It wasn’t easy, but race two was fun, to be honest. I had a tough moment with Rinaldi at Turn 4 and fell back a little when Laverty came up with good pace. At first, I thought I was in a little trouble because most of the starters had the SCX tire. But we decided on the somewhat harder SC0. I still believed that I could fight. After about four laps, I was still not very convinced. But when I had a bit of free rein, I could see that Toprak and Chaz weren’t leaving. Then Toprak suddenly got a penalty and that was like a free pass to the chase forward. Difficult to pass, especially at Estoril. Scott was on a really solid rhythm, but I caught up with him in sectors two, three and four. I only had slight problems in the first sector. Step by step I got closer to him and was pretty happy to be able to stay in the slipstream soon. I could feel Scott trying to counter another corner when I was already ahead. Then I saw on my pit board that it was outside. It’s a shame for him, but it gave me some breathing space, and I was able to concentrate on my race. Sticking to lap times of 1’37 minutes was pretty tough because the track temperature was extremely high. Kudos to Pirelli because the SC0 tire obviously works over a fairly broad range. Kudos to my crew too, of course. To get a podium and two wins means it was an amazing weekend. “
Alex Lowes after a strong Sunday (on Saturday he suffered his first fall of the season): „We recovered well on the second day, but the Superpole race was incredibly tough. Started from tenth on the grid and the first corner is so tight that it is difficult to make up a lot of places. Starting from the fourth row was a mortgage, but I still fought my way behind the leading group and Rinaldi. I felt a bit faster than him, but I couldn’t overtake him anywhere on the track. In the second race I had a start from the second row, but that was difficult too. In the hotter conditions, I didn’t manage the SCO tire as well as Jonathan did. In the last part of the race, when Razgatlioglu passed me again, I thought I am not fast enough to stay with him today. This time I wanted to be smart and get a few more points. It was two pretty good races on Sunday, lots of information and much better than we did here last year.“
The few winners and many losers after the first 2 rounds
Besides Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Alex Lowes, there were only a few who could be really satisfied with the weekend in Portugal. They were the three best on Sunday, even if not all the clerks would admit it. As a challenger in the title fight, Redding is of course one of the losers after only 32 points in Estoril versus 53 from Rea. Just like HRC Honda with a strong drop compared to a strong result in the previous year at the same location. But BMW also fell short of expectations with a sixth place in “Magic Michael” as the best result. After two fourth places in the first two races, Garrett Gerloff failed again in the last race of the weekend, as in Aragon, and his zero is not the only trouble for the US boy. He has to start in the first Misano race as a penalty for killing Rinaldi out of the pit lane and can be happy to make it into the top ten.
Will Honda and BMW take the necessary step?
That seems to be the most important question before the round in Misano because it can almost always be looking up. With the M-1000RR, BMW has launched a new model and signed Michael van der Mark, a second podium candidate for the works team. Now, just like with Honda, the necessary results are needed. Otherwise, the blue-whites have to put up with the reproach of only half-heartedly operating their work. Their waiver of tests last year in the November tests had caused astonishment and this season they were also the last to go on the racetrack. The two young factory riders from Ducati and Yamaha are also under pressure. Both Locatelli and Rinaldi each have a private driver of the same brand for whom they are competing in the World Cup. That’s why Misano needs a significant improvement, otherwise they both belong to the B-Team.
Tom Sykes (BMW) after the Estoril Sunday: „The bike was much better than on Saturday. We had made a small change and felt a significant improvement in the bike. But still I stumbled in the race, and it’s a shame when you lose positions like that. Whatever the reason, we’re losing too much ground to some other riders right now. The BMW M-1000RR is certainly strong in some sections, and we understand why. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind some other drivers and that caused a problem with the braking system. When I had a free track again, I was able to pick up more speed and found a much better rhythm. Obviously I’m not happy with the result, but considering where we were in the first race, it’s still a big improvement. We definitely learned a lot this Sunday in Estoril, and now we have to keep improving.“
The result of the two races on Sunday
The stand in the world championship with many surprises
One of the most important findings after the WSBK lap in Estoril is the fact that drivers like Jonas Folger have an extremely difficult time preparing for the season, in contrast to many other competitors. With Eugene Laverty with just one test before the start of the season, this could have been expected. But the other BMW drivers sounded quite confident after the first two tests. The hangover only started after the season started. With the German, it looks as if he didn’t win gold with BMW, despite lip service to the contrary, shortly before the first races. In the world championship with 8 points after 6 races is like a veritable disaster. Similar to Tito Rabat, who has only 5 points more than the German on the account, but at least showed an increasing tendency in Portugal compared to Aragon.
Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK, BMW, HRC Honda und Kawasaki Racing).