July 12 2023
For the first time in many years, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Andrea Locatelli will take on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari within the historic town of Imola this weekend, for Round 7 of the 2023 FIM Superbike World Championship, in Italy.
Imola hasn’t appeared on the WorldSBK calendar since 2019, when Yamaha riders were well in the mix for podium results – only to be thwarted by Razgatlıoğlu himself in the year before he began his Yamaha career. “Loka” has to go back a bit further but can boast an Imola race win from early in his career, on his way to winning the Italian Championship in 2013.
The return to this iconic circuit throws up a real technical challenge for the Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK crew and Yamaha’s engineers, as #55 Crew Chief Andrew Pitt explains: “It’s difficult to define the best start point, as the Yamaha R1 WorldSBK has developed so much since 2019, but the track layout and gear pattern is the same. Pirelli’s tyre choices have also come a long way – but it’s going to be the same challenge for all teams.”
Pitt is interested to see the circuit conditions on Thursday to see what effect a lot of car racing has had on the track surface. The biggest change is likely to be the weather condition in July, since WorldSBK was used to visiting in May. It’s going to be very hot, with high surface temperatures and low grip – plus the track’s layout is a physical one for riders, requiring precision and commitment.
“I always thought it was a fun track to ride,” Pitt added. “It was really satisfying to get it right, to get a good rhythm around it – and there’s places to pass if you know what you’re doing!”
A satisfying on-track performance could mark a special career milestone for Razgatlıoğlu in the coming races: he currently has 99 WorldSBK podiums to his name, 84 of which have been achieved since he joined Yamaha in 2020. Only five riders in the history of the championship have collected more than 100 podiums.
“I have good memories at Imola from 2015, fighting with Federico Caricasulo for the win in European Superstock 600 Championship! This time will be my first time with Yamaha – I think we can do a good job, because I love it this track. I like it when there are corners you cannot see – you enter the corner blind – I like these old school tracks and it has some hard braking! In Imola, Johnny was very strong in the past, but I will try to do my best. It’s never possible to say what will happen before the race! We will see, but I want to be fighting again for the win.”
“I rode in Imola but it was many years ago! We will see what will happen during the weekend, for sure we will find some difficult conditions because it will be very hot – so we need to be ready for this and stay focused. Imola is interesting but I always liked the layout, especially when I rode in the Italian Championship (CIV Moto3) and won the race there in 2013 so I have good memories. We need to start working well from Friday to prepare for the weekend. Many riders have never seen this track, but riders like Johnny know this track very well – so it’s important to go into Friday with everything ready to be fast from Race 1 and continue to get good results. It’s nice to have another Italian race, it’s very different from Misano! Lots of up and down, hard braking and the chicane – we’ll try to enjoy it and get the maximum.”