March 02 2023
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Andrea Locatelli return to one of Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK’s favourite circuits on the 2023 FIM Superbike World Championship calendar this week, the Mandalika International Street Circuit, for the second round of the season from 3-5 March.
It is no secret that Indonesia holds fond memories for Yamaha, after wrapping up the WorldSBK “Triple Crown” and Rookie of the Year in 2021, Razgatlıoğlu and Locatelli’s combined results in 2022 signalled the best weekend for the team since Yamaha’s return to WorldSBK in 2016.
Razgatlıoğlu simply dominated the weekend – winning all three races and setting an incredible circuit-record pole position on his Yamaha R1 WorldSBK that was 1.052s clear of his next closest rival. Teammate Locatelli too enjoyed a strong weekend with his first front row start in WorldSBK (P3) followed by a podium in the Superpole Race and two fourth position finishes in the feature races, which were all held in dry conditions.
By contrast, in 2021 the WorldSBK field experienced Mandalika in full wet conditions – and a quirk of the track was that in the wet, this particular asphalt construction enabled the riders to access incredible grip because water drains through very quickly. However in 2022, the track was resurfaced and a revised schedule introduced to avoid the heavy tropical monsoon rains that temporarily flood the track and severely limit visibility – leaving the new construction untested.
After speaking with local track staff last year about the upgraded asphalt, Razgatlıoğlu’s Crew Chief Phil Marron says that the surface should behave in a similar way to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli – however the key difference is that track temperature in Indonesia stays the same in the wet, rather than dropping by around 10 degrees Celsius like in Italy, so the riders can still expect similar grip levels to 2021.
The first opportunity to assess track conditions this year will come tomorrow morning at 10:00 local time (UTC+8) with the first 45-minute Free Practice 1, followed naturally by Free Practice 2 taking place from 13:00.
“There are three main corners to overtake in Mandalika – first one, first corner with hard braking – I like it! Second one, Turn 9 and also the last corner. It is not easy to pass the last corner, but if on the last lap you are trying to win – then anything is possible! I enjoy to ride my R1 here, okay some corners I am not very strong but in general I like this circuit. For all riders, of course the problem is it’s very hot! It is a nice place to be, the people are very friendly and I like it – very relaxed way of life. My goal for this weekend is three wins, like last year I hope… Inshallah!”
“The most difficult part here in Mandalika with respect to the other tracks is this temperature and the humidity – it’s really warm! It’s not easy to do the long races but we train for this, it’s our job, so I think like last year we are fully ready to fight in these conditions. It will be really difficult but it is the same for everybody and you can see who has prepared well. We will continue to work and keep the good feeling we have with our bike – in 2022, here it was a good circuit for me, with the second podium of the year in the Superpole Race and a really good qualifying on the front row. In general, I am feeling really confident especially after the Phillip Island weekend. We need to continue pushing and fight for the good results, but I think we can do well again!”
Paul Denning – Team Principal, Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK:
“Starting the race season in Phillip Island – the WorldSBK “tradition” before calendar changes due to the pandemic in 2021 and 2022 – is always a pleasure, even if the timeframe to be fully prepared is very challenging. In the end, we faced three races in completely different conditions and we achieved three podiums, including a thoroughly well-deserved third place finish for “Loka” in Race 2. His performance at the test and over the race weekend showed that his growing confidence is certainly not misplaced! He also finished on the podium in Mandalika in 2022, so we expect him to continue with this improved performance level. Toprak was again very strong in the wet Race 1 and the Superpole Race (closing on Rinaldi on the final lap and nearly taking second place) for his second podium of the weekend. The Race 2 crash after the mistake by Alex Lowes means we lost many valuable points, but in Mandalika we begin the fightback! Toprak’s style is not perfectly suited to Phillip Island, and there were challenges in some aspects of the testing programme, while Loka is fully up to speed with all Yamaha’s important 2023 developments. However, Mandalika is a very different circuit and we expect Toprak to be back in the fight for victories.”