September 10 2022
Championship contender Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and teammate Andrea Locatelli clawed their way back into contention to finish in 11th and seventh places respectively in Race 1 of the French 2022 FIM Superbike World Championship round held at Magny-Cours today.
Conditions dried out in the Nièvre region on Saturday after two almost fully-wet Free Practice sessions hampered race preparations for the entire WorldSBK field yesterday. With just 30-minutes of dry running during Free Practice 3 this morning, every team including the Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK crew had their work cut out to confirm their race set-ups, as well as assess Pirelli tyre combinations, for the first points-paying race of the weekend.
Defending champion Razgatlıoğlu showed a clear advantage at one of his favourite race venues, setting the fastest lap time in FP3 by more than half a second from BMW’s Scott Redding before effectively taking “equal” pole position with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) in Superpole when both riders set the exact same qualifying time of 1’36.124. A count back of additional lap times handed the Kawasaki rider pole, with Razgatlıoğlu to start from P2, while teammate Locatelli found himself starting from P12 with less than two tenths separating him from the five riders in front.
The stage was set for another epic WorldSBK thriller as Turkish ace Razgatlıoğlu lead from the front and fought off a challenge from a resurgent Redding, as Rea made a mistake to crash out from the chicane at the end of Lap 2. Only moments later, after already amassing a 1.5-second lead, the Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK rider saved a potentially race-ending crash - as he struggled with some inconsistencies in front braking control - only to end up in the gravel trap at Turn 13. What followed was an epic fight-back from 23rd to score five potentially crucial championship points, demonstrating a relentless race pace to rival eventual race winner Alvaro Bautista (Ducati).
For the team’s #55 Italian rider Locatelli, seventh was not representative of the top five pace and consistency he has demonstrated time and time again since joining the WorldSBK class in 2021. He struggled with rear grip but the team hope to help him make a step for tomorrow to give him a chance to fight for front running results once again.
The dry weather looks set to continue tomorrow, giving both Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK riders a 15-minute Warm-Up session at 09:00 (CEST) to confirm improvements to the set-ups of their Yamaha R1 WorldSBKs made overnight, before the 10-lap Superpole Race at 11:00 and final feature-length Race 2 (21 laps) from 14:00.
Andrea Locatelli – Race 1: P7
“So in the end, we finished Race 1 in P7 and I am not so happy because it was really difficult and I don’t yet understand why. It was difficult to start from P12 on the grid but also it was really strange the feeling with the rear tyre. I don’t know what we can do for tomorrow, but for sure we are working to try to improve for the Superpole Race: try to start more in front and then push for another good race for Race 2. We will try to understand what we can do looking at everything from the dry running today and we will see tomorrow. This is not my position and there is a bigger gap to the front, so we need to come back stronger tomorrow.”
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu – Race 1: P11
“We had a very strong start in the race today, but on the third lap we had the big mistake – since the start, at every corner with the front brake the feeling was a bit inconsistent. Turn 13, I try same braking as normal but I feel too much braking for this lever position and I almost crash. I go wide and try to come back on the track but then finally crash because the last part outside the track has really deep stones. But, I try my best to recover the best position for the points and finish the race 11th. We know we are strong, but strange crash today so for this I am disappointed. Tomorrow I hope we improve the consistency of the braking and we are fighting again for the win.”
Paul Denning – Team Principal, Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK:
“For obvious reasons, a very disappointing start to the Magny-Cours race weekend and an opportunity to close the gap to the front of the championship has been lost. That said, for Toprak to show so much determination to claw back all that time and recover from 23rd to 11th place, taking five valuable points, is a positive in itself that we will use for energy tomorrow. His pace was every bit as good as the winner’s, despite some difficulties in stopping the bike consistently into the slow corners, which we will thoroughly investigate this evening. Tomorrow is a new day for Toprak, he’s extremely disappointed right now but there are positives to take from today. For Loka it was a strange race: he felt a lack of grip, both front and rear from the start – and whilst he was consistent and kept his rhythm to eventually finish P7, the gap to the front riders and to his own performance expectation was a lot more than anticipated. So - work to do for tomorrow on both sides of the box, but we’ll be approaching it in positive spirits.”