2022 FIM Superbike World Championship
Round Nine – Portimao, Portugal
The ninth round of the 2022 FIM Superbike World Championship, the last to be held in Europe, will be hosted next weekend by the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal.
A circuit as fascinating as it is demanding for riders, motorcycles and tyres, with some “old-school” sections and a layout with a continuous ‘ups and downs’ and many blind corners that require sharp braking and subject the tyres to high lateral and longitudinal loads.
The track was completely resurfaced in 2020, when it first hosted Formula 1, but the grip offered is rather limited.
2022 has been up and down so far for all of the title contenders and the undulations of Portimao promise to replicate that further this weekend. Always a classic on the calendar and forever delivering spectacular racing, the final European round of the year is going to see a titanic battle royale at the front.
After his stunning hat-trick in Barcelona, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) arrives at Portimao after one of the most important rounds of the season so far. In top form through the Catalunya Round, he sports a 59-point lead over his nearest rival and that will be crucial at Portimao, a track where he is perhaps less likely to be so dominant.
Rinaldi’s team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi is hitting form at the right time, with another podium in Barcelona, taking points off Bautista’s rivals.
This has to be the round where Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) leads the charge to slice into Bautista’s points gap. We’ve seen plenty of times throughout 2022 that points swings happen in big ways, but with just four rounds to go, 59 points is a sizeable task.
“I really like this Portimão track, but also we know Johnny is very strong here. Start of this year we had a very positive test with very good lap time, something like 1’39.6… everyone is faster this year so we will see if we are fast enough to win! I hope for a good battle but most important I need to fight for the win again, it was difficult in Barcelona so I am searching the same feeling as Donington or Magny-Cours. We keep focusing race by race.”
Toprak’s team-mate, Andrea Locatelli, is a double WorldSSP winner at Portimao and took a podium in Race 2 in WorldSBK last year and needs to gain back vital points in the title race this weekend in the battle for fourth overall.
With 13 wins and 21 podiums and having made his WorldSBK debut at the track in 2008, Portimao holds a special in Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) heart. The Ulsterman is the most successful rider on the grid at the undulating Portuguese venue and he’s going to be hoping that he can build on those this weekend. Rea’s win drought extends back to World Superbike’s last visit to Portugal at Estoril, back at round three.. He and Razgatlioglu, whilst fighting each other, might have to ‘work together’ to get the deficit to Bautista down.
“Portimao is a great circuit, and one which has a lot of special memories for me. I had my first ever WorldSBK Race there in 2008. The circuit itself is very challenging. It has a lot of different characteristics, from slow corners to fast ones, blind entries and apexes, so there is a lot of rider input required. We have enjoyed some success there.
“After Barcelona, where we were able to extract the full potential from our Ninja ZX-10RR, I expect to go to Portugal and keep working with my team to create a good race package. The race in Portugal is also cool because I have a lot of travelling support from Northern Ireland there. It is a great circuit for viewing as well.
“The target is to have a really good weekend. I really want to get back to winning ways after this mid part of the season, where I have had a bit of a win drought. Our team has had two good days of testing recently; one on Barcelona following the race and one in Motorland. We have a lot more information now and I am excited to put that to good use in Portugal.”
Rea’s teammate Alex Lowes was on the rostrum in Barcelona and aims to repeat it this weekend.
“Portimao is one of my favourite tracks – and events in general. It’s going to end the European season for us and normally it’s a good track for me and the Ninja ZX-10RR. I’m aiming to continue my strong form and be fighting for the podium places again.
“We’ve made some improvements with our base set up lately, especially with the rear of the bike, which has given me even greater confidence. I can’t wait to try out the set-up changes next weekend at Portimao.”
Moving up into eighth overall in the Championship standings and off the back of a first career pole position in Barcelona, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) will be hoping for a return to the top five in the races. A sixth place was his best result last time out, despite starting from pole, perhaps leaving Lecuona eager for more. He’s tested at Portimao earlier in the year and is a point-scorer from his MotoGP time at the circuit.
“I really like the Portimão track, and this will be the second time I’m riding here with the Superbike after a testing session back in February, so we’ll see if we’re able to start to the weekend on the right foot. We have a busy period from now until the end of the year, with a tight racing schedule and test sessions too, but we are fully focused on the job. Me, the team and everyone at HRC are working very hard and we must continue to do so. As I said, I’m happy to be racing at a track I know well, and I think it can be another opportunity for us to try and stick with the top group.”
After a fine top six in Race 2 in Barcelona and taking top Honda honours, Xavi Vierge hopes to boost Honda’s prospects further, with the Japanese manufacturer trailing BMW in the Manufacturers’ Championship standings by just five points.
“Portimão is a track I love. I enjoyed it a lot when we visited during the pre-season and that test was very positive for us actually. We just want to keep the ball rolling after Barcelona, which was a tough weekend but also a constructive one in terms of the work and improvement we were able to see and the things we learned. This has increased my confidence when it comes to making decisions about the direction to take. One of the most important things this weekend in Portimão will be to work on the tyre life and find a good electronics setup with which to achieve that.”
Speaking of BMW, it was a disaster in Barcelona; no top ten in Superpole and a best of eighth place in the Tissot Superpole Race. They’ll want to return to some good form at a track they have happy memories at, winning with Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in the wet last year.
Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) goes well there too with a hat-trick of podiums in 2021, but it’ll be a new challenge for him with BMW. Sitting 58 points back from fourth, it’s a big weekend for Redding who is currently eighth in the title race.
“For me, Portimão is a good circuit, very technical. I quite enjoy riding it because of the character, the up and down, the long corners, the slow corners, so I am very excited to go there. Obviously, after a tough weekend at Barcelona, it would be nice to try to get back to where we were, but again it’s another new track for me with BMW, so I don’t know the potential.
“I know BMW had a good result there last year in the rain-mixed conditions so let’s see what we can do. It would be nice to get back to the top five, and if we are feeling really strong it would be nice to try and get a podium again or at least fight for it. I am looking forward to it.”
Van der Mark also likes Portimao, his most successful circuit, along with Assen in terms of his podium tally with seven. But the Dutchman has only scored points on two occasions since returning to racing.
Michael van der Mark
“I am looking forward to Portimão; it is one of my favourite WorldSBK tracks on the calendar. It’s a unique track and I am always looking forward to getting there. After Barcelona, our main target is to have a problem-free weekend. I still need to ride as much as possible.
“There were some positives at the Barcelona weekend and I am pretty sure that if all goes well we will be a lot faster at Portimão. Like I said, it is one of my favourite tracks and that always helps. I can’t wait to get started and see how it goes.”
In terms of Independent riders, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) has clearly established that he’s in the podium battle and is sixth overall, three-points behind Locatelli in fifth, and 35 behind Rinaldi in fourth.
After a rostrum in Barcelona, Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) will hope for more of the same at Portimao, as he’s just seven points behind the top ten in the standings, occupied by Vierge.
“I’ve always been a fan of rollercoasters and Portimao is no different! Excited to head back to a warmer part of Europe on such unique track; one that I’ve enjoyed and had good speed in the past. Hopefully this year we’ll put everything together to get a strong result there and fight for a top position. It’s going to be cool to head into this weekend because my old team are racing with Jake Gagne! It should be a good atmosphere and I’m excited for it.”
Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) took two top ten results in Barcelona but returns to a circuit where he was on the podium at last year as a replacement rider.
Leon Haslam (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), who was on the front row last year, is back on the Pedercini Kawasaki.
There will also be two wildcards on the grid with Jake Gagne (Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing) headlining, the American was recently crowned MotoAmerica champion and he’ll return to the WorldSBK grid for the first time since 2018. Could Gagne cause a surprise this weekend at a circuit which he has the benefit of knowing?
Marvin Fritz (IXS – Yart – Yamaha) also returns to WorldSBK action.
WorldSBK Championship Points
|4||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||205|
|18||Michael Van Der Mark||18|
After gaining 50 points on Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) at the Czech Round and cutting the gap to just 14 points, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Evam Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) has seen the reigning Champion slowly extend it back up to 36 points after the Catalunya Round. Aegerter comes into the round with a spring in his step following confirmation of his 2023 WorldSBK move.
Three riders are right in contention for third overall, all from three different manufacturers, as Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) and Stefano Manzi (Dynavolt Triumph) all fight it out for the bronze medal position.
Australian Tom Edwards (Yart – Yamaha WorldSSP) returns to the class after two wildcard appearances at Assen and Estoril this season. Edwards did race at this venue in WorldSSP300 between 2018 and 2020, taking two top-seven finishes in four races.
With regular World Supersport competitors Oli Bayliss and Ben Currie that makes for three Australian riders on the WorldSSP grid this weekend.
WorldSSP Championship Points
|7||Glenn Van Straalen||102|
|13||Raffaele De Rosa||57|
It all comes down to the final FIM Supersport 300 World Championship round of the season to determine who’ll be crowned World Champion.
Heading into the Pirelli Portuguese Round, it is Alvaro Diaz (Arco Motor University Team) who leads the standings ahead of Victor Steeman (MTM Kawasaki) and, at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, the pair will fight it out to see who will be crowned Champion after an enthralling 2022 season.
Diaz narrowly missed out on claiming the title in Barcelona last time out, finishing 0.046s away from a podium finish that would’ve crowned him Champion. As it is, he comes into the Portuguese Round knowing a single point will be enough to claim the title if Steeman wins Race 1, whilst Steeman’s charge will end if he doesn’t win both races.
Having been a Championship contender throughout the campaign, three non-scoring races in a row for Marc Garcia (Yamaha MS Racing) means the 2017 Champion has dropped down to third in the standings. He does have a chance of overhauling Steeman for second, just 23 points behind, but he’s also only 17 points ahead of Hugo De Cancellis (Prodina Racing WorldSSP300) who is aiming for a top-three finish.
After a challenging season young Aussie Harry Khouri will be hoping to end the championship on a high note.
The Manufacturers’ Championship will be decided at Portimao as Yamaha and Kawasaki fight it out for 2022 glory. Yamaha go into the round with a 15-point advantage over Kawasaki.
WorldSSP300 Championship Points
|4||Hugo De Cancellis||140|
|5||Samuel Di Sora||132|
|16||Jose Luis Perez Gonzales||40|
|20||Julio Garcia Gonzalez||23|
|24||Aldi Satya Mahendra||17|
|25||Iker Garcia Abella||17|
|31||Yeray Saiz Marquez||4|
Portimao WorldSBK Time Schedule
2022 WorldSBK Calendar
|Oct 21-23||Circuito San Juan Villicum||SBK/SSP|
|Nov 18-20||Phillip Island||SBK/SSP|