CZECH ROUND CHAOS UNFOLDS: Bautista extends his lead, Rea ends his winless drought and Razgatlioglu tyre deflates
In what has been an incredible spread of eight rounds so far in the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the summer break is now upon us after what was one of the most dramatic rounds of the season at Autodrom Most, Acerbis Czech Round, with many talking points.
Race 1 saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) make a strategic intermediate tyre gamble that paid off, bringing his 252-day, 23-race victory drought come to end, with Rea returning to the top step of the podium with a remarkable performance in Race 1.
As the race started, wet tyre runners Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Australian Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) stormed ahead, quickly building a significant lead. However, the track dried rapidly, causing Bassani to lose time to Rea, who started on intermediate tyres. By Lap 6, Rea closed the gap and Bassani decided to switch to slick tyres, briefly dropping down the order before fighting back to finish in seventh place.
Rookie Remy Gardner started from the front row but chose to switch tyres and finished in 11th place, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in 12th. Bautista faced a time penalty after losing 18 seconds compared to the Pit Intervention Time when he made his tyre change, affecting his final position.
The real battle emerged between Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK). Despite Razgatlioglu’s relentless pursuit, Rea’s pace proved to be enough to keep the Turkish star at bay. This victory marked the end of Rea’s winning drought, which extended back to Phillip Island Race 1 in 2022. The Acerbis Czech Round was a standout performance for Jonathan Rea of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK.
“In the long race, I went for different tyres to pretty much the whole grid. Me and my team, when I tried them on Friday, felt they had a little bit more grip. At the end of the race, the bike was moving so much, and entry traction was gone. It was all I could to do keep Danilo behind. I could see on the pit board he was coming and then he parked it at Turn 1, but I went the long way around and parked it at Turn 2! I tried to do everything perfectly. I defended into the penultimate corner but in the last corner I could feel him, but not see him with my peripheral vision. He leant on me a little bit. I thought, ‘if I ride into him, there’s as much chance of me going down as well as him’ so I gave him a little bit of space. I can’t complain, I would’ve snapped your hand off if you told me I’d have these results at a track I don’t have much affection with. We came away with a big haul of points and a good feeling with the bike,” Jonathan Rea said.
Rea was accompanied on the podium by Razgatlioglu in second place and Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) in third. Like Rea, Petrucci also opted for intermediate tyres and didn’t change to slicks during the race, securing a podium for Ducati, their 1050th in WorldSBK.
Sunday’s Race 2 saw a remarkable turnaround for the reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), as he etched his name into MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship history with an impressive 18th win of the 2023 season. The race proved to be a pivotal moment in the title battle as his main rival, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) crashed out from the lead after making solid ground in the Championship following his earlier Superpole race win. Bautista’s victory resulted in a significant 25-point swing in the Championship standings, firmly establishing him as a formidable force.
On Lap 17, a devastating and very bizarre high-side forced Razgatlioglu to retire from the race while leading, handing victory to Bautista with a commanding lead of more than four seconds.
Explaining the crash and what happened, Razgatlioglu commented: “It was a very strange race. My rear tyre burst. I am surprised because I looked back after the crash at the chain, and after I saw my tyre. It’s very strange for me, it’s the first time it’s happened in my life. I am okay. In the last six laps, I started to ride calmer, and I saw the gap getting bigger. It was a good race for me and I enjoyed it; I think all fans enjoyed it!”
After the race, Pirelli revealed the cause of the crash to be blistering on Razgatlioglu’s rear tyre, with Pirelli’s Motorcycle Racing Director, Giorgio Barbier, saying: “In WorldSBK Race 2, with the new C0567 rear specification, we recorded three cases of blistering: Rea, Gardner and Razgatlioglu. For the first two, the blisters were extremely small and had no effect on the performance and race result, whereas in Razgatlioglu’s case, the tyre had two more evident blisters and the telemetry data shows sudden deflation of the tyre. Even if the Yamaha rider’s race pace was extremely high and none of the other riders’ tyres show any signs of stress or wear, these types of episodes clearly must not occur, so we will conduct an in-depth laboratory analysis of the three tyres with blistering to figure out what may have caused it.”
Despite the slight blistering seen on Aussie Remy Gardner GYTR GRT Yamaha tyre, he concluded the strongest weekend of his WorldSBK career with a solid sixth-place finish, just three seconds behind Rinaldi, as well as a sixth place finish in the earlier Tissot Superpole race.
“Position-wise, I don’t think there was much more but time-wise, maybe a little bit more. On the last lap, I had a similar issue to Toprak and we were lucky to finish. We’re asking so much of the tyre to make up the deficit on brakes; Toprak is much more than me but we’re frying the rear brake so much to get the bike to stop and we’re trying to use most of the track. The line of the Yamaha is to use all the track and pick it up using the corner speed, but you use so much of the tyre. I don’t think we have the power to pick it up on the tyre. From Donington Park, we’ve made a good technical step and here, we’ve seen an improvement and I’m feeling the limit of the tyres a bit better now.” Gardner said in his media debrief following his successful weekend.
The race marked the final showdown before the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship summer break, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the thrilling battles that lie ahead. Following the event, Pirelli revealed that the cause of Razgatlioglu’s crash was due to blistering on his rear tyre. The Italian manufacturer vowed to conduct a comprehensive laboratory analysis of the affected tyres to identify the root cause of the issue.