The five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders fought valiantly throughout the opening round of the 2018 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship despite being denied a level playing field due to the FIM and Dorna – the series organiser – not being able to balance out the performance levels of the different manufacturers on the grid. Despite this, the bLU cRU riders were still able to show good promise with Galang Hendra Pratama demonstrating sensational pace all weekend, before finishing the race in 16th. Luca Bernardi fought hard in Sunday’s race to greet the chequered flag in 19th, with Dutch riders Dennis Koopman and Joep Overbeeke crossing the line 23rd & 25th respectively, while Hugo de Cancellis from France showed good promise before, unfortunately, being declared unfit to race on Sunday due to a stomach virus.
The WorldSSP300 Championship sees bikes of varying engine capacities and power/weight ratios line up on the grid, with technical regulations designed to guarantee that despite these differences, the riders are given the chance to show their potential by ensuring all bikes perform at a similar level. It was these performance balancing technical regulations that led to such a thrilling debut season for WorldSSP300 in 2017, as it allowed the individual’s skill and talent to shine through instead of any technical advantages, something Yamaha believe is crucial in helping to develop the next generation of riders
Unfortunately, this was not the case at the opening round in Aragon as the Yamaha riders were made to suffer for being the bike with the smallest engine capacity. Sadly, it put all Yamaha riders at a disadvantage with the other bikes on the grid having a 10-15kph top speed superiority over the R3. This resulted in lap times for the new Kawasaki and KTM machines being almost 5 seconds under the 2017 pole record (2:12.712), while Yamaha has stayed faithful to the rules by using the same specification machines as they did last season. Undeterred by the fact they knew they would not realistically being able to fight with the other manufacturers, the five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders put in a sensational effort to produce some promising results after dealing with the sense of disappointment that follows from working hard all winter only to be denied the chance to showcase their riding ability in their first race on the world stage.
Leading the bLU cRU charge through the weekend was 19-year-old Galang Hendra Pratama (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | Biblion Motoxracing Team) who ended Friday’s Practice in 10th overall to make him the only Yamaha rider to make it through to SP2. The 2017 wildcard Jerez race winner qualified in 11th for Sunday’s race and despite being at such a speed and power disadvantage, he battled in the top ten during the race before a small mistake saw him lost touch with the leading group. Recovering superbly, he continued to battle hard right to the line to secure 16th place. To show just how quick Galang Hendra was, his best time from the weekend – set during the race – was a 2:09.939, which was over 4 seconds quicker than the best time set by a Yamaha R3 during last season’s race (2:14.050), despite the fact he was on identical machinery.
Luca Bernardi (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) finished in 30th on the combined timesheets on Friday before going on to qualify in 23rd on the grid for Sunday’s race. Showing improvements every time he went on track on his R3, the 16-year-old Italian made up four places in the race after giving it his all to finish in 19th.
Dutch rider Dennis Koopman (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | GRT Team), who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Monday the 16th of April, had ended Friday’s practice in 23rd and then managed to qualify in 32nd on Saturday. When the lights went out for Sunday’s race he, like all the bLU cRU riders showed great heart to battle through the pack with some excellent overtaking manoeuvres to make up 11 places and cross the line in 21st.
Joep Overbeeke (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team), also from the Netherlands, managed to improve dramatically from finishing Friday in 38th overall to then qualify in 26th. He enjoyed some excellent fights with other Yamaha riders during the race before crossing the line in a solid 25th place in a close finish that saw 0.242s separate the riders from 22nd to 25th as they crossed the line.
16-year-old French rider Hugo de Cancellis had shown his class by ending Friday in 24th on the combined timesheets. He went on to qualify in 31st on Saturday, but was suffering from a stomach bug and, unfortunately, was declared unfit to race on Sunday.
To emphasis the imbalance in performance levels between manufacturers, the fastest Yamaha rider was Daniel Valle (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) in 13th place, who was a regular podium challenger in 2017, with the Spanish rider crossing the line 15.014s behind the eventual race winner.
Yamaha Motor Europe is confident that the FIM and Dorna will balance the regulations that are designed to produce a level playing field and expect action to be taken before Round 2 of the WorldSSP300 Championship in Assen on the 20th-22nd of April. This will not only preserve the reputation of the championship, but also ensure that it continues to provide young riders with an excellent platform to launch their careers on the world stage.
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Project Manager