Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders, Andy Verdoïa and Galang Hendra Pratama, overcame difficult conditions at Magny-Cours to finish the penultimate round of the 2019 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship inside the top five.
With rain disrupting practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday, and grip notoriously unpredictable in the wet at Magny-Cours, the six Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders had to overcome numerous obstacles at the French circuit, with crashes in the incredibly tricky conditions also hampering their progress.
Home hero Andy Verdoïa crashed in FP1, forcing him to sit out FP2, but then crashed again in the wet conditions of FP3 and went into qualifying without completing a single flying lap of the 4.4212km Magny-Cours circuit. Despite this handicap, the young French rider rode superbly to qualifying on the front row of the grid in third place.
A big crash in FP2 left Galang Hendra Pratama battered and bruised, but the young Indonesian bounced back in qualifying to claim fourth place at the head of the second row of the grid for Sunday’s 12-lap WorldSSP300 race.
The mixed conditions in qualifying proved tricky for Jacopo Facco, Kevin Sabatucci, Beatriz Neila and Finn de Bruin, all of whom had to take on the challenge of the Last Chance Race to secure their place on the grid for Sunday’s WorldSSP300 race. De Bruin was forced to retire before the start due a technical problem on the sighting lap, but his three bLU cRU teammates all managed to finish inside the top six to secure their places on the grid for Sunday’s main event.
From the start of the 12-lap race, both Verdoïa and Galang Hendra were involved in a five-way battle for the win, which saw the protagonists swapping places in almost every corner. With some pain from the shoulder injured in his FP2 crash, Galang Hendra was forced to drop out of the fight for the win but held on to the lead group to finish fifth, leaving Verdoïa to fight it out at the front.
The French youngster led the field across the line to start the final lap but got passed out of the slipstream by his three pursuers, who managed to hold on to the chequered flag to claim the podium positions, with Verdoïa missing out by the narrowest of margins to finish fourth in his home race.
The remaining three bLU cRU riders were hampered by their starting positions at the back of the grid, or from pit lane in Sabatucci’s case, but all rode intelligently to finish the race and to pick up valuable experience in their debut WorldSSP300 season.
BCD Yamaha MS Racing – P4
“What a crazy weekend in Magny-Cours! I crashed on my first lap in the tricky conditions in FP1 and had a lot of pain, so decided to sit out FP2 to recover. FP3 on Saturday didn’t go much better, as I crashed again on my first lap and missed the rest of the session. I knew I had to stay calm and try and improve lap by lap in qualifying. I was leading the session until the very last lap but ended up qualifying on the front row in P3. On Sunday the track was completely dry. After a good warm up, I was feeling confident for the race and I was in the front group and fighting for the win until the very end. I led onto the last lap, but the slipstream is very important at Magny-Cours and I got passed on the back straight by three riders. Finally, I crossed the line in fourth place at my home race. I can’t wait for Qatar, where I hope to continue the battle to finish second in the championship.”
Galang Hendra Pratama
Semakin Di Depan Biblion MotoXRacing Yamaha – P5
“The conditions in Magny-Cours for practice and qualifying were tricky, but I was top five in every session and I was happy with that. Then on Sunday it was dry for warm up and the race, which meant it was a big challenge for me and the team to find a good set up, but we did it. The race was a tough one. I had a great fight in the leading group, but I dropped back with two laps to go as I had a lot of pain in the shoulder after a big crash in FP2. But I managed to hold on for another top five finish and, in the circumstances, I’m happy with that.”
Team Trasimeno Yamaha – P24
“The Magny-Cours weekend was one of the most difficult of the season for me. After three top ten finishes and the win at Donington Park, it was difficult to come to France and struggle so much with the weather conditions and the bike. I crashed twice in the tricky conditions of FP1 and on Saturday we had to change to our fourth engine this season, which meant that I had to start Sunday’s race from pit lane. I gave it everything in the race, but couldn’t progress any further than 24th position, which I’m obviously far from happy with. I want to say sorry to all the Yamaha staff for this weekend, as we didn’t realise our true potential in the race.”
BCD Yamaha MS Racing – P28
“Magny-Cours wasn’t the race weekend I was hoping for, as I was looking forward to building on the great result I had last time out in Portimão. Conditions were really tricky with the weather on Friday I didn’t have a good feeling on a track that was really slippery. I started well on Saturday but then had a difficult qualifying and had to fight for a grid slot in the Last Chance Race. I learned a lot in that race, with a top six finish securing me a start in the main race on Sunday. It was a tough race in the end, because I started so far back on the grid, but it was also another opportunity to gain more experience. So, a difficult weekend on what was a new track for me but, once again, I learned a lot. Now I need to keep working!”
Semakin Di Depan Biblion MotoXRacing Yamaha – P30
“For me the Magny-Cours weekend was one to forget. The aim has been to improve each round, but in France we went a little bit backwards. The conditions were very difficult and I didn’t make the cut in qualifying, which meant I had to go into the Last Chance Race, but sixth place in that was enough to secure me a start on Sunday. It was a tough race from the back of the grid, but I pushed as hard as I could and learned a lot, even if the result wasn’t what I was hoping for. So, a disappointing weekend in terms of the result, but I did my maximum in what were difficult conditions.”
Finn de Bruin
Team Trasimeno Yamaha – DNS
“It was a disappointing weekend at Magny-Cours, in what has been a difficult season. Looking back over the year there are a lot of things I would have done differently. I tried my best and learned a lot, but I think I could have done better. I want to say thank you to both Yamaha and Team Trasimeno for this opportunity, their support and their continued faith in me. Now we will see what next season brings, but I hope to find the old Finn back!”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Supervisor
“Experience is something that is gained, and it’s been our mission this season to ensure that our bLU cRU riders bank as much experience as possible. In Magny-Cours, the riders had a lot to overcome thanks to the weather and the unpredictable track surface. Conditions changed for every session and sometimes even during a session, with the bLU cRU riders having to deal with a wet track, a dry track and a mixture of the two in practice and qualifying, which was stressful for them, but also taught them a lot in a short space of time. I’m proud of how they dealt with the tricky conditions and the fact that five of the six made it onto the grid for the main race, with only one missing out through a technical problem that was no fault of his own. Andy’s performance in the race has kept alive his hopes of finishing second in the championship standings when we head to Qatar for the final round. Galang was also strong in the race, fighting for a top-five finish despite some pain in his shoulder from his FP2 crash. Our GYTR kitted Yamaha YZF-R3 machines showed good performance at the front of the race, the teams worked really hard to react to both the changing conditions and the many crashes as a result, but now we need to focus on the final round in Qatar. Losail will be a new track and a new experience for the WorldSSP300 riders, most of whom have never ridden under floodlights before.”