bLU cRU Yamaha WorldSSP by MS Racing Team’s Andy Verdoïa opting to stay out on slick tyres, before the heavy rain brought out the red flag, to become the championship’s youngest ever winner.
Starting Saturday’s race from 12th on the grid, Verdoïa remained in the battle for the final few points-paying positions throughout the first half of the race. However, with eight laps to go a heavy rain shower drenched the Spanish venue, which prompted most of the field to head into the pits.
The 17-year-old, who began his world championship career with the bLU cRU programme in WorldSSP300, in which he was crowned the 2019 R3 bLU cRU Challenge champion, stayed out on slick tyres and waited for the red flag. It eventually came with six laps to go, sealing the French rider’s maiden victory in his debut WorldSSP campaign.
GMT94 Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team’s stand-in rider Kyle Smith also starred during the frenetic opening race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. After qualifying seventh, which became sixth due to a penalty ahead, the British rider climbed up to fourth in the dry conditions before taking third as the rain began to fall.
The 2019 FIM Europe Supersport Cup winner left it late to pit and briefly led before the red flag fell. On countback, Smith was classified in third at the finish to pick up a well-earned podium on his return to the series.
Championship leader Andrea Locatelli battled hard to maintain his 100 percent pole position record in qualifying and led through the early stages of Race 1. However, as the torrential rain came down, the Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team dropped to third, which became fourth after taking his pit stop. Any progress for the Italian was halted by the red flag, putting an end to Locatelli’s victory run as he finished fourth.
Kallio Racing Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team’s Hannes Soomer fought just outside the top 10 positions throughout and ended the Barcelona opener in 13th, with teammate Isaac Vinales, who showed strong pace on Friday and in qualifying, losing out due to the red flag to finish 15th.
GMT94 Yamaha’s Corentin Perolari qualified on the front row in third and challenged Locatelli for the race lead early on. The French rider then found himself in a battle over fourth with teammate Smith, but he too was caught out by the red flag and was classified only 16th.
bLU cRU Yamaha’s Galang Hendra Pratama had a fall early on in the race at Turn 4 and was subsequently sent to the medical centre after reporting shoulder and wrist ligament pain. The Indonesian will be evaluated at a hospital in Barcelona and again at the track tomorrow morning to judge whether or not he can take part in Race 2.
Andy Verdoïa: P1
bLU cRU Yamaha WorldSSP by MS Racing Team
“I can’t believe it. In the beginning it was quite sunny, but then with about eight laps to go I saw it started to rain. I continued to follow the group ahead but then the weather got worse, so I decided to stay out as I was sure they would put out a red flag. It didn’t come out for the next two laps, so I thought “maybe they’re waiting until two-thirds distance” and I just kept on going. In the end, it worked out so well. I thought I’d be in the top 10 and score some good points, but then the team told me I was P1. I didn’t believe it at first and then when we got confirmation it was just an amazing feeling. It’s difficult to put into words. Thanks to the team, Yamaha and the bLU cRU programme for everything, I’m so happy.”
Kyle Smith: P3
GMT94 Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team
“I am really happy to finish in the top three. Of course, we could have had an even better result, but after such a difficult year for me, this podium is special. I would like to thank the GMT94 Yamaha team for giving me a chance this weekend. They did a great pit-stop, which would have put us in the perfect position if the race had continued. I also have a thought for Jules Cluzel, who I hope will come back soon.”