Mandalika. Round two of the FIM Superbike World Championship 2023 (WorldSBK) at Mandalika, Indonesia, began with promising results on Saturday. In Superpole qualifying, Loris Baz (FRA) of the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team landed his bike on sixth place on the grid. Race one saw Michael van der Mark (NED) from the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team finish sixth after an impressive fightback. Sunday, however, turned out to be a wretched day with misfortune in the races and injuries. Baz fractured his right leg in an incident in the Superpole race, while van der Mark crashed and injured his left hand in race two.
Baz led the BMW quartet with an excellent performance in Superpole qualifying. Van der Mark qualified tenth, followed by Scott Redding (GBR / ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in eleventh and Garrett Gerloff (USA / Bonovo action BMW Racing Team), who struggled with stomach issues at the start of the weekend, in 14th.
Van der Mark fought back impressively in race one on Saturday afternoon. Having lost a number of positions in the early stages, he then gradually battled his way back from 14th place. The Dutchman lay eighth entering the penultimate lap and proceeded to gain another two places. Van der Mark produced his fastest lap on the final lap of the race and crossed the finish line sixth. Baz established himself in the leading group at the start, but then dropped well down the field when he had to take evasive measures to avoid a crashing rider. He eventually came home eleventh. Gerloff ended race one in 14th place, while a technical issue forced Redding out of the race after lying ninth in the first-third of the race.
The Superpole race on Sunday morning had to be suspended after just one lap. Two riders collided and the victim was Baz, who was taken out by a crashing rider. While liquids were cleaned from the track, the Bonovo action BMW Racing Team worked flat-out to get Baz’s bike ready in time for the restart. When the race resumed as an eight-lap sprint, Baz initially lay in a promising seventh place. However, he was then unfortunately hit on his right leg by another bike on lap two. Despite being in considerable pain, the Frenchman made it back to the pits. In the medical centre he was diagnosed with fractures of the fibula and ankle. Baz was taken to hospital for a more detailed examination, including a CT scan.
Van der Mark and Redding ended the Superpole race in eighth and ninth places, improving their grid position accordingly for race two. Gerloff was twelfth. Race two also proved to be a dramatic affair. On lap seven, Van der Mark crashed out with a highside. Philipp Öttl (GER / Ducati), who was right behind the Dutchman at the time, also hit the deck. The race was red flagged. However, shortly before the race was suspended, Redding skidded and crashed while running in the top ten. As the race restarted in the order at the last timing, Redding had to resume the remaining 14 laps from 14th place. A good restart allowed him to immediately gain places and he went on to finish tenth, just in front of Gerloff in eleventh place. Van der Mark was examined in the medical centre where he was diagnosed with two fractured fingers on his left hand.
WorldSBK now has a few weeks off, before the European leg of the season gets underway with round three from 21st to 23rd April at Assen, Netherlands. BMW Motorrad Motorsport will travel to Barcelona (ESP) for tests during the break.
Quotes after the Mandalika races.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “That was a weekend of ups and downs. Everyone struggled on Friday because the track was not in such good condition. However, that soon improved and we were able to build on our performance here last year. Loris performed very well in Superpole. Michael and Scott also both had very good laps, but they were cancelled due to yellow flags. Garrett was still struggling with the set-up. Race one was an unlucky one for Scott. His tyre did not work, then he had a technical issue. Michael gave a very strong and solid performance to climb into sixth place. Loris had to avoid a crash at the start, but battled back to finish eleventh. Luck was definitely not on our side on Sunday. Loris started the Superpole race from towards the front of the grid, but crashed through no fault of his own after the first start. His team did an outstanding job to get his bike ready again so quickly. After the restart, Loris was really unlucky to be hit on his leg and suffered fractures. We hope he makes a speedy recovery! Scott and Michael had a really good race and lined up eighth and ninth in the second main race. Unfortunately, Michael was forced off the racing line and had a highside when he opened the throttle again. He injured his fingers in the process. Get well soon, Mickey! Everyone had to be on used tyres when the race resumed, and we were unfortunately no longer able to build on our performance. Scott and Garrett had a battle and came home tenth and eleventh. In summary, there were some high points, but the weekend ended in disappointment with two injured riders. Both now have a few weeks to recover, and we hope they will be able to attend the Barcelona test. However, we will keep our heads up, prepare well, and look forward to the European season.”
Michael van der Mark, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team (SP: 10 / R01: 6 / SP Race: 8 / R02: DNF): “I think today was not so bad. In this morning’s sprint race, my first start was okay but my second start wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. It is difficult to pass on this circuit. To finish eighth in the Superpole race wasn’t that bad because our main target was to gain some positions for the grid of race two. I had a good start but experienced some issues when I tried to shift so I lost some positions. I tried to stay calm and started to go forward step by step. I had a good rhythm but I knew that with the tyre I chose, I would get better towards the end of the race. Unfortunately then in turn 11, I just entered, lost the rear and had a massive highside. It was a shame because I think we could have done a good job again, especially towards the end of the race. But it’s like that. I am quite okay, I just have a small fracture in my finger.”
Scott Redding, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team (SP: 11 / R01: DNF / SP Race: 9 / R02: 10): “In the last race, I was quite happy with the performance. I made one mistake in the first corner which cost me a couple of positions. I was a bit upset about it but the conditions were really tricky. It was again also a bit unfortunate because I crashed when there was the red flag and then they didn’t go back one complete lap so I went from eighth and I had to start from 14th. You know that from there it is already hard. I made a good start, I came up through the field a bit. But the field is so tight at the moment that it is really hard to make a difference. The lap times are very similar so I finished tenth. I was happy to finish the race; it was the first time that I felt more comfortable on the bike this year. I hope now that we can build on that for the rest of the season.”
Garrett Gerloff, Bonovo action BMW Racing Team (SP: 14 / R01: 14 / SP Race: 12 / R02: 11): “It was a red flag kind of day! We made some big changes to the bike today. It felt a bit weird this morning in the Superpole race, but I could tell it was quite good. It just took me some time adapting to get used to it. The Superpole race was quite ok, but we weren’t really able to improve our starting position. We went out in the first part of the second race with the hardest set of tyres, front and rear and it just didn’t feel fantastic compared to everybody else. Luckily or unluckily the race got red flagged and we were able to change tyres to the softer compounds front and rear. It just transformed the bike and everything felt just so much better. It was so nice to ride with Scott and a couple of the other guys. Again, it’s not as far up as I obviously want to be, but considering where we finished race one and how race two went, I’m really happy with the improvement. It’s going to take some time to be consistently out on top, but I don’t think we are super far away so I’m happy about that! Yet I feel super bad for my teammate Loris. I saw the video and that definitely didn’t look nice but I saw he was in good spirits and I hope he heals up as fast as possible and comes back to Assen to race with us. I obviously also hope Michael is ok after his highside. It was a shame to see him go down.”
Loris Baz, Bonovo action BMW Racing Team (SP: 6 / R01: 11 / SP Race: DNF / R02: DNS): “I have left the hospital after some CT scans. I know that there is a fracture in my ankle and fibula. We were just super unlucky today. We didn’t have enough tyres for Warm Up, so we didn’t really use this session. I was really confident going into the Superpole race. I had a decent starting position and had a good start. Unfortunately, going into turn two, someone hit me in the back and I ended up in the gravel with Alex. Alex told me that Danilo took both of us out. It was a really big one and I was lucky that Alex’s bike didn’t hit me. Then there was oil on track. We tried to tell the marshals that they have to red flag the race, but it was a bit of a misunderstanding and nobody did anything. Then Johnny crashed on the oil. When I saw the red flags, I jumped on my bike again and went back to the box. The guys did an amazing job to enable me to restart. I felt really lucky in that moment to be able to restart. I did a good start again, was fifth or sixth, really confident with the bike and I felt much better than yesterday. The changes, the guys made were really good. Unfortunately, going into turn 10 on lap two, I just felt a massive impact on my leg. Alex was trying to overtake me and just ran into my leg. I felt straight away that something was wrong and broken. I went back to the garage. It was really painful, but luckily now it’s a bit better. I am luckily able to fly back home tomorrow to get the job done with the doctors at home to be ready and fit for Assen. A huge thank you to my guys, we had bad luck again. But we saw improvements and we have to keep this in mind. Thanks to everyone again, also to Eugene for being here with me.”