Yamaha R3 Challenge bLU cRU riders, Galang Hendra Pratama and Andy Verdoïa, put in two stand out performances at the Jerez WorldSSP300 round, which for the first time featured two races. It was Verdoïa who led the way in the Yamaha R3 challenge in Race 1 on Saturday, crossing the line in fifth place and just one-tenth ahead of his bLU cRU teammate, Galang Hendra, in sixth. In Race 2 on Sunday Galang Hendra struck back, battling at the front throughout the race before eventually finishing fourth, but only after a photo finish showed that reigning champion, Ana Carrasco, had beaten him to the final podium place by the width of a tyre!
With the cancellation of the WorldSSP race in Imola due to adverse weather conditions, the six Yamaha R3 Challenge bLU cRU riders faced two races in Jerez, which made for a packed schedule and not a little pressure.
All six riders worked hard during free practice to master the 4.424km Jerez circuit, with its combination of tight, technical corners and fast, sweeping curves that placed high demands on both bike and rider. It was work that paid off in Superpole, with Galang Hendra securing a front row start for both races by qualifying in an impressive third place. Verdoïa, who was still feeling the effects of a heavy crash in free practice, qualified in sixth position on the second row, with both Beatriz Neila and Jacopo Facco also securing an automatic start by qualifying inside the top 30, in 23rd and 24th place respectively.
Superpole proved more problematical for Kevin Sabatucci and Finn de Bruin, who qualified 34th and 42nd and were forced to battle for the final six grid positions in Saturday afternoon’s Last Chance Race. Fifth place was enough to secure Sabatucci a start in both WorldSSP300 races, but de Bruin was unfortunate to crash on the debris deposited by a rider crashing out in front of him and did not finish.
A heavy crash during free practice on Friday meant it was a battered and bruised Verdoïa who lined up second on the grid for Race 1 on Saturday. But the French youngster didn’t let the effects of the crash slow his pace and battled at the front for the whole of the 11-lap race, eventually claiming fifth place at the line, just ahead of his bLU cRU teammate, Galang Hendra, in sixth. Neila and Sabatucci picked up valuable experience by completing the 11-lap race, which they finished one behind the other in 21st and 22nd places respectively. It proved a tough outing for Facco, however, as he crashed uninjured at turn four on the penultimate lap.
Race 2 on Sunday was red flagged on the opening lap due to incidents in turns one and two in which four riders crashed. The race was restarted over just seven laps and Galang Hendra took maximum advantage of his front row start to get away with the leading group, where he was joined by Verdoïa, who’d once again started from the second row. The French youngster’s challenge didn’t last long, however, as he crashed after contact with another rider in the final corner two laps into the race. Verdoïa showed remarkable presence of mind, holding the clutch in as he slid through the gravel, which meant he was able to immediately rejoin the race, which he eventually finished in 27th position.
At the front Galang Hendra was involved in a five-way battle for the race win, that was only resolved on the run from the final corner to the chequered flag. With the inside line blocked, the young Indonesian ran a wide line through the final turn to exit in third position, but was out dragged to the line by Carrasco, who was awarded the final place on the podium after a photo finish. Galang Hendra, who thought he’d clinched third on the line, was disappointed to learn he’d missed out on the podium by the narrowest of margins.
The next bLU cRU rider to take the chequered flag was Neila, who secured her first ever World Championship points in 13th place, before going on to keep the big crowd entertained with a starring role in the popular WorldSBK Paddock Show.
Facco and Sabatucci were disappointed to finish outside the points, in 20th and 21st position respectively, but both picked up more valuable World Championship experience and departed Jerez determined to improve next time out.
The Yamaha R3 Challenge bLU cRU riders will return to action in just over a week’s time at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, the venue for Round 5 of the FIM Supersport 200 World Championship.
Galang Hendra Pratama
Semakin Di Depan Biblion MotoXRacing Yamaha – Race 1 P6 / Race 2 P4
“The Jerez weekend was a good one from the start. Already in free practice I had a good rhythm and we had found a good setting for the bike too, which meant that in Superpole I had the pace to qualify on the front row. In Race 1 I tried to push from the beginning but then I made a mistake by being in the wrong position on the last lap, but I was satisfied with sixth in what was a very close race. In Race 2, big drama! I pushed hard from the start because the stoppage meant we were racing over just seven laps rather than full race distance. I managed to jump across from the second group to the front group but, in the last lap, I closed the gas too early, because I thought it was the first and not the second line that was the finish, and was narrowly beaten in the battle for the podium. A lesson learnt and one not to be repeated. It was my mistake and I’m so sorry for the team and everyone who supports me, as I know they were disappointed to miss out on a podium finish. I will be out to make amends in Misano, which is our home track and one where we will have a lot of support.”
BCD Yamaha MS Racing – Race 1 P5 / Race 2 P27
“Overall the Jerez weekend was a positive one for me. On Thursday we had some fun during the bLU cRU photo shoot before getting down to business on Friday. Free practice was going well until I had a big crash, which left me a bit bruised and stiff. On Saturday we did a really good job with the team and I improved my pace a lot, which allowed me to qualify on the second row in Superpole. The first race was really nice, with a big battle at the front, and I was happy to finish top five. Sunday started well, with a good warm-up session, followed by a strong start to Race 2. Unfortunately, I made contact with another rider in the final turn and crashed. I managed to restart because, for me, it is important never to give up and to finish every race you start if possible. I made it to the finish line and, although the position wasn’t what we were expecting, it’s more experience in the bank.”
BCD Yamaha MS Racing – Race 1 P21 / Race 2 P13
“I’m really happy with Jerez, as I scored my first World Championship points in Race 2 on Sunday. It wasn’t easy, because I qualified only in 22nd position, so this is something we need to focus on in the next races. My grid position meant both races were spent trying to work my way through the field and into the points. I didn’t quite manage it in Race 1, which I finished in 21st position, but that just made me more determined for Race 2, where I was able to fight my way through to finish 13th at the line and pick up my first points. Now I will continue training to be ready for the next race in Misano, where I will be pushing hard for more points. Thank you to the team and to everyone who came to support me this weekend.”
Team Trasimeno Yamaha – Race 1 P22 / Race 2 P21
“Jerez proved another difficult weekend. It’s a track I know only from the PlayStation but, I have to say, the place and the circuit are beautiful. The weather was also very good, for once. I qualified for the race in Imola but, of course, that was cancelled, so I had to do it all again in Jerez. I missed out in Superpole, but fifth place in the Last Chance Race meant I lined up on the grid for my first full race on Saturday. The races didn’t go as I was hoping. Starting from 35th position on the grid was always going to make things a little difficult, but I was expecting better than 22nd in Race 1 and 21st in Race 2. I suffered a lot with a lack of outright speed, which is bit of a problem at a fast track like Jerez and one that cost me a lot of time in both races. I hope we can find a solution ahead of my home race in Misano, because I’m confident we can get a good result there.”
Semakin Di Depan Biblion MotoXRacing Yamaha – Race 1 DNF/Race 2 P20
“Overall, it was a difficult weekend in Jerez. We qualified directly for the two races in Superpole, but the races didn’t go the way we’d hoped for, mainly because of a bad fall in the first race on Saturday. Despite this we remain positive and I’m happy that we will be back in action after only a short break in Misano, where I hope we can make a strong race in front of my home crowd.”
Finn de Bruin
Team Trasimeno Yamaha – DNS
“The weekend started in a positive fashion for me and I had a good feeling with the bike in free practice. I knew I’d learned a lot at the VR46 Master Camp and I was looking forward to applying these lessons in Jerez. Unfortunately, I had a really bad Superpole, actually going slower than in the final free practice, which meant I had to chase a start in the Last Chance Race. I was going well until someone crashed in front of me and I lost the front because of oil or debris on the track. So, another weekend that wasn’t the best, but we can take away some positives; my riding has improved and I was closer to the guys in front. Now we need to focus on improving my qualifying performance, to ensure we secure a grid slot without having to take our chances in the Last Chance Race.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Supervisor
“Overall, this exciting two-race weekend in Jerez was great for all the bLU cRUsquad, with five of them making it through to the main events and only Finn missing out due to bad luck in the Last Chance Race on Saturday. We will be working closely with Finn to improve his skills, as our goal is to have all six riders battling for points in the WorldSSP300 races. This weekend saw Beatriz score her first World Championship points in Race 2 on Sunday, showing the “matadora” skills in the race that are something of a family tradition. We will also continue working hard to support all the Yamaha teams to identify the best set-up for their R3 GYTR race bikes, as they strive to achieve success in one of the most closely contested race categories. Many thanks to our technical partners for their continued support and effort. Now we look forward to the next race in Misano with some confidence. We are ready!”