The Italian has grown in stature in the 2020 season and Loris Baz is eager to claim top Independent: it’s a battle to behold, but how will it all unfold?
Despite the long time away from the track, the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is proving to be as dramatic as the stunning first round. There’re stories up and down the track, as well as big dynamics to keep an eye on as the season unfolds. One of those battles is the duel for top Independent between Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), both of whom had contrasting weekends at Aragon, meaning they’re locked in combat for Independent supremacy.
With just 15 points separating them in the standings, Rinaldi has the upper hand over Baz for the time being. The Italian’s rich vein of form has shocked the WorldSBK paddock but he’s growing in stature with every lap turned on the bike. Jerez was no fluke it seems, as the full-length races have seen him in the top six ever since, whilst he’s been eighth in both the Tissot Superpole Races. In fact, in the last three rounds, he’s scored more points than Phillip Island Race 2 winner Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and is closing in on the Brit for sixth in the standings.
Speaking after his latest strong showing, Rinaldi said: “I am really happy, not for the position – fifth is great but yesterday, we did better. I am happy because we improved a lot from yesterday, especially the feeling with the bike. The next race will be faster, so we need to improve again; we still need to improve the bike but if we do that and improve some parts, then we will be able to fight for the podium.”
For Loris Baz, the MotorLand Aragon round was mixed. He was a race leader in the early stages and was also under the existing lap record in Tissot Superpole to go second and take a first front row in two years. However, the end results for Baz weren’t what he was looking for and he relinquished his slender one-point advantage over Rinaldi in the Independent race. Baz was seventh in Race 1 and ninth in the Tissot Superpole Race, whilst he crashed out of Race 2 for the third round in succession. He is now ninth in the overall standings and needs to work something special to get back on terms with the in-form Rinaldi.
Speaking post-round, Baz explained the weekend: “It was a difficult weekend, but we expected it. Having not tested here before the weekend, we knew we were going to struggle but maybe not as much. It is a tricky circuit and we could see that the Yamahas had more problems here. We really struggled with engine braking as the rear grip deteriorated after three laps. It’s frustrating, especially since we started from the front row and I got the holeshot twice. As soon as I started to lose grip, we started to experience many problems with corner entries. We need to work on the electronics, engine braking and the set-up of the bike. We have a few days to analyse this. We need to find a solution to get closer to the front!”
Whatever happens at the Pirelli Teruel Round, it promises to be exciting between the two. Ducati vs Yamaha, Italy vs France, Rinaldi vs Baz. Factory seats are available at both Ducati and Yamaha for 2021 and this will also be an added incentive. The next Independent rider in the chase is America’s Garrett Gerloff, but he is 36 points behind Baz, so for the time being, it looks like a two-horse race.
Watch all the racing action for the Pirelli Teruel Round with the WorldSBK VideoPass!