From a resurgent Chaz Davies to an impressive Axel Bassani and more, the complexion is starting to change in the race for best Independent rider of the year
Whilst there’s an intense fight for the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the very front of the field, there’s also a big fight for Independent supremacy too, and that fight took a twist and turn at Magny-Cours. Leading it so far is Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), but a return to the top five for Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) has seen him come back into contention, whilst Axel Bassani’s (Motocorsa Racing) consistency sees him right behind Davies. All three enjoyed top ten finishes at Magny-Cours, with the tussle well-and-truly alive.
Showing his mettle and his resilience, Chaz Davies was back in the top ten on a more consistent basis in France, taking his first top five since Assen’s Race 2. The Welshman, who suffered a niggling injury at Misano, has been fighting to get back to full fitness ever since but finally seems to have got back on the pace. One point behind Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) who holds tenth in the standings and just 33 behind Independent standings leader Gerloff, there’s time for Davies to get back to the front yet, particularly at the circuit where he was a winner at in 2020.
Speaking in his media debrief on Sunday, Davies confirmed he felt better after getting over his injury: “I felt much better these last two weekends. To be honest, Navarra was a step and then here was another step. I'm 100% physically, but then I've got some catching up to do strength and fitness wise, which I think will hurt me a bit this weekend. Sometimes when you're carrying an injury, you can't do what you'd normally want to do, and I do have a routine how I prepare for races. I haven't done that for a few months.”
Meanwhile, further back in ninth place and not on the pace he showed on Friday, Garrett Gerloff was ninth after Race 2, having been 11th and 13th in Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole Race respectively. Commenting about his Sunday action, Gerloff said: “The Superpole Race was just too short for me to come through the field and unfortunately I couldn’t improve my starting position for the main event. In the afternoon’s long race though, we had a good set-up, and I was able to move forward a little bit, which was good. A big thank you to the team for all their hard work, I am looking forward to going to Barcelona.”
Behind Davies and Gerloff, it was Axel Bassani who also had a solid weekend. The youngest rider in WorldSBK at the age of just 22, he’s shown that he’s more than capable of adapting to World Superbike machinery, as he took a 12th top ten finish of the season, including eighth in Race 1, where he was second-best Independent, only to Davies.
Besides Bassani, points were scored for home heroes Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport – Yamaha) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) after an intense battle in Race 2 saw them achieve 12th and 13th respectively. Elsewhere, Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team), Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) and Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) all scored points.
Top six in the Independent Championship standings after Magny-Cours, full standings here:
1 Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 147
2. Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) 114
3. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) 100
4. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) 41
5. Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team) 38
6. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 32
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