Odendaal, De Rosa and Cluzel all had weekends to remember, for different reasons, but all came together in Race 2 in a thrilling battle to the line
The thrilling conclusion to Race 2 in the FIM Supersport World Championship at MotorLand Aragon between Steven Odendaal (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team), Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) was full of riders looking to bounce back or for redemption throughout the Pirelli Aragon Round.
South African rider Odendaal bounced back from a dislocated shoulder he sustained at the Supported Test held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after coming off his Yamaha YZF R6 at the Turn 1-2 chicane. He was able to take advantage of a Race 1 incident between Cluzel and Niki Tuuli (MV Agusta Corse Clienti) to claim victory on Saturday before holding his nerve and making the race-winning overtake at the final corner on the final lap on Sunday.
Looking back on Sunday’s epic battle, which also included Estonian Hannes Soomer (Kallio Racing), Odendaal said: “This 2021 season could not have started in a better way. The race was complicated, as the asphalt conditions were really difficult to interpret. In the beginning I was passed by riders on wet tyres, but I thought it was time to stay calm, and then maybe try to catch up later. In the end I took a few too many risks, but to win you have to do it, and it went really well. I have to thank the team, who wisely chose the intermediate tyres, with which I had never raced before, but I managed to get this fantastic success. Now we can think about the Estoril round, where I hope to get more important points to keep the leadership in the championship".
De Rosa made the switch to Orelac Racing VerdNatura for the 2021 campaign and it almost got off to the perfect start, with the Italian leading Race 2 right until the final corner, when Odendaal made his move at the last turn. It showed an impressive turnaround for De Rosa following his ninth place in Race 1, but that first win still alludes him. For De Rosa, it was a weekend where he bounced back following surgery over the winter.
The Italian said: “I am very happy with how the race went because for me it was a very difficult winter. I had an accident and an operation on my back. That is why I am very happy because I have suffered. The bike is not missing anything. The race had a difficult start due to the wet conditions on the track. I tried to pick up my rhythm and when I saw that it was possible to get to the top positions I pushed as much as I could. We have been very close to victory. We must continue working like this. José and Nacho, thank you very much. To the whole team, great job.”
Cluzel’s weekend could only be described as a rollercoaster: he took pole position after Saturday’s Tissot Superpole session and was battling with Tuuli in Race 1 when the pair collided at Turn 12; both riders coming off their bike as they went down the escape road on the exit of the left-hander. For Cluzel, it was the second time in two years he had been hit by an MV Agusta competitor, after a crash with De Rosa at Turn 1 in 2020.
After being due to start Race 2 from pole position, Cluzel found himself at the back of the grid after a tyre pressure infringement resulted in a sanction for the Frenchman. He didn’t let that spoil his day, got his head down and soon found himself fighting in the front four including a stint in the lead of the race. While he was unable to deny Odendaal victory on Sunday, he finished in third place after battling from the back.
Cluzel reflected on the up-and-down weekend, saying: “We had a constructive weekend. We didn’t score the expected points, but we were very competitive. I was also happy to feel good after yesterday’s incident. I had a great feeling throughout the weekend, with a great bike, but I regret that I didn’t get a win. I felt the power of my engine compared to my competitors until I was blocked behind one of them. Our rear suspension setup didn’t allow me to keep enough grip at the end of the race to get away. Despite this I know I was the best performer this weekend, and I’m looking forward to the next race.”
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