The 25-year-old Texan completed his replacement duties for Franco Morbidelli in MotoGP™ at Assen with a solid performance
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship may return to action next weekend after a couple of weekends off, but Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) has enjoyed plenty of World Championship action. The American substituted for an injured Franco Morbidelli in the MotoGP™ class at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands to make his full-weekend MotoGP™ debut in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team. After a strong weekend where Gerloff was strong throughout, he finished 17th.
It was a steep learning curve for Gerloff, as the 25-year-old made a debut at the TT Circuit Assen, a track he’d never visited before, on slick Michelin tyres that he’d never used, on a version of the Yamaha YZR-M1 that was also unfamiliar to him. In all, given everything he had to get his head around and everything he had to gel with – including the Petronas Yamaha SRT outfit – he far from disgraced himself and was heralded up and down pitlane.
On Friday, FP1 saw him crash hard but was up and OK after he finished in 22nd and 2.8s back, whilst he was 2.5s off in FP2, which also featured a rain shower. On Saturday morning in FP3, he was 1.9s off and in FP4, it was 1.9s again. Going through Q1, he was just under 1.2s off the pace that would’ve seen him go through into Q2 and was eventually 1.9s off pole and less than two tenths behind the rider directly ahead of him on the grid, Brad Binder, a race winner at Brno in 2020.
Heading into Sunday, Gerloff – sixth in the WorldSBK Championship standings – he was 1.5s off top spot and was 18th, the highest place he’d featured in all weekend when all riders were on track. As the race got underway, he had a strong showing once again, as he battled with teammate Valentino Rossi at the start, before getting ahead of Luca Marini and running strongly in 17th and gapping Marini behind him. Come the chequered flag, Gerloff took 17th in his MotoGP™ debut, whilst his fellow Yamaha riders Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales took a 1-2 for the factory Yamaha team.
Reviewing his performance, Gerloff hailed it ‘fun’ whilst also being left slightly disheartened: “It was a little bit difficult for sure, just trying to remember the whole start procedure with two holeshot buttons, you have to make sure you hit the button; then, to go into the first corner with the carbon brakes and not know how they will perform when they’re a little bit colder. It was definitely a lot to think about but to be honest, I’m a little disappointed with how far back I was, I was just expecting a little bit more but the feeling with the bike isn’t so bad; it was difficult to flow with it for the whole 26 laps. I finished, so I’m happy with that and again, I have to thank the Petronas Yamaha SRT team for letting me ride the bike, and of course I hope Franco gets well soon.”
Talking about the race, Gerloff stated: “It was nice at the beginning, I was able to be with Luca Marini a bit and I was hoping I could’ve passed him a little bit sooner because Valentino and some other guys were right there in front of him and I felt like I could’ve latched onto them. I tried a couple of guys to pass him but I ran off into the gravel at the last chicane because I couldn’t get my bike stopped. Once I was able to pass him, it was nice to be able to open up a gap and it was fun!”
Now, the American heads back to WorldSBK, something he’s excited about: “Going back to the R1 is going to feel like going back home, so I don’t see that being difficult at all! I’m glad to get the experience with the MotoGP™ bike and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot, about how to ride the bike and approach the corners, so that was nice. Going to Donington Park, it will be the third new track I’ve had to learn so my brain is going to be fried!”
Watch Gerloff in action once again at Donington Park in World Superbike with the WorldSBK VideoPass!