Improvements to the base set-up of the bike and looking strong in the higher temperatures, Michael Ruben Rinaldi can’t be discounted ahead of the race
As the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s ninth round springs into life at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, there was one rider with a spring in his step after day one. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) had a good opening day from the Hyundai N Catalunya Round, placing third come the close of business. With him being the top Ducati rider and the nearest challenger to Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Rinaldi may well be a revelation in Barcelona.
A strong Friday afternoon session followed on from him already placing as top Ducati on Friday morning. Rinaldi’s race pace looked strong in the hotter, greasier afternoon temperatures, with him able to do short runs in the 1’42 and 1’43s, but nothing more than seven laps, where all of them were 1’43s. Slotting into third come the close of business, Rinaldi was just a tad over two tenths adrift of Razgatlioglu at the top.
Stating how he found a breakthrough in base set-up, Rinaldi said: “For sure, I am quite happy about the work done today. We tried many things on the bike and sincerely, we found a better base set-up. The feeling wasn’t perfect, but I think it is the same for everybody because the temperature was up, and the grip wasn’t so good. I’m third on Friday, so I’m happy about that. This track is really demanding for the tyre as it has long corners with a lot of angle, so for sure the softer tyre is better but nobody knows if it will get to the end. It will be a key choice for the race.”
Rinaldi’s 2020 Catalunya was a mixed bag, as he showed phenomenal strength in the two full races but his option to run with the SCX tyre in Race 1 backfired, as he dropped like a stone in the closing stages to seventh. He was sixth in the Tissot Superpole Race before a mechanical problem took him out of Race 2 contention after leading briefly at the start.
Citing last year and commenting on the new Turn 10, he continued: “It’s always important, but last year, I used a different bike compared to this year, so I need to adapt again, and I’ve also improved my riding style. For sure, the second race here can be better, but we have a different corner at Turn 10, so we can’t really compare times with last year. It’s an overtaking hotspot but it is also easy to make a mistake. It will be hard to pass here in Barcelona, especially with these conditions.”
Can Rinaldi be in the fight for victory? Find out with lights out in Race 1 at 15:15 local time (GMT+2) with the WorldSBK VideoPass!