Three-times third, three-times runner-up: 20 wins and 53 podiums but the quest for the elusive first title remains for Cluzel…
In 2021, Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) goes into his ninth season of FIM Supersport World Championship action and after three runner-up placings and three bronze-medalist positions, the 32-year-old Frenchman is chasing that elusive first Championship. With 20 race wins and 53 podiums, he’s the most decorated rider in the class without a title to his name, but can 2021 be his year?
After taking six second-place finishes and seven podiums in the opening eight races before his leg injury at the Teruel Round, Cluzel’s consistency saw him a clear ‘best of the rest’ behind Andrea Locatelli, who dominated the 2020 Championship. Despite Cluzel not able to stand on the top step of the rostrum in a season for just the second time in his WorldSSP career, he is looking at bouncing back in fine style for 2021.
Talking about the challenge that awaits and the team he remains with, Cluzel said: “The is only the second time in my career that I’ve been with a team this long. I’m really happy to be back again, it’s like my second family now. We know each other really well and it’s always good to be working alongside people who really understand you. I can’t wait to start this work again for 2021.
“I think 2020 was a good year for me in terms of pace. In 2018, I also had a strong season on the Yamaha R6 and I just missed out on the title due to bad luck. For sure, if you compare 2019 to 2020, I was much better, more consistent and made no mistakes really. The only time that I wasn’t in the top three was when I pushed even harder than before to beat Locatelli in Portugal.”
Andrea Locatelli came to the World Supersport Championship as a rookie and was by far and away the rider to beat, taking an astonishing 12 wins from 15 races, as well as every pole position and fastest lap until Catalunya’s Race 1. Despite missing out on victory, Cluzel still finished fourth overall after a broken leg and is once again widely tipped as a Championship contender in the year ahead.
However, he has a new teammate: 2019 title rival Federico Caricasulo joins him and Cluzel is relishing the arrival of ‘Carica’, saying: “I was pushing for someone like Federico inside the team for this year. It’s always really good to have someone alongside you who can help push the team and my personal performances even higher. The experience and consistency with engines will be key for us going forwards. To get Federico embedded into the team and to have some strong data is something very important.”
With the optimism comes trepidation and whilst he is still recovering from the broken leg, Cluzel is playing down his chances and the ‘favourite’ tag: “It’s always difficult to win and for sure 2021 will be hard as well, with a lot of good names on the starting list,” said Cluzel. “I don’t want to focus too much on specific goals, because a lot can change, but I will just push as hard as I can and concentrate on the season as a whole.
“I’m working hard to be fit, the good thing for me is that there’s still a lot of time left before the first race. I’ve also taken time to relax and get some energy this winter. I think the mistake I made in 2020 was to train too hard during the lockdowns, and when it came to July/August I was mentally and physically quite tired. The training is gradually getting more intense now, but I know that there’s a long season ahead and I’ll need to conserve my energy as much as possible.”
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