From Kyle Smith’s first podium of the season to Oli Bayliss cracking the top six and more…
The 2022 FIM Supersport World Championship has made an emphatic return to action as the new look to the class continues to take shape. The Estoril Round in Portugal gave some of the best racing, with Race 2 in particular being one of the most unpredictable due to constant light rain, although it was never hard enough to come in and change tyres. The race was a thriller, but despite the rain, plenty of riders had their best results in the class whilst others made a breakthrough in the 2022 season, as the battle at the front of the field was intense from the start.
SMITH SHINES IN THE DRIZZLE: a first podium for VFT Racing in WorldSSP
First, starting with a surprisingly unsurprising podium – given the conditions – Kyle Smith came from P17 on the grid to come all the way up into the battle for victory. By the time he had got to the group, Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) had already broken clear for his fifth straight victory of the season, but the ex-WorldSSP race winner was in the podium places by Lap 15. He made his move for second on Lorenzo Baldassarri (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) on Lap 16, giving himself and VFT Racing a first podium in the class.
“I’m very happy with this second place, for me and the team,” began an elated Smith. “Winning would have been even better of course, and I tried right to the end, but the winner had a little more in the final stages. I got on very well with this damp track conditions and had great pace. I want to thank the whole team as we’ve worked really well together. I also want to thank all our sponsors and supporters.”
MONTELLA MAKES GAINS: P4 for the rookie
Another rider who took his best WorldSSP finish to-date and the one who clinched top Kawasaki honours in Race 2, Yari Montella (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was making incremental steps forward. The Italian, a rookie in the class this year, dropped as low as tenth on Lap 12 but by the penultimate lap, was looking at a first podium. Lorenzo Baldassarri denied his fellow countryman, although Montella still tried riding around the outside of the #7 at Turn 13 on the final lap. He couldn’t beat the Yamaha rider but fourth is still a best result of the season for the 22-year-old.
Speaking after the race, Montella was delighted with his season’s best finish, having achieved it in Race 1 the day before with sixth before improving on Sunday: “I’m really pleased with fourth place today. I did all I could to reach the podium in the final stages, but I just missed out on it. This result reflects all the hard work I’m doing with the team and, with their help, I’m adapting to the bike and learning to exploit its full potential. Now we have to look ahead and prepare for my home round of Misano.”
‘BAYLISSTIC’ IS BACK: Oli Bayliss takes stunning top six
Next up for a best result was one of the highlights of the race, Oli Bayliss (BARNI Spark Racing Team), who has now scored points in his last four WorldSSP races. The Australian was majestic in the middle part of the race and starting from a career-best 15th on the grid, he was 13th by the end of Lap 1. Come the end of Lap 10, Bayliss had blasted his way through the field and took advantage of his rival’s precariousness to cross the line in fifth, and he didn’t stop there. On Lap 13, he was briefly third before dropping back to sixth come the end of the race. It was Australia’s first top ten since Anthony West at Misano in 2018, whilst he is just one three riders to have scored points in the last four races – the others are Aegerter who’s scored in all and Montella, who’s scored in the last five.
Speaking about his first top six in just his sixth World Championship race, Bayliss said: “I’m very happy with the weekend. We were good from Friday to find the right set-up for the bike and the Superpole helped us to start in the middle of the group. On Saturday, we finished in P12, and I knew I could fight for the top ten. Today I had an even better start than in Race 1 and this allowed me to push hard following the group of faster riders, to be in with a chance of the top five. I want to thank the team for their great work, and I dedicate this great result to them.”
HUERTAS LEADS THE REST: plenty of personal bests
Reigning WorldSSP300 Champion Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) had a difficult weekend from a technical point of view, as he had to take to the Circuito Estoril not only without any previous experience of a WorldSSP bike there, but also with a technical issue in the data logging system. Therefore, Huertas’ super strong and personal best finish of seventh is something of a sensational result, whilst it marked back-to-back top ten finishes, as he took what was a previous personal best of eighth in Race 1 too.
Aside from Huertas, there were more riders who really blossomed at the historic Portuguese venue. Australian rider Tom Edwards (YART – Yamaha WorldSSP) also took a first top ten of his career with ninth in Race 2, making it two Australians inside the top ten for the first time since Phillip Island 2017, when Anthony West was third and Aidan Wagner took seventh. Ondrej Vostatek (MS Racing Yamaha WorldSSP) was in great form all weekend and looks to have found a turn of speed, with a double top ten. He’s the first Czech rider to take back-to-back top ten finishes in WorldSSP since Ondrej Jezek at Assen and Imola in 2016, when he ninth and sixth. The Altogo Racing outfit returned to action at Estoril with Luca Ottaviani, who took a solid 11th in Race 2. Finally, Ben Currie’s (Motozoo Racing by Puccetti) long-awaited WorldSSP debut saw him bounce back from awful injuries in the preseason to take 15th and a point in Race 2’s tricky conditions.
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