"It will be unpredictable… you never know at Magny-Cours" – who will a wet race suit?

Friday, 9 September 2022 15:39 GMT

Come rain or come shine, WorldSBK races promise drama – but what do some of the main contenders reckon ahead of one of the most unpredictable days of 2022 so far?

The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has returned to action for round seven at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in France but the weather, like is so often the case at this round, is a big talking points. We caught up with the riders to find out what they’d prefer in terms of track conditions, as well as breaking down recent wet weather races in order to see which conditions should suit which riders and manufacturers.

THE OPINIONS: riders share their view

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) would prefer a dry race, but he’s strong anyway: “I’d prefer to race in the dry with the sun shining because it’s good for the fans, but luckily for me, I’m good in any conditions. I’m not one of those riders who’s thinking “is it going to rain or isn’t it”, I’m pretty fast. I don’t enjoy it as much but whatever the conditions, I feel I can be quite strong. However, for everybody and for all of us, if the sun can be shining then better! It will be unpredictable, even if we don’t get many dry laps and the race is dry, it’s always a strange feeling, but I’ve got a lot of experience here and I like this track. You never know in Magny-Cours; if I think of the last eight years I’ve been coming here, then you usually get some wet or some dry conditions.

Teammate Jonathan Rea admitted it could be the “flip of a coin” but is ready regardless: “It’s going to be a strange day tomorrow because nobody has done any testing in the dry, so it’s going to be a flip of a coin, especially with the tyre allocation being so deep. It’s the same for everyone but of course, I feel optimistic because generally, our bike works in quite a big operating window. We can get down to business quite fast but then it’s hard to improve. We just need that dry rhythm, like all riders, so let’s hope FP3 is dry for everyone! There’s nothing worse than being wet all weekend and then putting soft tyres in for a time attack in Superpole, as anything can happen!”

Not known for his wet weather prowess, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) is keen to avoid fully wet races: “This morning, I felt much better in the wet conditions but in the afternoon, we tried a new setup but without improving the feeling. We saw a problem in the data. Saturday morning looks like it will rain but we will see; anyway, it’s good to train in the wet because everyday, I’m learning and improving my riding in these conditions. I prefer mixed races or dry races, but tomorrow we’ll see.”

Championship leader Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) hasn’t had a wet race in 2022, how does he feel? “It’s not easy but here at Magny-Cours, you have to wait until you go to the track! Until the last moments, you have to be prepared for all kinds of conditions. With Friday being wet, if tomorrow is dry, we have to be more precise in our work. Basically, with Ducati here, I have only done a couple of dry practices – I remember in 2019 that in Race 1 and the Superpole, that was it before Sunday. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, but the important thing is to be prepared for all conditions!”

One rider who always shines when the sun doesn’t is Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing); is he in contention for a win if it rains: It’s only Friday we are in the top three in wet conditions, but also I think in dry conditions we have the possibility to do a good job. We will see tomorrow. The weather here in Magny-Cours is not easy to understand. For me, it’s the same. I’m ready for everything.”

STATS: who SHOULD a wet race suit?

Looking at the wet weather races of 2021, some familiar names were at the front of them. Despite relinquishing his crown, Jonathan Rea capped off the season with a double at Mandalika in Indonesia, of which Race 2 was soaking wet, whilst he was also a race leader in the wet weather of Barcelona’s Race 1, before finishing fourth. He was also a race winner at Donington Park in the Tissot Superpole Race on the intermediates, whilst he was second in MotorLand Aragon in Race 2 at the start of last year. Two wet wins at Magny-Cours came in 2019 too, as well as at Misano in Race 1. There’s also Rea’s teammate, Alex Lowes, who took two wet podiums at Magny-Cours in 2020, and who is likewise strong in the rain.

However, there’s then Axel Bassani, who has always looked strong in wet conditions; in the fight for victory until a collision with Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in Race 2 at Mandalika last year, Bassani was also a race leader until the closing laps in Barcelona’s Race 1, where he took his first and so far only WorldSBK podium. With three Ducatis inside the top five after FP2 at Magny-Cours, perhaps the Ducati package, including factory riders Alvaro Bautista and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi, could be the one to be on.

On the contrary, someone who is less likely to be as prominent as he would be in the dry conditions is Toprak Razgatlioglu, with the Turkish rider never having won a wet WorldSBK race. That said, he was a race leader before an electrical problem struck in Barcelona last year. He says he’d not mind mixed conditions and there’s good reason to believe it, as he was in the fight in the mixed conditions of Mandalika Race 1, where he claimed the title, as well as when he stormed to a famous win at Donington Park in Race 1, leading on Lap 2 from 13th on the grid. However, teammate Andrea Locatelli isn’t one for wet weather either, never having shown strongly. In contrast, Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) and teammate Kohta Nozane do enjoy wet weather, with Gerloff always a force, whilst Nozane was top Yamaha in the wet of Barcelona last year in Race 1.

The saying that “rain is a great leveller” may well be ringing true and it could well bring the likes of BMW and Honda into contention. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) had his two WorldSBK wins come in iffy weather, whilst he took two podiums at Magny-Cours in the wet in 2020. Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was a race winner at Magny-Cours in 2020 in the wet for Ducati, whilst he’s always in contention for podiums when the rain spots start falling, such as at Most this year. Returning teammate Michael van der Mark is another rider who features well in the wet, having won at Portimao last year in the Tissot Superpole Race. For Team HRC, it’s slightly less certain or predictable, with both of their riders – Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge – entering a voyage of discovery.

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