Writing the headlines on the track and growing in stature and confidence with his team, Garrett Gerloff became the 70th different polesitter in World Superbike
In what was a spectacular Tissot Superpole session for the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the Pirelli French Round, the times tumbled and the lap record challenged. Come the close of the action in what was a very warm Magny-Cours, Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) took a phenomenal pole position, the first American pole in 12 years and the first BMW pole since 2021.
STORY OF SUPERPOLE: one rider bursts through into contention when it matters
Getting straight down to business with the first riders out being Gerloff and home-hero teammate Loris Baz, the track was laced without activity and stories throughout right from the off. Whilst Gerloff went quicker than he had done at any point during the weekend, it was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who fired in a mighty 1’35.970, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) who found big gains, whilst Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was also right there. After the first stint, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) had also popped up onto the front row provisionally. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who had a first lap cancelled for yellow flags due to a crash for Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), made it up to P4, whereas title rival Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was only eighth.
With five minutes left on the clock, Garrett Gerloff was flying and the American was a mighty three tenths up on Rea’s time, who set a new lap record at Magny-Cours with a 1’35.453. Half a second quicker than anyone else, Rea was his nearest competitor but he had traffic in the shape of his teammate on one of his flying laps, as well as a plethora of other riders. Elsewhere, a crash for Scott Redding at Turn 8 wasn’t what he needed. Up at the front, reigning World Champion Bautista was up into P2, ahead of Razgatlioglu in P3.
SUPERPOLE SENSATION: Gerloff on pole at Magny-Cours
As the chequered flag came out, Gerloff’s mighty lap time wasn’t able to be beaten neither matched, and he took a career-first pole position, the first American pole in WorldSBK since John Hopkins aboard a Suzuki at in 2011 at Silverstone. With good pace right the way through the weekend, especially when temperatures come up, the Texan is right in podium contention. Bautista secured second and it was his teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi who made it two Ducatis on the front row.
RAZGATLIOGLU IN P4: work to do from row two
Heading up the second row, Toprak Razgatlioglu will have to fight Championship leader Bautista from behind, and with a short run to Turn 1 followed by a long straight, hard braking will be needed to get his elbows out. Jonathan Rea was off the front row in Superpole at Magny-Cours for the first time since 2013. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) made it two BMWs inside the top six, and both Independent too, taking P6 in front of a massive home crowd.
THIRD ROW: Locatelli in P7, three BMWs inside the top ten
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) secured P7 and the front of the third row, whilst Alex Lowes was in eighth place and will hope he can fight for a podium at a track he usually goes well at. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was a solid ninth on his return to the French circuit, whilst Scott Redding recovered from his tumble to make it three BMWs inside the top ten with P10. It is the first time that has happened since Brno 2012, although no BMW featured on the front row that day.
BIG NAMES NEED TO CLIMB: Lecuona a headline on the fifth row
From the middle of the fourth row and fighting for his WorldSBK future, Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) was 11th, ahead of Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who had a very quiet session. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was 13th, ahead of top Honda Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), in another difficult session for the Japanese manufacturer. Remy Gardner, after a crash, completed the fifth row in P15.
Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) heads row six from P16, ahead of Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team), Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), a disconsolate Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) who was only 19th, and Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) who completed the top 20. Hannes Soomer (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), teammate Hafizh Syahrin, Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) round out the order.
UPDATE: Andrea Locatelli, Xavi Vierge, Brad Ray and Lorenzo Baldassarri have been given a three-place grid penalty for Race 1 due to riding slowly on the racing line during Superpole.
Top six after WorldSBK Superpole, full results here:
1. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) 1’35.453s
2. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.059s
3. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.367s
4. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.415s
5. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.506s
6. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.551s