Level on points heading to Magny-Cours, the top two in the Championship are set for another showdown…
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is into the second half of the year and heads to the iconic Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours for round eight and the Motul French Round. Usually, there’s a Championship on the line but not this time and in fact, the title race couldn’t be any different. It’s all square between Championship leader Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), as both have 311 points each – Toprak leading the standings by virtue of more full-length race wins (5 vs 4). However, with Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) making big gains in the last two rounds, it’s a three-horse race.
For the first time in WorldSBK history after 21 races, the top two in the Championship are level on points and we’re heading to a track that Razgatlioglu relishes. He took his first ever win at Magny-Cours back in 2014 in the STK600 class, of which he’d be Champion in 2015. Then, he took a first STK1000 podium there in 2016 with second, before in 2019, his first WorldSBK win in a final lap shoot-out with Jonathan Rea came from 16th on the grid. He doubled up in the Superpole Race but with it being wet in 2020, he’s yet to show his strengths at the track on a Yamaha. Teammate Andrea Locatelli hopes be back on the podium, having established himself as a solid front-runner. He took a WorldSSP win at Magny-Cours in 2020, can he convert that into strong pace in WorldSBK though?
However, if Toprak’s ready for the challenge then so is his title rival Jonathan Rea – he’s won eight races at Magny-Cours, all of them for Kawasaki and apart from 2016, it has been every year. Add on to that the fact he’s been on the podium in all but three races at Magny-Cours on a Kawasaki (Race 2, 2017), then you’d be hard-pushed to find someone with a better track record. However, Rea’s coming into France on the backfoot, having relinquished his Championship lead and, in the last six races, handed 37 points to Razgatlioglu. Both enjoy the track and have already had final lap battles there before. Rea’s teammate Alex Lowes aims to fight for the podium despite a persistent injury, but he was on the podium twice at Magny-Cours for Kawasaki in 2020, so the pace is there.
Edging closer with each round is Scott Redding, as the Ducati star is now 38 points behind the top two in the title race, having been 81 back just six races ago. Redding’s been in top form lately; seven straight podiums and all of them within the top two positions. It’s a devastating run of form which neither Razgatlioglu nor Rea have matched so far this year. Redding’s in the best form of his career and with a win at Magny-Cours in 2020 to keep his title hopes alive, he’s one of the favourites. In stark contrast, teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi had a subdued weekend at Navarra where he took 15 points, but a return to the top six will be welcome at Magny-Cours, as he did in 2020.
5 key stats ahead of the Motul French Round
Leon Haslam will become the 5th rider in history with 300 starts in Magny Cours. This is the all-time list: Troy Corser (377), Tom Sykes (341), Jonathan Rea (325), Noriyuki Haga (313).
With one podium before the end of the season, Toprak Razgatlioglu will break the season tally for a Yamaha rider. Currently he shares top spot with Ben Spies (17 podiums in 2009). Toprak achieved his 17 podiums in 21 races, whilst Spies took 27 races.
Toprak Razgatlioglu is on a streak of 6 podiums, his second best after the 7 he nailed this year at Estoril, Misano and Donington Race 1. In the last 18 races run, the Turkish rider missed out on a podium finish only in the Donington Superpole Race, when he was 6th and in Assen Race 2 when he crashed after a Turn 1, Lap 1 collision with Garrett Gerloff.
We have five Magny-Cours winners in the current field: Jonathan Rea (8), Tom Sykes (3), Chaz Davies (3), Toprak Razgatlioglu (2), Scott Redding (1).
For the fifth time in history, there is a zero-point gap between the first two riders at the top of the standings. Previously it had never happened past the 7th race of the season.
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