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BMW Motorrad Motorsport

San Juan, Argentina, 14/10/2019, FIM Superbike World Championship

Tango Argentina

Penultimate round of the WorldSBK season at San Juan

Racing at the foot of the Andes: the ‘Circuito San Juan Villicum’ in Argentina hosted the twelfth and penultimate round of the 2019 season in the FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK). For the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team and riders, Tom Sykes and Markus Reiterberger, it hasn’t been an easy weekend.

This, however, went for everyone in the WorldSBK paddock. Teams and riders have been struggling with the slippery surface caused by sand on the Argentinian track. It was an issue for Friday’s free practice sessions and continued on Saturday. Only on Sunday, with significantly cooler weather, the track conditions improved.

The race action

In Saturday’s Superpole qualifying, most riders were unable to take advantage of the softer qualifying tyres to improve their times in the closing stages of the session. The same went for Sykes who finished qualifying in 13th position. Reiterberger was 17th. In the first race itself, Sykes and Reiterberger were among a total of twelve riders who lined up on the grid while a further six riders opted to not participate. After 21 laps, Sykes took the chequered flag in seventh position, with Reiterberger in eleventh position.

Sykes then started the Superpole Race on Sunday afternoon from 13th on the grid. He moved up into eighth place right after the start. He lost one place, but crossed the finish line in ninth place after a hotly contested race, which saw him secure a start position on the third row of the grid for the second main race. Reiterberger finished in 17th place in the Superpole race, which was his start position for the afternoon race.

The hopes of Sykes moving up the field from ninth on the grid came to nothing. He initially dropped down the field slightly, before he was forced to park his motorcycle at the edge of the track on the seventh lap due to a technical issue. Reiterberger was embroiled in several duels at the rear of the field and in 16th place missed out on finishing in the points by just 0.1 seconds.

The finale of the 2019 WorldSBK season will be held in two weeks’ time, in Qatar from 24th to 26th October.

Quotes after the races at San Juan

Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director:
“In general, a seventh place in the first race was not too bad, but it was a result that should not be classified as such as quite a few riders did not participate. While probably only two of them would have been in front of us, the issue is that we lost 1.5 seconds per lap to the front. The track conditions were very, very tricky but it seems that other teams have found a solution to better cope with that. We were not able to do the same. Unfortunately, we retired from Sunday’s main race as a result of a technical issue with the clutch. However, we have to be realistic and say that we were never going to get a good result. We just didn’t understand why we were so far behind and what we needed to do to remedy the issue. We didn’t have consistent track conditions to enable us to find a solution. The track was catastrophic on the first day, okay Saturday morning, then extremely hot in the afternoon, and Sunday morning it was back to being acceptable – these conditions meant that the lap times varied drastically. As a result, we were unable to gradually draw the necessary conclusions as to which direction we needed to take. We will now take the data we collected back with us, and will analyse why we weren’t as competitive as we had hoped this weekend.”

Shaun Muir, Team Principal BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team:
“Superpole was very difficult for us. We went into the Superpole like most riders with the first exit trying to find a good balance of the bike. Then we put the qualifying tyre on but did not make any progress. Tom normally does a very good step with the qualifying tyre and this time we could not improve the position. In the first race, again we went a bit into the dark with a setting we wanted to try on the bike to give him some more mechanical grip. This appeared to make some progress forward but it was a very long race and the conditions were difficult so we are happy to come home with the seventh position. Sunday was probably one of our most difficult days of the season. On paper, the Superpole race was not so bad for Tom. At least he managed to get on the third row for the start of the second main race, but with this new model of bike we don’t have any data to work with, so everything is new for us. With every setting we try, we are chasing the perfect set-up. All we can do is take all this data with us and when we come back here again, we will have a better position to start with. So it’s been really difficult for us, but we must take the positives and build on this. Markus has also really struggled and didn’t find a comfortable setting, but we just have to close the book on this event and re-energise as we get ready for Qatar, where hopefully we can start on the front foot.”

Tom Sykes:
“Obviously we had really strange conditions this weekend, which was a shame. Here in Argentina, the circuit layout is absolutely fantastic, the fans are so passionate for the racing and unfortunately we have these bad conditions. We sat down and tried to get the best set-up for the BMW S 1000 RR. Honestly to finish seventh in race one we had some good luck. It’s been a difficult weekend. We made some improvements on the greasy track condition and I honestly felt we had a consistent race pace during that last race, but we ran into difficulty with the bike which meant we had to retire. Overall, it’s been a challenging weekend for the whole BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team, but like I said it wasn’t the easiest of track conditions; however, given the circumstances I feel we gathered some very valuable information for the future. We will put this weekend behind us and move on to the next race in Qatar, where hopefully we can take another step forward.”

Markus Reiterberger:
“Conditions in Superpole have been really difficult. It was much hotter than Friday and even then the riders had said that it is dangerous to ride because it was far too slippery; there was too much dirt on the track and as result there was no grip. It seems that the track had been cleaned over night and all was fine in the third free practice session. In Superpole, however, conditions were even worse which was very unusual. In these extremely bad conditions I could not qualify well and that’s how I started into the first race. Many of the other riders did not participate. We sat together in the team and said: ‘We will race!’. The grip indeed was a bit better as it became cooler, but the race itself was a bit lonely for me. I had a good start and improved by two positions but then I hit the dirt in the first corner and nearly crashed. Then I had two more moments and all I did then was to bring it home and to at least collect some points finishing eleventh. On Sunday, we had much better weather conditions. It was cooler, which meant that the racing line on the track was in a much better state. Unfortunately, I made two mistakes on the first two laps of the Superpole Race and went too wide. As a result, the race didn’t go well for me, and I crossed the finish line pretty far down the field. We made a few changes for the second race, and I felt relatively okay on the bike in the race itself. Points would have been achievable, and I battled with Sandro Cortese on the final three laps, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get the point. Generally, we are still a little bit too slow and we need to find the reason why. I hope that I will end the season on a personal high in Qatar. We all pulled together here, and I’m grateful for that, even if we weren’t rewarded with a good result.”

Results FIM Superbike World Championship, San Juan:

Race 1:

7th Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team)
11th Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team)

Superpole Race:

9th Tom Sykes
17th Markus Reiterberger

Race 2:

16th Markus Reiterberger
DNF Tom Sykes