The Argentinian round of the FIM Superbike World Championship took place over the weekend, and former MotoAmerica road racer and current GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team rider Garrett Gerloff spent Friday adapting to the Circuito San Juan Villicum, as well as to his new crew chief Damiano Evangelisti, who was GRT’s Technical Coordinator until the last round.
Gerloff was immediately competitive on Friday morning with a sixth place in FP1 (1’39.589), and then, he further improved his pace in FP2, but an infraction of the track limits at turn 16 got his fastest time of the day cancelled. He was still ninth overall (1’38.879).
“Friday wasn’t a bad day, and this track is super fun,” Gerloff said. “After yesterday’s sandstorm, I was a little worried that the track would be very difficult to ride, but it turned out not to be the case. The grip was already very good at the end of the first session, and it remained so for the rest of the day. The track has a very interesting design, and I really like it but I am still trying to find my way around it in order to get the most out of the bike. I want to be more consistent and build from there, but I am happy with the way the team is working, and I am ready for tomorrow.”
On Saturday, Gerloff finished fourth in FP3 (1’37.764), and then, he qualified eighth in Superpole (1’38.337), having been slowed by a yellow flag on his final lap. In the Saturday’s Race One, Gerloff could not express his R1’s full potential in the early laps and soon found himself in 11th place, but his impressive pace in the second half of the race allowed him to make several passes on his way to a seventh-place finish. In the closing stages of the race, the Texan was the fastest rider on the track.
“It was nice to race today, commented Gerloff. “In FP3 the bike felt really good thanks to a change we made after yesterday, but then, I had a difficult qualifying and could only manage eighth. My start in (Saturday’s) race was decent, but then, I had a slow first half of the race. The bike came to me later on, and I was able to make some passes and improve my position. I want more, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Gerloff was immediately at the center of attention during the Sunday morning warm up session, which he topped with a 1’37.719. He then finished a solid seventh in the Superpole Race, having struggled in the early laps. The same happened at the start of Race Two. Despite getting a good jump off the line, he lost some positions in the first few corners, and dropped to 11th place. By the time he had passed the slower riders around him, the leaders’ group was already almost five seconds ahead of him. But, with a clear track, Gerloff started setting fast times and, throughout the final laps, he was as quick as the race winner Scott Redding. By the time the checkered flag waved, Gerloff had caught Andrea Locatelli, but he did not have enough time to attack him, and he ultimately finished eighth. Overall, it was still an improvement from Saturday, as he managed to reduce the gap from the winner by more than four seconds compared with the gap in Race One.
“It was nice to start the day with a very good pace, and the Yamaha R1 felt great,” said Gerloff. “Unfortunately, I had a really difficult time at the beginning of both races, which prevented us from getting much better results. I was able to make progress, but not as much as I would have wanted. It’s frustrating because I know our potential is way better than this. We just need to put the pieces together so we can use the pace that we have and try to move up the leaderboard.”
With one round remaining in the 2021 FIM Superbike World Championship season, Gerloff sits in the eighth position in the championship standings with 213 points and, more importantly, maintains the lead in the Independent Riders Championship. There is a four-week break before the final round of the season, which will take place at the Mandalika Circuit in Indonesia on November 19 through 21.