Imola. Round seven of the 2023 FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) in the Italian city of Imola was a real scorcher. In extremely challenging conditions, the BMW Motorrad Motorsport teams and riders continued the positive trend from Donington Park. Scott Redding laid the foundation for good race results with fifth place in Superpole. Leon Haslam, on the second BMW M 1000 RR run by the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team, finished in the points in race one.
Redding and Haslam set themselves up for the weekend ahead with fifth and 14th places in Saturday morning’s Superpole qualifying. In race one on Saturday afternoon, Redding was initially able to stick with the leading group, but then struggled with the handling of his bike in the extreme temperatures. He consequently dropped back a few positions and eventually crossed the finish line tenth. Haslam was involved in a lengthy battle for eleventh, but was then forced off in the chicane on the final lap and eventually came home 14th.
The temperatures were even higher on Sunday, with the thermometers already showing 33 degrees Celsius by the Superpole Race in the morning. Redding dropped back slightly in the turmoil at the start, and went on to finish ninth after ten laps. He was followed over the finish line just 0.02 seconds later by Baz in tenth place. Haslam was 15th.
As the afternoon was forecast to be even hotter, race control decided, after a meeting with the medical director of WorldSBK and all the riders, to reduce the second main race from 19 laps to 15. With the air temperature around 37 degrees, Redding gained three positions at the start and was running sixth after a few laps, before dropping back to seventh place. Baz was hot on his heels in ninth place in the same group of three. When Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) crashed in front of them on lap twelve, Baz climbed into seventh place with Redding now eighth. They went on to finish in these positions, separated by just half a second, while Haslam retired.
Round eight of the 2023 WorldSBK season will take place from 28th to 30th July at Most, in the Czech Republic.
Reactions to the Imola round.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “It was an absolute scorcher. Imola is a beautiful track where we hadn’t been for four years. Our expectations were somewhat dampened beforehand because two of our four riders had never been here before, and the heat doesn’t usually favor us. At the end of the weekend, we can conclude that we had two top-ten finishes in every race. We can be quite satisfied with that. For Leon as a substitute rider, it was of course difficult to jump onto a new bike during a race weekend. He delivered what we expected. Now we look ahead to Most, a track where we were very successful last year. We will also see Michael van der Mark’s comeback there.”
Scott Redding, #45 ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “The weekend has not been too bad, really. We had a good qualifying, the practices were not so bad. But we had a really high temperature coming in yesterday’s race and today. We just missed a little bit, really. When the grip drops from the temperature we seem to suffer a bit more than the other people. But from yesterday to today I tried to do something a little bit different, I tried to be a bit more calmer on the front tyre and it was better. The race was shorter but also it was so hot. I never felt this hot in a race, even at Aragón or Jerez when it was 42 degrees. It was not that hot as it is now. My hands were burning. It has been a good decision to make the race shorter because it was coming to a boiling point. Overall, regarding the hot conditions it has not been so bad for us here, we normally suffer more so I took some useable data that we can try to work on for the next races.”
Leon Haslam, #91 BMW M 1000 RR, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “In race two, I had a small problem with the brake and I ran off, so it was my mistake. Overall, it has been a good but hard weekend. I tried to learn everything and working with the guys has been fantastic. It was a big learning curve for me understanding everything and it was difficult in the hot conditions but I enjoyed the battle with the Hondas and also with Garrett in the two races. So yes, I am happy.”