And here we are, ready for the final round of the SBK triple-header - Portimão. What kind of track is the Autodromo do Algarve? A fast, spectacular, technical and demanding one, with its ups and downs, blind spots and jumps. A combination that clearly suits Johnny Rea, the winner of twelve races in Portugal.
Even with the Honda – not to take anything away from the Fireblade he rode to victory – and then with the Kawasaki. Yes, the 2020 triple win confirms just how well the Northern Irishman and his Ninja are able to interpret one of the championship’s best-loved tracks.
But will this be true again this year? Will the Atlantic Ocean boost the Cannibal’s share price, the rider not having won a race since Assen? The hypothetical favourite, number 1 is chasing Toprak Razgatlioglu, the Turkish ace currently 20 points ahead in the standings. Considering that the young rider from Ballymena debuted in the production-derived class in 2008 and that his CV at this track is what it is… if he can’t do better than his direct rival, will it be game over?
Razga stronger in the head-to-head, Redding and Rinaldi with nothing to lose
This year it’s like this, at least for now. In a head-to-head, Toprak beats Johnny. With a few exceptions, Razgatlioglu is the man who makes the definitive move in a duel with Rea. And holds it to the line. Unless a Ducati is in the mix, the V4 R of Scott Redding or Michael Ruben Rinaldi.
Portimão could actually be a good track for the Aruba duo, the Englishman and the Italo-Venezuelan also among the favourites this weekend. Number 45 is still in the title fight, mathematically-speaking. He’s also suffering less than the leading pair, as he’s under less pressure in terms of the expectations.
So, to sum up, Rea has seen more success in Portugal than anyone. OK. But Razgatlioglu is going like a bullet train. And the two factory Ducati riders might tip the balance as far as the R1 and ZX-10RR are concerned. This is all pure theory though, so we’ll see what happens on track. Stay tuned.
Translated by Heather Watson