Aragon WorldSBK test: Gerloff impresses on debut

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

A cold and frequently wet Motorland Aragon race circuit welcomed recent MotoAmerica regular and 2020 WorldSBK rookie Garrett Gerloff to the delights of his latest Yamaha R1 and a whole new world of experiences.

He built into his two days of testing well, which made a front end crash just as he started a final long run in the second afternoon an unpleasant end to an otherwise positive experience.

“The front tyre was one degree colder,” said Gerloff after his fall, mystified as to why he crashed with no warning. “It was my second lap back out but I am OK, I just slid. I was hoping that the bike was going to do the same thing but it hit the sand, and then broke everything.”

Gerloff’s day was over from that point due machine damage but he had made real progress from the opening day, which was also truncated because of bad early weather conditions.

“We are really happy with some of the changes we made, as far as the rear end goes,” said Gerloff about day two. “Everything is looking forward but it is disappointing to end the day on a crash. I was going to do a race stint that last time out but it got ended short. But, we definitely made some improvements with consistency, so that’s good.”

The biggest lesson for Gerloff so far has been simply the experience of the 5.077km long Spanish track, whatever the weather conditions were.

The big thing I learned is that this a good place, I think, to go. All the tracks are going to be new to me in 2020, and this is a pretty difficult track to learn, I think. No super-straightforward, so it gave me an idea of what I need to focus on going to all these new tracks, where I need to put my effort in. That is something I will try to keep focusing on in the future. But I never got to ride with anybody so I do not have 100% anything else that I have learned as far as that goes, but these guys are fast for sure. I know that!”

Gerloff settled into the GRT Yamaha team easily, and said thanks to his new crew for the welcome, and in a way sorry for the work associated with his miserly late crash.

“Everything was great – I dunno if they like working with me anymore! – but they have been super-nice and super-friendly and wanting the best for me which is awesome. I was hoping to repay them back, which I think I did a little bit with doing some decent times, but they have some work to do now.”

The most difficult thing for Gerloff is that he felt he learned nothing about the limits of his machine because of the crash, as it was such an unexpected bolt from under the blue.

“Honestly, no, I don’t,” he stated afterwards, “because it just caught me off guard. I had not had any sensation that I was going to tuck the front there at any point during the last two days, so for it to just out of nowhere happen? As far as when I have load on the tyre, on the brakes or braking hard, I feel like I have not come close to the limits. We have looked at the data and the only difference we can find is one degree of front tyre temperature that is different. Lean angle, throttle, speed was the same, so it could have been a gust of wind. It is pretty windy here.”

Gerloff was only a half a second or so from the best Yamaha rider in the end, but wanted to be closer still.

“I wanted to be closer; a 1’50 as my goal for today,” he explained after setting a 1’51.133. “ I am glad I was close but disappointed I did not get it. But to be 0.5s, 06s away, I think was decent. Even though I have made steps to be consistent I need to keep working on that. Outright speed is one thing, but to do it in the race where it counts is more important. So I will keep focusing on that.”

Key to his race performances in 2020 will be his ability to learn and process track information fast, as most of his rivals will be old hands at almost all of the tracks on the – yet to be finalised – WorldSBK calendar. After Motorland he will test at Jerez in Novemebr, Jerez again, Portimao and then Phillip Island, which will prepare him for at least four circuits on the calendar.

“Yes, it is a big help for sure,” he acknowledged. “I am going to go into those tests with the same mentality of pretending like it is a race weekend and trying to learn everything quickly. Whatever I learn from doing that hopefully I will apply to the other tracks that I will not have gone to. I do feel like a rookie because I have never lived in Europe, never raced at any of these tracks. I feel like I am more of a rookie than others, but I do have Superbike experience. So maybe I am 50/50! A rookie at a lot of stuff, but maybe not everything.”