Gerloff learning plenty from Rea, Redding and Davies| Gordon Ritchie | WorldSBK
GRT Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff took more upward steps at Estoril, before one unfortunate final down in a race-two crash.
Not too bad for a rookie rider on a 2019 bike, the first time he had ever laid eyes on the place.
That lack of experience at this venue put him on level-footing with most other top WorldSBK riders, but from the off Gerloff had been quick, taking third place in a Superpole contest some star names got caught out in – Rea and Redding the two main examples.
In the Saturday race Gerloff even got past Rea again after a battle, taking third place. That was a thrill in itself for Gerloff, with a degree of caution thrown in as Rea was in the thick of the race that would eventually give him he championship itself.
“It felt good to podium on Saturday,” the Texan told bikesportnews.com. “I did not know it was Jonathan out there the first time he passed, me, I thought right in that moment it was Alex, maybe, but when I saw it was Jonathan I was definitely on my tip-toes a little bit. I didn’t want to be involved.
“It was super-nice to ride with Jonathan and with Chaz, those guys are world-class riders and to be there with them I just learned so much. I was frustrated because at the beginning of the race I was just not riding consistently.
“I made a big mistake out of turn one, hit a false neutral and made some other stupid mistakes. I was like ‘What am I doing?’ At least at the end I was able to clear things up and be a little bit more consistent.
“There is the same motivation to pass each other. I have had super aggressive passes made on me in tenth position and had even more aggressive passes made on me for third position, so we all want to be toward the front and if we can do it we will do it.
“What I learned? I just see Chaz using more of the track and carrying more corner speed. He is doing more distance but it seems to work for him.
“It is really nothing that stands out but it is about being able to observe and see how they are doing something different to me, and trying to see if it works for me and my bike.”
Gerloff was at a strong track for Yamaha, of course, but he said of his own bike’s abilities, “I feel like I was able to get into the corners really well and turn really well mid-corner. Sometimes the drive was more similar to the guys around me, but the first two-thirds of the corner I felt like I had it really nice advantage, and that was awesome. I just had some troubles in the transitions, with the bike kinda getting upset and sometimes on the drives too.”
Gerloff didn’t know that Rea was already world champion at the end of race one, as Redding was already out. “I didn’t know what happened with Scott. I didn’t know, so I was just like, ‘I don’t want to be involved, I just want to pass you and go and luckily I was able to do it, more or less.”
When asked about how his podium of third place in Barcelona – his first in WorldSBK – would have been a kind of pressure release for some rookie riders, but for Gerloff it has been like a turbocharger for his ambitions and capability, he gave a typical racers answer.
Aw man, I was only third, there are still two more places to go. It is just nice to look around and say that I have ridden with these guys and beaten some of them. You look at things with a different perspective, a little bit.”
His bike is also working better for him all the time, as he indicated.
“Also the Yamaha R1 has felt really good the last three races, which has been awesome thanks to my team and my crew chief (Lez Pearson) making the bike feel the way it does. I am more motivated than I was before the first podium in Barcelona. It is like I got a little taste, but I want the whole thing.”
Things would get even better for Gerloff in the Superpole race in which he placed second behind Razgatlioglu and ahead of Michael van der Mark, for a famous and historic all Yamaha top three.
“At Estoril I had my best qualifying of the year, another podium, and then I had a second place in the Superpole Race, which is now my best finish. In race two though, I had a little crash and unfortunately I wasn’t able to continue.
“That was a little bit frustrating, but sometimes it happens and it doesn’t make me any less happy, because we still finished the season in a strong way, for the most part. I can’t wait for the next year.
“Big thanks to the team, big thanks to everybody that supports the team and I can’t wait to be back in 2021 with the new bike. I am really confident and I think we can do some good things.”