For Manuel González (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team), a day like this Sunday at the Pirelli French Round had been foreseen for quite some time, even before landing in the WorldSBK paddock less than two years ago.
The same year that the World Supersport 300 Championship was created, he was making waves in another newly created championship, the European Talent Cup, becoming its first champion.
That same year, González debuted as a wildcard in WorldSSP300 at Jerez. By doing so, he missed out on becoming the youngest rider to participate in the series inaugural season by a single day (15y02m18d, to Nicola Bernabé’s 15y02m17d). It would be one of the sole milestones not to bear González’s name.
First, he became the youngest rider to make it onto the WorldSSP300 podium, four weeks shy of his 16th birthday. Then, he became the first sixteen-year-old to take pole, this year at MotorLand Aragon. One day later, González was officially both the series youngest race winner and championship leader.
But the big one was yet to come, as the crowning achievement of his WorldSSP300 career was waiting at Magny-Cours. The icing on the cake is in the record books: no rider has ever become a World Champion in road racing motorcycle competition at such a young age. Not in WorldSBK, not in MotoGP™. A month after his 17th birthday, González has beaten them all. Who is next on the list? One Marc Márquez in 125cc, at the age of 17 years, 8 months and 21 days.
A career half as good as his Catalan counterpart would be a brilliant return for González’s efforts, but where do his next steps lie – and where can he continue tearing up the record books?
Perhaps it could be a pursuit of a second WorldSSP300 crown? Or could it be a venture one class up, into World Supersport? If the teenager chooses the latter, he’ll have plenty time to continue breaking records: the youngest WorldSSP champion was Chris Vermeulen at the age of 21 – four years his senior.
Outgoing series queen Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300) claimed her second victory of the season, while also handing over her crown to Gonzalez.
Chasing the victory he needed to keep his title hopes alive, Scott Deroue (Kawasaki MOTOPORT) made the perfect start to lead the opening lap although several riders were eying up the all-important slipstream which makes such a difference in WorldSSP300. Gonzalez was faced with a tricky task of picking his way through the traffic but the 17-year-old made steady progress, climbing to fourth by the end of Lap 2.
Gonzalez hit the front for the first time on Lap 4, drafting past Carrasco on the run towards the Adelaide hairpin, but with no-one able to escape the group, the championship leader soon slipped back into the pack. A leading group of four was soon established at the front though with Carrasco, Gonzalez and Deroue joined by Andy Verdoia (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) while Galang Hendra Pratama (Semakin Di Depan Biblion Motoxracing) fell back after a brief spell out front.
Mindful that third place would guarantee the championship even if Scott Deroue won, Manuel Gonzalez will have been happy to see such a small leading group and rode a mature race, keeping his title rivals in sight at all times. Deroue wasn’t giving it up without a fight though and set a New Record on the penultimate lap as he desperately tried to improve on fourth. The fight for the win was settled in Carrasco’s favour though courtesy of a last lap move on Verdoia at the 180 corner, while Gonzalez made sure of the title by outbraking the French rider, and Deroue into Turn 15 to snatch second.
As a result, Gonzalez becomes the youngest ever world champion in motorcycle road racing history, and follows in the footsteps of Carrasco and Marc Garcia (DS Junior Team) as the third WorldSSP300 champion, each hailing from Spain. Gonzalez also sets a new points record for a single season in the class with today’s result, and has the opportunity to add to that tally at the final round of the season at Losail in October.
Scott Deroue took the final podium position, and now goes to Qatar level on points with Carrasco in the battle to finish championship runner-up, while Andy Verdoia maintains an outside chance after finishing fourth. Galang Hendra Pratama finished a lonely fifth in the end while Livio Loi (2R Racing Team), winner of yesterday’s Last Chance Race, stormed through the field from 29th on the grid to take sixth.
Bruno Ieraci (Kawasaki GP Project) matched his best result of the season in seventh, the sixth different nationalities within that top seven, with Jeffrey Buis (MTM Racing Team) also claiming his best result of 2019 in eighth. Victor Steeman (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team) was ninth, continuing his consistent campaign while Nick Kalinin (Nutec - RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) kept up his strong recent form by rounding out the top ten.