WorldSBK Portimao: Gerloff continues to progress and impress

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Garrett Gerloff is the latest of the modern generation of American riders to try and break into the top level of WorldSBK, having joined the 2019 R1-equipped GRT Yamaha Junior team this season. And what a season to join…

Even without all the Covid-19 disruptions, starting out on a bike a year older than the other Yamahas (except for his fellow GRT rival, Federico Caricasulo) and having a really rock solid field of riders around him from to top to nearly bottom, it was going to be a tough transition from MotoAmerica to WorldSBK.

So far, for most on the inside, so good, as there is a lot to learn. But for Gerloff, like any rider worth his salt, he won’t be happy until he is fully competitive. “I can still look at what van der Mark and Lowes were able to do in the 2019 bikes last year, lap time wise, although in different conditions maybe. For sure there is more we can still get out of the bike,” he said at Portimao.

“We are doing our best to work out exactly what we need and where and when and why. But that is kind of the biggest thing. The team and I have made some progress it has just been a little bit up and down.

“We find something that works really well and then we try something else and then it does not work so well. We are figuring out things and getting information every time.”

The hot summer months in Iberia offer up a very different set of circumstances for all riders, but after getting a handle on things in winter testing, and then the relative coolness of the Australia autumn in February, the high track temps at Jerez and Portimao were another curve ball to try and bat effectively.

“It feels like I am riding a different bike a little bit,” said Gerloff. “In the winter it was so cold everywhere we went, and now it is so hot. And these tyres are a lot more sensitive to the track temperature. I am still decently happy but I want more for sure, always.”

When asked what he thinks he has learned fastest and best about WorldSBK so far, he switched things around a little, to better explain it. “I guess I will answer that in what I need continue to do better,” he said, after finishing 14 -10-11 in Portugal. “I am still learning and that is just try not to rush the corners a little bit.

In the mornings when the track is cooler, that is what everybody does. The front tyres work, you have grip and you can do it and turn well. But when the track temps go up, you do not have that same front grip so you start to push and go wide and I have not been adapting 100 per cent from the morning session to the afternoon session. These tyres are a lot more sensitive to temps than I knew about before.”

One potential step-up he has in his transition from MotoAmerica (AMA Superbike, as was) is that unlike his BSB or Aussie equivalents, he was already working with pretty high level and comprehensive electronics. He agreed that this has been a kind of help, although the overall landscape is still quite a step distant. No prizes for guessing what the biggest difference has been – tyres.

“MotoAmerica we have good electronics, decent electronics, and I think here they might have something that is another step,” said Garrett.

But for sure, it was nice to have electronics to work with for the last couple of years, knowing what to expect - but just the way these guys work with electronics is different from how I used to. And the things they are always looking at.

“For sure the biggest transition for me has been the tyres, but not just the tyres, it is about how they set-up the electronics to work with the tyres. And those things go really close together.

“That has been something that I have not had to do as much in the US - something that we focussed on a little bit - but we worked in two different way. That has been quite a big difference. But, I have learned a lot even just this weekend in Portimao, with a couple of things we have seen on data. Hopefully we just keep making steps and everybody else stops making steps and we start catching up.”