It was a successful Motorland Aragon weekend for several Kawasaki Ninja 400 riders, not least first race winner Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki) and his team-mate Jeffery Buis, who would win Race Two.
Veneman - the son of successful bike racer Barry - won his first race at this level of racing on Saturday despite suffering a hard fall earlier in the day. He took his first WorldSSP300 victory at the age of only 17.
At 21-years-old Buis is almost considered a veteran in this class, having already been World Champion for his current MTM Kawasaki team in 2020.
The rookie and the ‘old hand’ took clever but still incredibly close race victories at Motorland. They were by no means the only Ninja 400 riders who entered the final lap with the real prospect of a win within their grasp.
In the Superpole qualifying session on Saturday 23 September, before the first of the two races, the top placed Kawasaki qualifier was Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki) in third spot.
The first race provided all the thrills and occasional spills that this close and combative category of racing always delivers. Unfortunately one of the incidents saw a rider having to be carried away on a stretcher by the side of the live track, and the race was red-flagged to protect him and trackside Marshals.
The restart, over a remarkably short five laps and not the intended 12, saw the riders restarting from where they finished the red flagged ‘race’ that in all other regards was not categorised in the record books.
Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing Kawasaki) was top Kawasaki man on the reformed grid, in second place, with another local rider Jose Manuel Osuna Saez (Deza - Box77 Racing Kawasaki) third.
Julio Garcia (Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki) headed up the second row of the starting grid for the restart. Buis and Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki) got underway in the ‘real’ Race One from the third row.
Buis and Veneman were an integral part of the leading group in the restart, as was Perez Gonzalez and eventually third placed finisher Daniel Mogeda (Kawasaki GP Project Kawasaki).
The lockout of the top three places by Kawasaki riders - Veneman, Buis and Mogeda - finally became a top four when Ruben Bijman was penalised by losing one place. That put Perez Gonzalez up to fourth place. He had not realised, however, that the last lap was upon him so he did not get the chance to launch a final attack to go for a podium place. Osuna Saez was finally sixth and Julio Garcia (Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki) was seventh, just over a second from the winner Veneman.
Assen double race winner Petr Svoboda (Füsport - RT Motorsports by SKM Kawasaki) was unlucky to fall and no score in the opening race - and he would do so again in Race Two. Samuel Di Sora (Prodina Kawasaki) was another strong rider who went home from Motorland with no points after suffering falls in each race.
Race Two was welcomed by another sunny day at Motorland and another stunningly close race for the WorldSSP300 hordes on Sunday 24 September. The two MTM Kawasaki riders and Perez Gonzalez were fully in the leading mix again.
Buis tried to break away but was hauled back in by what was a typically close and ever-changing fight in the smallest capacity category of racing in the WorldSBK paddock.
As fortunes waxed and waned over the full 12 laps it was Buis who used all his experience and race craft to make it to the front at just the right time and win his 11th career WorldSSP300 race, extending his own record in the process. He was just 0.021 seconds ahead of second placed rider Vannucci.
Given how strongly the Kawasaki riders performed overall during the Aragon weekend it was strange to see that the next Ninja 400 rider home in Race Two was Race One winner Veneman, in sixth place. He was, however, just 0.471 seconds from the win! Mogeda was seventh.
At the flag there were 11 riders in one single group across the finish line, with Kevin Sabatucci (Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki) in 11th spot just 0.975 seconds from Buis’s winning race time.
Race Two went the full distance of 12 laps, in contrast to Saturday’s compressed five-lap contest. Fenton Seabright (Kawasaki GP Project) set the fastest lap in Race Two.
Kawasaki became the WorldSSP300 Manufacturer’s Champions for the fifth time in seven seasons when Buis took the Race Two win. Kawasaki now has a 54 point advantage over Yamaha, with only a potential total of 50 points to be scored after the final two individual races.
In the Riders’ Championship fight Buis took a positive step to becoming the first rider to claim two WorldSSP300 titles. He now has 194 points, with his fellow Kawasaki rider Perez Gonzalez in second place with 164 - and thus 30 points behind. There is a very strong chance that one of these two Kawasaki riders will become the champion, but a fifth place finish for KTM rider Dirk Geiger in the final Aragon race means he is not out of the running yet.
Geiger is 47 points from Buis, with a maximum of 50 points remaining for any rider who wins both Portimao races. Geiger has 147 points, Vannucci 131 and Gennai 130. Svoboda’s double no score in Motorland sees him sixth overall.
After seven of the eight rounds have been completed ten the top 15 riders in the championship standings are racing Ninja 400s.
The series finale will take place at Portimao, near the coastal resorts of the Algarve in Portugal, between September 29 - October 1.
Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “The first race from the beginning was not perfect and I was a little bit back in the group. Then came the red flag and I had to start from P7, which was a little bit of a challenge. On the first lap of the restart I was already in P3/P2. I could manage to stay near the front and in the last lap I attempted to overtake Loris and the gap across the line was 0.0-something-something - but overall I scored many points. This weekend for us has been really positive. We have been fast on our own since day one and we could show it in the race, when we were doing a great pace alone. We have got a good margin in the championship, but we must keep our concentration and try to get podiums and good results also in the last race.”
Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “I started the first race in P15 so I thought it was going to be a pretty hard race but I could overtake a lot of riders at the start. When the red flag came I knew I was capable of going more to the front and it all worked out. On the last lap I was first going onto the final straight so I thought everybody was going to overtake me but it didn’t happen. I am very happy with that. I didn’t think my first win was going to be on Saturday but it worked out, which was brilliant. I have become really confident on the bike, especially with overtaking, and qualifying is much better. My own pace is a lot better than it was before. I’m incredibly happy about this weekend, I got my first ever win in WorldSSP300 and it’s really a good feeling. I worked hard to get this first win and I can’t thank enough all the team, my sponsors, family and all the people who believed in me. It has been a great weekend, unfortunately we couldn’t do another podium in Race Two but still a very good race for me. I can’t wait to finish the season in Portimao, trying to get the maximum number of points possible.”
Daniel Mogeda (Kawasaki GP Project), stated: “The first race was inside a big group of people. I had to manage my position and I wanted to make my move on the last straight. We finally got another podium, like in Most, so I am really happy. I want to say thanks to all my team who worked a lot this weekend and all the people who helped me in the bad moments. With the team we made a step up and I hope more podiums come to us.”
Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing BGR Kawasaki), stated: “Saturday went really well. I had a good feeling with the bike and the circuit, everything was working well. I fought hard and want to say sorry to the team. I thought there was another lap to go and I was saving my attack for that.”
Samuel Di Sora (Prodina Kawasaki), stated: “Unfortunately, we were unable to complete a clean lap in qualifying. Our ideal time would have put us second, but the setbacks meant I had to start further back for Race One. I was really determined as the race began anyway and was able to get into the top ten already on lap one. But then, while fighting a group of riders, I was pushed onto the kerb through Turn Two; this compromised my grip and I lost the front, crashing as a result. A real pity, as we had what we needed to score a great result. Sunday’s race didn’t meet our expectations. Despite making a good start and battling hard throughout, I couldn’t set the right pace and unfortunately crashed.”
Steve Guttridge, Race Planning Manager, Kawasaki Motors Europe, stated: “There are multiple reasons for Kawasaki and fans to celebrate our fifth manufacturer title within the WorldSSP300 Championship. Four rider championships since the series was inaugurated is something we are very proud of plus over one hundred and fifty podium places. Perhaps the two things we are proudest of are the facts that WorldSSP300 is a widely recognised feeder route for riders to aspire to a Superbike ride and that this series is so closely related to the Ninja machines that fans can buy in any Kawasaki dealership. Now our goal is manufacturer title number six!”