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WorldSBK Catalunya: Gerloff finally shows his true podium pace

Garrett Gerloff took comedy offence at the suggestion that some people were surprised to see a rookie rider, on a 2019-spec Yamaha, on tyres he never rode on in the USA, and with only a few rounds and some tests under his WorldSBK belt, would be on the podium so ‘soon.’

From a neutral point of view his Barcelona weekend was stellar compared to any other so far. His best results prior to this particular weekend showed flashes of his undoubted talent, but an eight, a fifth and finally a remarkable third place at Barcelona were a very definite and quite profound step change.

Up… way, way up. He had been 11th, 13th and tenth in the previous round. A no-scorer, 13th and tenth at the one before that.


But with his experienced crew chief Lez Pearson he and his privateer-ish GRT team struck more than one happy chord in Catalunya (near his European base), even if a couple of bigger names and factory bikes were missing from the final race line-up, or had some significant tech issues.

Gerloff was simply fast, no matter the company, in race two.

The quality and effort of his performance was still one big dose of progress to his growth from MotoAmerica national racing to WorldSBK, in a season where competitive bikes and riders abound again. It was impressive and little historic.

Said Gerloff when he was told that he was the first American rider on the podium since his friend Nicky Hayden in 2016, he said, “I didn’t realise that, but it means so much to me. I knew Nicky back in the day and I used to train with him a little bit, also his brothers Tommy and Roger; Nick McFadden, Jake Lewis some other Owensboro kids.

“So I got to know Nicky pretty well and he always, every time I met him, he inspired me. He was such a hard worker, so dedicated to his racing and all he wanted was to do was have good races and performance. He was always focused on doing whatever it took to get results and that inspired me.

“It showed me what it takes to be a race at the world level and I didn’t know Nicky when he won the world championship but I remember watching it and I was just amazed.

“I was a 12-year-old kid and it just let me know that anything is possible. To be on the podium - and he was the last guy? It is unreal man! I still don’t feel like I am here like it is a dream. I want more!”

Gerloff was asked if, like Rinaldi, because of his lack of world experience he had been the surprise find of the championship this year. “I have to say that I did do the test here, so I did have some track experience before this weekend, which was a big help. It has been a slow start to he championship but we have had some moments where we showed that we had more and could achieve more.

It felt like all the pieces were there but they just weren’t connected. Nothing was coming together so for it all to come together, finally, is the biggest relief.

“I am super-happy but also just so relieved, because I always felt like I could do this. I have always known that I could be racing with these guys and racing for podiums, racing for wins.


“But sometimes when you tell yourself that, over and over and over, and it is not happening, not happening… you start to think maybe you are lying to yourself. But to actually be on the podium and know that I wasn’t lying to myself completely 100 per cent, is super-nice.”

Gerloff got a call from none other than Ben Spies - just after TV commitments and before speaking to the print and web media - so good news for the entire MotoAmerica scene clearly travelled fast.

Spies was instrumental in helping Gerloff get to Europe and the biggest form of production racing there is. And the call was hijacked by Michael van der Mark who told Spies ‘to stop sending fast American kids over here’.

Three-time 500GP winner Wayne Rainey also chimed in saying he was 'so proud' of Gerloff.

One podium does not make a summer but the nature of Gerloff’s three confident and fast races, and only losing second place in the final lap to established multiple race winner van der Mark on a factory bike, has shown already that the stuff needed is definitely in there already with Gerloff. And it only took six rounds in the weirdest season ever to fit it onto a podium step.

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