Garrett Gerloff first took a WorldSBK podium at Catalunya, and it was the first one he took a podium at in over a year when he came through the pack to almost take second place from Jonathan Rea.
So something about this circuit is pecial for him, even if it was the scene of his infamous warm-up lap crash in 2021, while sporting Yamaha’s anniversary white and red colour schemes.
He was able to go forwards when others ended up going backwards, and really quickly. “In the beginning of the race, I was like, all right, here we go again,” said Gerloff. “It’s going to be another eighth or ninth position, but I just did everything I could to stay with the guys that I was around.
"I lost a little bit in the beginning, but I could see that through all the long right-handers they were just smoking the tyres. I saw Locatelli and Lecuona just smoke coming off. That’s when I was thinking in my head, ‘all right, I don't think they’re going to make it to the end.’ I could be wrong, but just try to ease off a little bit and just save the tyre. Thinking that it might come back to me at the end.
"The only difficult part about that is that sometimes when you don’t get the same drive as they do, out of one of the right-handers into the next corner, you can get dive-bombed. So, in the beginning of the race, I had some difficulty with that. Then everybody was going the same speed. I just kept trying to be easy with the gas.
"Then the last half of the race, how fast everybody came to me was unexpected. I’m surprised to be here, to be honest. This weekend hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been special. I just tried to ride my race and not get too antsy with the gas, especially. Here I am. I’m pumped.”
Gerloff thought about making an attack on Rea on the final lap or so, for second place, but he thought better of it, fighting his instincts.
“Coming onto the last lap, I saw it was the last lap, and I saw my pit board with two and a half seconds gap,” said Garrett. “I was like… not today, probably. I think third is all right. It’s not that I didn’t want to go for Jonathan, but I could see that he had something to fight for, maybe a little bit more than me. Also, I was really struggling.
"Even though I had saved my tyre on the right corners, I was fighting the bike trying to keep it from rotating. So, already I knew I was on the limit and to throw it away on the last lap to try to get a maybe second place… I’ve looked like an idiot quite a few times the past twelve months, so I figured today I probably shouldn’t do that.”
There was a decision to be made when Gerloff came up behind Yamaha’s great championship hope Toprak Razgatlioglu. Not in his own GRT Yamaha team, but the Pata Yamaha by Brixx rider is the only one in blue who could maybe claw back Bautista? So did he have to think about it all as he closed in?
“For sure. Definitely,” smiled Garrett. “For like one lap I was thinking, ‘what the hell do I do?’ But I could see he was really struggling, like quite a bit, and I knew that if I stayed behind him, we were both just going to go backwards. My team deserves a good result. They really do. That podium was right there. I did that for my team, to get on the box. For all the sponsors and everything. They deserve that.”
And you deserve it too, Garrett? “I don't know about that, but I’m happy to be here.”
Gerloff is going to ride for BMW Bonovo next season, so knowing this was he thinking about passing Toprak any differently than if he was going to stay on a Yamaha? Did it help him free his mind.
“No, not at all. I was still thinking, ‘Do I pass him or not?’ I could see he was a wounded duck. There was no way he was going to finish with a decent pace. I could see that he was really struggling with something, with the tyre or something. But, I was thinking about it. I made sure that when I passed him I for sure broke later than him.”
With nothing to lose in the last few races in the season, it was a good time for Gerloff to get back into the top three, to hopefully end his Yamaha years on a high, with high motivation.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Garrett. “A podium is always nice. You never know when the last time you’re going to be on the podium is. For sure, the last time I was on the podium in Donington, I never expected to have everything that happened happen, and to be so long off the podium. So, I definitely cherish every one.
"It means a lot to me to be fighting with the best guys in the world and to be on the podium. It means a lot and definitely gives me a lot of motivation. It’s been really difficult the last twelve months. It’s been difficult for a lot of reasons. We’ve all been fighting, but sometimes you just want to stop fighting a little bit. So, glad to be back here.”
Gerloff loves his home country but he knows it is too early to not be in WorldSBK, and maybe head back to the USA unfulfilled. “Yeah, I want to be here,” he said. “I know I can be here. So, for me, to sign with a team that was excited to sign me, meant a lot. I also really wanted to stay here and to have some opportunities really meant a lot to me, especially after everything. I want it. So, keep trying.”
Was there any genuine self-doubt in the last twelve months for Gerloff? “For sure, there has been self-doubt,” he said without hesitation. “You can’t go through difficult times and not have doubt at some level for some things. For sure, I doubted myself. I doubted the team. I doubted the bike. This is just the process. Something’s not right, something’s missing and you try to think about everything.
"Like I said, we’ve all been fighting as hard as we could to figure out what’s going on. We’ve made improvements, for sure. I don’t say that it’s 100 per cent, but I’m just happy that today we were able to be on the podium for those guys, for myself, for everybody. We’ll keep fighting.”