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Kawasaki Rider Perez Gonzalez Takes Championship Lead
The Autodrom Most in the Czech Republic played host to the fifth round of the 2023 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship between July 28-30, with Kawasaki riders playing out their share of starring roles. Three Kawasaki riders would climb the podium steps across the two weather affected races, with Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez of Accolade Smrz Racing Kawasaki taking the championship lead, thanks to his first ever top three finish. Before the start of the Most race weekend, he was ranked sixth in the championship, but left the Czech Republic with a one-point series lead.
Friday at Most dawned wet after overnight rain, but in a dry afternoon Free Practice session Petr Svoboda of Füsport - RT Motorsports by SKM Kawasaki was out in front at his home circuit, finishing 0.252 seconds ahead of another Kawasaki hopeful Perez Gonzalez, who rides for a Czech-based team, which simply added to the happiness of the home fans.
On Saturday morning, after the Superpole qualifying session that determines the grid places, Perez Gonzalez had secured the top pre-race spot with 1:46.162. Frenchman Samuel Di Sora of Prodina Kawasaki placed eighth, Svoboda was finally ninth and Mexican rider Juan Pablo Uriostegui of Team 109 Kawasaki rounded out the top ten in qualifying.
Race One, held over 14 laps, started in dry conditions at 12.40 local time and had a dramatic start when there were two sets of crashes into Turn One, with the 31 competing riders braking from high speed to an almost dead-stop right hander. Many of them had to stop as one crash near the head of the field, and one subsequent melee nearer the midfield, saw some riders fall or run wide meaning others simply had to come to a halt to avoid the fallen bikes.
The race had been artificially split up even at that point, but the arrival of light rain, which got heavier and heavier, made the situation even more complicated for all the riders. The conditions determined many top rider’s eventual outcomes in the race classification.
The top finishing Ninja 400 rider proved to be Daniel Mogeda of Kawasaki GP Project Kawasaki who recorded his first podium finish in WorldSSP300, after he stayed out on slick tires throughout. Taking risks and getting a reward for his skill and control in treacherous riding conditions, he scored 16 championship points in one ride.
Very unusually for this class of racing, all the pit stops for tire changes and other incidents saw the podium trio spread out over 26 seconds - and the top ten covered by one minute and 21 seconds.
Svoboda would stay on slick tires in Race One and look set for a fifth place until the fast finishing Perez Gonzalez, who had come in to change to wet weather tires, passed him and then eased Svoboda out to sixth place.
Fenton Seabright of Kawasaki GP Project was one of those caught up in the opening lap chaos, but he recovered to finish seventh after pitting to change tires.
2020 World Champion Jeffrey Buis of MTM Kawasaki was ninth and his team-mate Loris Veneman finished tenth. Veneman was a first corner, first lap, faller but the teenager got going again to earn good championship points and a top ten finish.
Full points scored in the opening race, all the way down to 15th as usual, no fewer than 10 of the top 15 bikes proved to be Ninja 400s.
Race Two was delayed because of a fall of continuous heavy rain and it finally got underway at 16.10. It was run over only eight laps, not the planned 14, with the riders out on wet tires.
Jose Manuel Osuna Saez of Deza - Box77 Racing Kawasaki, like Mogeda on Saturday, was a first time podium finisher when he took second place, missing out on the race win by just 0.169 seconds.
To keep the podium novelties going Perez Gonzalez was third in this race, also scoring his first WorldSSP300 top three. As a happy consequence he jumped into the championship lead after five rounds and ten races of the eight-round season have been completed.
The heavy rain in Race Two could not prevent several Kawasaki riders from collecting strong points scores. Race one faller Di Sora, after being knocked off his machine then, went on to finish fifth in Race Two, despite a lack of feeling from the rear in the wet conditions.
Seabright was sixth, Buis was seventh and local hero Svoboda came home in a safe eighth place, making it six Kawasakis inside the top eight positions.
Alessandro Zanca of Team 109 Kawasaki scored points for 12th, with Slovakian rider Maxim Repak of Accolade Smrz Racing BGR Kawasaki 13th and Kevin Sabatucci of Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki 14th, also in the points-paying positions.
Race Two was a much closer affair than Race One, with the top nine riders covered by 5.872 seconds.
In the championship standings Perez Gonzalez is a first time overall leader with 117 points, KTM rider Dirk Geiger is second on 116 and Svoboda is third with 113. Buis is up to fifth now with 99 points. Di Sora remains eighth with 83. Such is the competition in WorldSSP this year that eight different riders have shared the ten race wins between them - with three rounds and six races still to go in 2023.
Kawasaki continues to lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship, with 206 points to Yamaha’s 192.
The next round takes place after a long summer break, with the French circuit of Magny Cours hosting the sixth round between September 8-10.