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Oct 2, 2023

Buis Makes History With Second Championship Win

Just one week after the WorldSSP300 riders gathered for the penultimate WorldSSP300 championship clash at Motorland Aragon in Spain they once more took to a field of battle on the Iberian Peninsula for the season finale. The exquisitely modernist Autodromo Internacional do Algarve - or simply Portimao to its many friends - provided the brightly illuminated backdrop for the last few dramas of the season.

Eight rounds and 16 individual races into the championship the title fight was eventually decided, on Sunday October 1, with all to play for until the last lap.

By Saturday night, with 2020 champion Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki) and his only remaining challenger Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing Kawasaki) having completed Race One, the certainty of there being a Ninja 400 riding World Champion in the most competitive class of them all was assured.

The next nearest challenger on a non-Kawasaki machine was more than 25 points away from Buis, meaning no matter what, one of the two leading Kawasaki riders would be the world champion on Sunday afternoon.

The big question was would Buis, entering Portimao with a comfortable lead, be able to wrap-up the title in Race One, or would Perez Gonzalez snatch the crown from his grasp?

The Spaniard would not, because by the end of Race Two, on the first day of October, Buis had done enough - even with an 11th place race finish in the final contest. It was more than enough to make Jefrey the champion for a unique second time in his career. He had been champion in 2020, for the same MTM team he raced for in 2023.

Although no-one would know it at the first race start time of 12.40 on Saturday 30 September, the contest would not reach the full 13 laps after a collision on the straight saw Ninja 400 rider Jose Manuel Osuna Saez (Deza - Box77 Racing Kawasaki) clash with another rider and then crash. He was taken to hospital with what proved to be a left collarbone fracture, chest contusion and fractures to his left ribs. The red flag was put out straight away and the race stopped. The whole paddock wishes a speedy recovery to Jose Manuel.

The first race had been as combative as everyone has come to expect of this small capacity production-derived World Championship with the biggest thrills built in.

Buis had work to do to regain the nine-rider leading group after taking a long lap penalty, but he managed to do it. He could not get back into contention for the race win, even with one lap to run before the red flag was thrown.

Buis got to race with his final main rival Perez Gonzalez at one stage, making the jeopardy for the Spanish rider very real in terms of the championship being over one race before the end of the year.

At the red flag the top finishing Kawasaki rider was none other than Perez Gonzalez, who had led the race and was able to pass many of his rivals when needed. He was third and with a final extra penalty applied to Buis for the way he had ridden on the straight, the Dutchman finished eighth.

With one more lap Gonzalez may well have claimed his first win in this class of racing, but he was denied the chance, even if he only finished 0.311 from the victor Mirko Gennai (Yamaha).

From Kevin Sabatucci (Team Flembbo PI Performance Kawasaki) in sixth place to Fenton Seabright (Kawasaki GP Project) in 11th, the Kawasaki riders inside the top places in Race One outnumbered any other manufacturers' competitors. This is not unusual and a major part of the reason Kawasaki was crowned Manufacturers’ Championship winners at the previous round in Motorland Aragon.

The upshot of all the unpredictable action in Race One was that the gap between Buis and Perez Gonzalez was 22 points entering Sunday’s finale, with 25 points available for the Race Two winner. Anything less than those 25 points for Gonzalez - plus a finish of 14th or worse for Buis - would see Buis crowned champion for the second time. A tie on points would see the crown awarded to Buis.

As it transpired Jeffrey played a careful game and did not get too involved in the desperate fights at the front of the second race, which this time did go to the full 13-laps in duration.

Perez Gonzalez was in a fight for his championship life up front in Race Two, as he and eventual race winner Gennai battled it out at a pace that took them away from the chasing pack of eight riders.

Buis had been part of the leading fight but knowing he had lots of positions in hand to win the championship, even if Perez Gonzalez won, he used his vast WorldSSP300 experience to just ease home behind any potential trouble. He was well clear of the battle for 12th place and the final points scores of the year going on a few seconds behind him.

Perez Gonzalez was behind Gennai on the final exit of the final turn, but he sling-shotted his way alongside his rival down the short run along the main straight to the checkered flag. He was adjudged to be too rough in his move and although he crossed the line for this first ever WorldSSP300 race ‘win,’ he was shortly afterwards dropped one position.

Had he indeed kept his winning status he would have still lost the championship fight against Buis by two points. With the penalty seeing Jose Luis second, not first, Buis won the title by seven points.

Daniel Mogeda (Kawasaki GP Project Kawasaki) was fourth in Race Two, Veneman seventh, and Samuel Di Sora (Prodina Kawasaki) eighth. No fewer than eight Kawasaki riders finished Race Two inside the top 13 places.

In the overall championship fight, nine Kawasaki riders placed inside the top 14 final positions. Buis and Perez Gonzalez were first and second, of course, with the next best Ninja 400 was Assen double race winner, Petr Svoboda (Füsport - RT Motorsports by SKM Kawasaki) in sixth place overall. Rookie rider Veneman was eighth overall, with Mogeda ninth and Di Sora 11th.

Occasional wildcard rider and Misano double race winner Bruno Ieraci (ProDina Kawasaki Corse) was 14th despite riding in only four races of the 16 individual races.

To top off an amazing season for Buis and his team, MTM Kawasaki won the Teams’ title, to add to the Riders’ Championship and Manufacturers’ Championship which were all won on Ninja 400 machinery.

Buis in Portimao
Buis in Portimao
Veneman in Portimao
Veneman in Portimao
Gonzalez in Portimao
Gonzalez in Portimao