Yamaha R3 Super Finale: Emiliano Ercolani celebrates victory in Portimao
After firing to victory in Race 2, Italian youngster Emiliano Ercolani claimed the inaugural Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European SuperFinale title at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal, earning him a spot on the 2023 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European Cup grid with full support from Yamaha.
Having scored a podium finish in the opening race this morning, Ercolani edged ahead of France’s Evann Plaindoux in the final standings, with 2021 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European Cup rider Kayla Yaakov impressing on her return to European racing in third overall.
Spain’s Unai Calatayud led the field away from pole position in Race 1, but was quickly demoted behind home hero David Da Costa and Ercolani, who traded positions out front throughout the opening lap.
As the race settled in, 15 riders battled in the front group, with FIM Supersport 300 World Championship Barcelona wildcard Calatuyad regaining the lead on the second lap. Da Costa then hit the front again, and was able to cross the line in first from lap four right until the chequered flag, seeing him become the first Portuguese rider to claim victory inside the FIM Superbike World Championship paddock since 1989.
That win didn’t come without a challenge though, with Plaindoux putting in a storming charge from 11th on the grid to narrowly miss out on victory by just 0.081s in second. Ercolani found himself at the back of the lead group in the final few laps, but managed to make his way back into third by the finish, with American young talent Yaakov following him through to take fourth.
Spain’s Javier Corral Arias made it five different nationalities in the top five positions, finishing ahead of pole-sitter Calatayud, who dropped half-a-second behind on the penultimate lap and was unable to recover. Italy’s Emanuele Cazzaniga was seventh and also lost out at the end, after challenging for a top three spot late on.
Natalia Rivera Resel came out on top of the second group of riders in eighth, with the Spaniard two seconds clear of Japan’s Teppei Kugawa and Brazil’s Kaywan Alves Freire da Costa.
The grid was reset for Race 2, which was shortened to eight laps following an incident in the WorldSSP300 race. Da Costa once again fought his way to the front, ahead of Calatayud, with the Race 1 protagonists all back in the hunt throughout the second contest.
The #72 rider looked set to double up in the Algarve, but on the final lap at the final corner – a tricky high-speed downhill right-hander – Da Costa crashed, ending his hopes of winning the first Yamaha R3 SuperFinale.
There to capitalise was Ercolani, who jumped ahead of third-place finisher Plaindoux in the final standings to claim the overall victory. Yaakov led at several points throughout the race, crossing the line in second ahead of Freire da Costa.
The Brazilian was penalised a position for track limits on the final lap though, seeing Plaindoux promoted to the podium for the second time this weekend. It was a reverse of Race 1’s results for Spanish duo Calatayud and Corral Arias in fifth and sixth, while France’s Dorian Joulin made impressive gains from 14th on the grid to finish seventh.
Cazzaniga was eighth, ahead of Rivera Resel and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Abdalaziz Binladin, both of which were able to run with the lead group in the second race, finishing just over a second from victory.
“I am very happy, I just tried very hard from the start and to finish with the victory is amazing,” Ercolani said. “I will of course be back next year in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European Cup, and thanks to Yamaha for offering this event and giving me support for the 2023 season.”