PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda riders Hafizh Syahrin and Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (who substitutes for Eric Granado this weekend) have completed the first of the races making up this final WorldSBK championship round at Jerez de la Frontera with positive results, Syahrin finishing fifteenth to score a championship point and Mercado seventeenth across the line after a long absence from the tracks.
Syahrin and Mercado made the most of the morning’s practice, particularly considering that they were unable to exploit Friday’s FP1 due to the difficult track conditions. Hafizh was able to improve on his FP2 time by a good half a second, while Leandro found more than a second with respect to his best of Friday, progress that augured well ahead of the qualifying session. In the subsequent Superpole session, the two riders continued to move in the right direction in terms of outright lap times. With Syahrin and Mercado setting a best of 1’41.231 and 1’41.487 respectively, the PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team qualified on the seventh and eighth rows of the grid for Race 1.
As the race got underway, Malaysian Hafizh and Argentinian rider Leandro found themselves part of a group of four riders. Battling with these direct rivals, the PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda riders gradually gained ground, with Mercado up into seventeenth and Syahrin eighteenth by the mid-race point. The pair then exchanged places before gaining another couple of positions each, then Syahrin held fifteenth to the line, while Mercado set his fastest time on lap seventeen, before ultimately crossing the line in seventeenth position.
Hafizh Syahrin P15
“Our target has always been to reach the points zone. Sometimes we’ve struggled but today we were able to finish fifteenth. I had trouble in today’s race to be honest, more so than I did during the practices, which was strange as we hadn’t really changed anything. I did what I could anyway and tried to understand how best to manage the bike. We scored one point, which is better than nothing, but the aim is to improve further tomorrow by finding a few more tenths.”
Leandro Mercado P17
“We’ve made good progress so far, from one session to the next. We’ve made a few changes to the set-up to suit my style and things have gradually improved. I had no real expectations heading into the race, aside from completing it and doing my best of course. It was always going to be hard having had only two sessions in which to prepare. My pace was consistent anyway, and although I struggled a lot with rear grip, I’m satisfied with how it went. Now we’ll see if we can take another step during tomorrow’s races.”