All-new and all-rookie: the GRT Junior WorldSBK Team have a new line-up for the 2020 season, with youthful exuberance spearheading their charge to success next year
With much success enjoyed in World Supersport, Federico Caricasulo will step up from the class in 2020 and join the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK outfit, the team he raced with in World Supersport during the 2017 and 2018 WorldSSP seasons. Alongside him will be an all-new name in the 2020 WorldSBK field, as 24-year-old American Garrett Gerloff will join the WorldSBK grid from the MotoAmerica paddock, having spent two years in the Superbike class, finishing third overall in 2019 with four race wins.
Starting with Caricasulo, the young Italian was welcomed into the WorldSBK paddock back in 2014, in the European Superstock 600 championship where he took a handful of podiums on his way to fifth in the championship, having only completed four of the seven rounds. He was third in the standings of the same class in 2015, clinching one win. Stepping up to WorldSSP in 2016, with six wins and 14 other podiums coming in the four seasons he has been in the class, not to mention being right in contention for the World Supersport Championship in 2019.
However, 2019 has been the season where Caricasulo has made a visible step change and utilised that experience, with not just out-and-out raw pace but also excellent race craft. Two wins and finishing all but two races on the podium, Caricasulo has caught the attention of the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK outfit to welcome him back and this time, into the World Superbike class.
Speaking about the deal, the 23-year-old stated: “For me this is a dream come true. To have the chance to step up to WorldSBK is already fantastic, but to be given the opportunity to do so with Yamaha and in a team that I know well is just incredible. I grew up as a racer as part of the GRT Yamaha team, realising my potential on the world stage with them, so I'm excited to go back and start this new adventure.
“But for now, I need to put this to one side and focus on the final race of the season in the Supersport class. I am second in the championship, just eight points off the lead, so it's still all to play for at the final round. Nothing would make me happier than stepping up to WorldSBK as the reigning Supersport World Champion, and that's exactly what we'll be aiming for in Qatar next week."
Garett Gerloff’s path to the WorldSBK paddock is slightly different to Caricasulo’s but just as worthy, with him coming through the American national scene. In 2016 and 2017, Gerloff stormed to two MotoAmerica Supersport Championships and in his three years in the class, took 19 wins. The Texan will be flying the American flag with honour, as the USA will be represented on the grid full-time for the first time since 2018.
The relationship between Yamaha and American riders in WorldSBK is revitalised too, as the last full-time American with Yamaha was Ben Spies, back in 2009. There’s been plenty of others through the years of WorldSBK, with Colin Edwards and Scott Russell both racing for the factory during their WorldSBK careers, whilst most recently, Cameron Beaubier stepped up to replace 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli at Donington Park in 2016.
Looking ahead to his move onto the international scene and the WorldSBK paddock, Gerloff outlined his plan of attack: “I want to start out by saying thank you to Yamaha Motor USA for everything that they’ve done for me, for signing me in the first place so many years ago and really having faith in me. I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career without their help. I’m really excited to say that I’ll be continuing in the Yamaha family for 2020, this time with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team. I’m also really looking forward to representing America overseas. It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of doing and something that I’ve been preparing for, and I feel like I’m ready to do. I really appreciate Yamaha Europe giving me the opportunity to be that guy, to be one of the guys, to represent them and try to go get good results.”
Gerloff stated his appreciation for 2009 WorldSBK Champion Ben Spies, who has given plenty of assistance in recent times.
“I also want to say a big thanks to Ben Spies for really helping me out the past few months and getting my name out there and really pushing for me,” he said. “I have a lot of goals that I really want to accomplish next year, and I know that with the team’s help and the Yamaha R1 that I’ll have a great opportunity of reaching them. I know this isn’t going to be easy, but I never give up. I’m ready to push myself and continue chasing my dream!"
The GRT Yamaha WorldSBK team have themselves been rookies in WorldSBK this year, but impressive performances from Marco Melandri have welcomed the team onto the podium – including in their first ever race. With the veteran Italian retiring, a young Italian will be inheriting Melandri’s efforts of developing the bike this year, whilst Gerloff will look to return the American flag to the top in World Superbike.
Watch the remainder of the 2019 WorldSBK and WorldSSP seasons with the comprehensive WorldSBK VideoPass!