Xavi Fores feels he still belongs on the show

Spanish driver Fores was called up to the Portuguese circuit on Saturday morning by GoEleven following Philipp Oettl’s big crash during Friday practice which left the German driver with a broken collarbone.

The third practice session that morning was Fores’ first aboard the GoEleven V4 Panigale R, but despite a lack of track time he qualified in a respectable 17th place and progressed to the 11th place in the opening race, the best of the independent Ducati riders.

He followed that up with a 10th-place finish in Sunday’s second full race to cap an accomplished return to WSBK after 18 months out of the series.

“Finishing in the top 10 was nice and a bit unexpected, to be honest,” Fores said. “It was my very first time on the V4 Superbike, but I felt pretty good on the bike from the first session I did with Philipp’s set-up.”

When asked if he felt he still belonged in the WSBK after such a performance with limited training time at Estoril, the 36-year-old replied: “Of course it’s something for which I push.

“I spoke a lot with Barni [the Ducati satellite team Fores raced for in 2016-18], we have a good relationship, and I always tell them that I still feel strong. You could see it in the races, my strong point was the second part of the race.

“If I had a good bike and could work properly on my own bike and my own style, I could be very strong. But unfortunately there are no bikes [available].

“GoEleven gave me an amazing opportunity to show people that I’m still on the beat, that I believe in myself, but it’s out of my hands. If there’s no bikes, I can’t do anything.

Fores had established himself as a semi-regular podium finisher with the Barni team, finishing seventh in the standings in 2017 and 18, but was replaced for 19 by factory Ducati rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi at the request of sponsor Aruba – some something he spoke out strongly against at the time.

This prompted Fores to move to British Superbike in 2019 with Honda, and after just one season in the series he made a return to WSBK in 2020 on the non-competitive Puccetti Kawasaki, leaving after one season.

He returned to BSB in 2021 under a deal with BMW which also included outings in the FIM Endurance World Championship, where he remained for 2022 with the Team ERC Endurance Ducati team.

Fores played down his chances of establishing another foothold in WSBK, citing his age and a limited number of non-factory competitive packages as obstacles.

“I always believed that my place was in WSBK, but now more than in the past, if you don’t have a factory bike or a good [satellite] bike, it’s not as easy as it used to be to stay with the peloton,” Fores said.

“There are only a few good private teams, Barni, GoEleven, the BMW second team [Bonovo]maybe GRT [Yamaha]… but they are looking for young riders and I have always had trouble finding a place.

“Now I like to do different things, but I’m always ready for those kinds of situations.”

Fores says he’s not yet sure if he’ll be needed by GoEleven for the next WSBK round at Misano next weekend.

“It doesn’t depend on me, it depends on whether Philipp is ready or not. [after surgery],” he pointed out. “I hope he’s ready, but in case he’s not ready, I’m available.”

Wiley C. Thompson