A 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 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 races for in 2023.
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 with Buis finished eighth.
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. 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.
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.
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. Adding to the remarkable stats list, Buis is the only two time champion in WorldSSP300 history.
Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki), stated: “On the last laps of Race Two I knew if I stayed in the position I was in I would be World Champion, so I didn’t want to take any risks inside the group, just in case another rider made a stupid mistake and took me out. So for this reason I stayed out a little bit. I just did my race and took the points I needed. I am a two-times champion and it is incredible to have the best stats in the WorldSSP300 championship. You have to be very consistent in this class, and use your head, like I did today. Sometimes you have to think and sometimes you have to fight.”