Chaz Davies tops the board in FP3, while Melandri puts Panigale issues behind
It was a warm homecoming from the Ducati supporters at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, and the riders welcomed their energy in style, all of them making it into the top 10 and tomorrow’s Tissot Superpole 2. Sitting just 50km from the Panigale R factory in Bologna, at Imola the Ducati riders performed comfortably, a much-needed bounce back from two mixed races at Assen.
Above all, it was Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who made the early mark on Friday. For most of the day he trailed a seemingly unstoppable Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), only briefly jumping ahead for ten minutes in FP3. But on his fastest lap, the Welsh wonder matched Rea’s best of 1’46.686, with the champion already back in his box. Davies’ second fastest lap was one thousandth of a second better than Rea’s – proof of how incredibly competitive the two are here.
Davies was happy at how the team faced Day 1 at Imola: “This morning, we didn’t rush at making changes although it sort of felt like we needed them. We just let the track come to us, let it bed in a little bit, and it seemed to do that, it seemed to help our bike a little bit more. I can’t really say we’ve changed all that much today, but it’s been good doing it that way around, because it gives us a little bit more to work on tonight. I think we’re quite sure of where we need to improve for tomorrow, to extract the last few tenths out of it”.
With Davies and Rea so combative here, it seems like tomorrow another thriller will follow. The Welshman also foresees it being a two-rider affair: “Someone might wake up tomorrow and find something good, but it looks like it will either come from Marco or, I think Savadori was doing pretty good? But again, I think me and Johnny have got a little bit of pace on those guys”.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was the ‘best of the rest’ on the day, showing none of the problems that plagued his last race weekend. Following his season-opening Double at Philip Island, the Italian has only climbed back onto the podium once in six races, a drought that seems to have the Italian fired up in front of his home crowd.
The Brno test proved to be invaluable for the Aruba team. “We understand a lot of stuff now”, Melandri says. “We didn’t really fix the problem, but we do understand how to manage the problem. I think it was an important test for me and for Aruba.it Racing – Ducati, so we’re going to see if we can make a little step further tomorrow to stay closer to the top guys.”
Meanwhile, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) continued his successful WorldSBK initiation by qualifying for the Superpole 2, scraping ahead of two top-class competitors in Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team).
Still, there’s room for improvement, says Rinaldi: “We made a good time. I’m not really satisfied with P10, because we struggled a little bit to make this time, we have to improve a lot to fight with the first five riders. This is my target for this race, I like this track so I just want to go very well, but I’ve never been here with Superbikes. It’s very different compared to STK1000, so we have to work a lot”.
See who can keep up with the Ducatis in tomorrow’s Superpole and Race 1, starting from 10:30 (08:30 GMT). And catch all of the Italian Round highlights, reactions and much more, thanks to the WorldSBK VideoPass.