Four manufacturers hold top four positions after opening free practice session
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was the fastest man in the first free practice session at Losail International Circuit, as the final round of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicked off in Qatar. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was second on the timesheets in FP1, but the 2018 champion enjoyed little time out on track at the sunset-lit Losail, an early crash forcing him to sit out most of the session.
The 2018 champion was as usual amongst the first riders to test the Qatari tarmac, and he did so in stunning fashion by setting a fastest time of 1’59.290 – a lap no other rider was able to come close to before the final stages of FP1. Two turns later, Rea lost the front end, his ZX-10RR tumbling over into the gravel. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) suffered a similar fate at turn 1 – just five minutes into FP1, two of the championship’s three frontrunners were already out of action and forced to watch from the sidelines.
Less than a minute before the chequered flag came down, Laverty managed to record a lap 0.763 seconds faster than Rea’s, while the rest of the field struggled to find form early on in Qatar. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) were amongst those who came the closest, finishing in third and fourth respectively.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) was the fifth fastest in Qatar, showing once again his fantastic end of season form. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) followed in sixth, with Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) finishing a promising seventh – although he too crashed out with six minutes to go.
The Kawasaki pair of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) followed in eighth and ninth, with Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) rounding off the top ten. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) could only finish the session in 12th position, with van der Mark’s sole lap leaving him down in 15th.
The floodlights will be switched on for Free Practice 2 at 18:45 local time (15:45 GMT), as the action continues through the evening in Qatar. Follow it here through live timing, and catch all the highlights from today thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass.