Just like in 2021, the Autodrom Most may well be about to witness a real battle at the front if Friday’s pace is anything to go by
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has arrived at the Autodrom Most for the sixth round of the season, marking the halfway point. The Prosecco DOC Czech Round features one of the quirkiest layouts on the calendar and sits alone to most other circuits visited, meaning that Friday is vital to understand the nuances and peculiarities of such a technical layout. We’ve analysed the race pace of the riders in the fight at the front and it looks like we’re set for a battle royale in the Czech Republic.
RAZGATLIOGLU VS REDDING: in contention from the start
Razgatlioglu’s race pace was pretty strong in FP2, with the reigning World Champion setting nine laps in the 1’32 bracket, whilst his final run featured three 1’31s. However, it seemed that Toprak could get down to the low 1’32s with ease and his final run, besides two laps where he didn’t push, was the fastest we’d seen at the circuit. A double winner in 2021, Razgatlioglu likewise has recent form after his career-first triple at Donington Park two weeks ago. Combine this with his race pace from Friday at Most and he may well be in a strong position going into the summer break. A 1’31.503 was his fastest lap time, a new lap record for the moment.
However, if race pace is anything to go by then Scott Redding’s (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is likewise impressive. The British rider set 12 laps in the 1’32 bracket, of which half of them were in the lower end. He dipped into the 1’31s just once but his pace was still impressive. The new swingarm and consequential geometry setting changes seem to have enabled Redding to ride the bike how he likes to ride it and although he wasn’t able to get down into the 1’31s more than once, his Donington Park Friday race pace was replicated in the races, suggesting that the same could be happening at Most. Have BMW really turned the corner?
A STEP TO FIND: third to fifth will be aiming to get into the fight
From third to fifth, there’re plenty of big names and one of them is Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). Rinaldi was top Ducati after day one in the Czech Republic and used his experience of the circuit aboard the V4 R last year to his advantage, albeit setting five 1’32s and just one 1’31, the latter of which came in his final stint, which was one of his slower runs. As is often the case with Rinaldi on Friday, he didn’t set a run as long as his rivals but with him being another rider in form, could a good Tissot Superpole propel him further to the front?
Teammate Alvaro Bautista didn’t manage to do more than two consecutive 1’32s in FP2, as the Spaniard got up to speed with the Ducati Panigale V4 R for the first time at the Autodrom Most. Getting down into the 1’31 bracket on his penultimate lap, a time attack at the end of the session so Bautista show his outright pace but like teammate Rinaldi, his long run pace isn’t indicative, with slow laps and cancelled times flagging up on his nine-lap first outing.
In green and looking to strike back after topping the morning times will be Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). Only sixth in FP2 and fifth on the combined times, he and his ZX-10RR seemed to struggle in the afternoon. Rea set 12 1’32s but his longer first run saw him in the mid-to-high end of the bracket, whilst in this second and third runs, he was quicker, his last run being the fastest and where he set his fastest time. Rea was in the 1’31s in FP1 so has the pace within him, so perhaps it was a matter of trialling the different SC0 compounds brought by Pirelli to the round than anything else. He’ll always be there come the race, but he’ll have been looking for more as the day came to an end, more than half a second from Razgatlioglu.
DARK HORSES: keep an eye on the following…
Setting just six laps in the 1’32s, Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) may have used an SCX tyre to get down to the 1’32.039 that he set at the start of his final run. The Frenchman ended the day fifth overall but apart from his fastest time being immediately backed up with a 1’32.2, he was at the high-end of the 1’32 and mostly in the 1’33s. Don’t rule him out of being a spoiler however, as he and his team look to improve overnight.
Another rider to keep an eye on will be Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who set seven 1’32s in FP2 and at a solid pace too. An eight-lap stint of which seven laps were in the 1’32s, and mostly in the mid-1’32s as well, Lowes could well be right in the mix for a podium if he continues that pace into Saturday and Sunday. What’s more impressive is that he set his fastest lap of the session right at the end of the run. Lowes is looking good for success in the Czech Republic.
There are of course other riders to look out for too. Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was fast in the morning session but couldn’t replicate it entirely in the afternoon, whilst the likes of Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK), Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) and Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) always bridge gaps to be in the battle for the top ten placings. There’s also the unknown quantity of Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), who was eighth in the morning session but crashed early on in FP2 and didn’t go back out. Losing vital track time, he’ll be one to watch through Saturday and Sunday action.