Rea was on fire as WorldSBK track action returned for the first time since Round 6 at Most
Despite the summer break taking hold of the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the riders were back out on track for testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. The sun was shining throughout the entire day, although the temperatures soared in the afternoon, meaning grip was far from ideal. Only doing half a day and leaving it late to top the timesheets, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) sits pretty ahead of day two. Times were slower than the preseason test held back at the end of March, due to the increase in temperature, as well as the fact that there were no spare Q tyres that needed to be used from 2021, as was the case earlier in the year. Pirelli did bring a new front tyre for testing; most riders will use it tomorrow.
REA STEALS DAY 1 HONOURS: a late lap puts Kawasaki top
Electing to only make an appearance in the second half of the day, Jonathan Rea was straight down to business, as the six-time World Champion got started on what was a busy testing schedule. Working on the balance of electronics, engine and the chassis, he and his team were working for the round here in a month’s time and also for the next round of the season at Magny-Cours; crew chief Pere Riba stated that ‘understanding electronics’ for the French Round was on the agendas. There were also different brake components, whilst Riba also teased that they were already “working for 2023”, although he was coy on specifics. Teammate Alex Lowes enjoyed a full day of action despite running out of fuel at one point, working on set-up and getting plenty of laps in. Come the end of the day, Rea topped the timesheets with a late flying lap, whilst Lowes was fifth.
RINALDI TOP DUCATI, LECUONA AND VIERGE IMPRESS: interesting top six…
On the pace from the start and leading the way at midday, Barcelona winner from 2021 Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was in good form, with continued long-term progress his main aim for the first day. Chassis, engine and clutch work was his agenda, although there were no big modifications. The Italian improved his time in the hotter afternoon session before being pushed back to second. World Championship leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was back on a bike for the first time since Most as he had to give his hand time to get better following his Donington Park spill in Race 1. The Spaniard said that his hand was at 90%, and he had new items to test ranging from a new swingarm to the internals. The “interesting” items may also ‘be good for the future’ so whilst there was an element of focusing on the round, there was also a long-term vision too. Bautista’s search for rear grip continued, whilst he also wanted to improve the acceleration of the Ducati Panigale V4 R. He was third at the end of the day.
At Team HRC, Iker Lecuona was back in action following on from his Suzuka 8 Hours victory. With that, the team – including team manager Leon Camier – were incredibly impressed with his ability and the progress continued in Barcelona. The main upgrade for Honda is a stiffer chassis bracing, something which Camier stated was a ‘key’ point of the test. With the aim to bring stability and to improve rider feeling in the mid-to-exit of the corner, it was one element of the testing. They were also back-to-back testing swingarms, with the ‘new’ one first making an appearance at Misano, although they’re comparing their findings by testing it with the older spec. Along with that, Lecuona had the option of trying a hand rear brake, whereas usually he uses the foot rear brake. For Xavi Vierge, he was also on the pace and returned to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Lecuona improved his time in the final hour to finish fourth overall, whilst Vierge was sixth.
YAMAHA AND BMW: Razgatlioglu, Locatelli and Redding outside top six
The sole aim for Yamaha was to get back into the swing of things, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) having not been on the bike since Most at the end of July. The reigning World Champion was one of the first to go out in the morning and although the team had a new front tyre from Pirelli at their disposal, they only had one in their allocation and didn’t use it during the first day. Razgatlioglu was unsurprisingly in good spirits and concluded the day in seventh, shifting his focus in the afternoon to working on rear grip and corner speed, critical in Barcelona. For teammate Andrea Locatelli, the Italian had a relatively quiet day as he too got back up to speed. Having not troubled the timesheets too much in the morning, Locatelli eventually finished ninth.
Scott Redding’s (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) day was spent continuing the development work as he and the team continued refining the BMW M 1000 RR package. Ultimately finishing in eighth, it was a good day for Redding, despite the rising temperatures in the afternoon enhancing his already-present lack of grip feeling. On the other side of the garage, it was a welcome return to action for Michael van der Mark, with the Dutchman making his second comeback after a nasty FP1 crash at Estoril. With his leg at 90% and with him not in pain when he rides, his aim was to first get dialled back into the action before using the new swingarm as well as getting through plenty of other items, as both riders aimed to improve the turning of the bike. After day one, van der Mark was 13th.
INDEPENDENTS: who shone on day one?
For the Independent riders, it was a strong day for Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW), who set the pace and was eventually 1.4s off the fastest time in tenth. Teammate Loris Baz was also present, finishing the day in 11th and just behind his stablemate. 14th was TPR Team Pedercini Racing’s Oscar Gutierrez, the double Spanish Supersport champion who made his WorldSBK debut. 15th and losing some time in the afternoon due to a technical problem, Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) eventually got back out. Following on from his best WorldSBK weekend at home at Most, Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was likewise in action and rounded out the WorldSBK order. There were also two WorldSSP riders present, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) finishing ahead of Ducati’s Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura WorldSSP) by just over two tenths.
Top six at the end of day one at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya:
1 Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’41.531s
2. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.285s
3. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.680s
4. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) +0.715s
5. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.827s
6. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) +0.850s
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