A circuit where Ducati have always been strong and Yamaha generally less competitive than at other circuits, the pattern came true on the opening day
With temperatures rising, the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s tenth round was electric as ever on the opening day of the Tissot Aragon Round. As anticipated, lap times tumbled in Free Practice 2, with all riders going quicker almost immediately at the MotorLand Aragon venue. The sun was out and come the end of the session, pre-round favourite Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) elevated himself to P1 with Ducati locking out the top three in the afternoon.
DUCATI COME STRONG: Bautista blasts forwards in FP2, Rinaldi in contention
After what was a lacklustre opening session in P8, Alvaro Bautista came on strong in FP2 and was instantly faster than FP1. He was right up inside the top three and the Championship leader, despite not being absolutely dominant at a track where he’s been hailed as the favourite at, remains with a target on his back. His teammate, Michael Ruben Rinaldi, was top factory Ducati in FP1 with fifth and spent much of FP2 inside the top six too, going into the final ten minutes on top. With his future still hanging in the balance, the #21 needs a strong weekend at the venue where he took his maiden win back in 2020. Come the close of the opening day, Bautista was top and Rinaldi second, polishing off a perfect afternoon for the ‘Bologna Bullets’ at a track they’re strong at.
INDEPENDENTS RISE TO THE OCCASION: Petrucci makes it Ducati 1-2-3, Gerloff strong again
Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was strong at the August test at Aragon and picked up where he left off with a fine P3 on the opening day of action, undoubtedly his strongest and most consistent Friday of the year. In sixth place, Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) once again led the charge for BMW, whilst Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was ninth and the second Yamaha at the end of the day when the chequered flag dropped.
KAWASAKI BEST OF THE REST: Rea in touch with P4
Fastest in Free Practice 1, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was the first rider of the day to get into the 1’49s bracket, with a 1’49.970 within the opening ten minutes of the session, once again showing that he’s one of the main riders and a force to be reckoned with as Aragon’s most successful rider. However, the six-time World Champion couldn’t improve throughout the rest of the session and took fourth at the chequered flag. With Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) out injured, test rider Florian Marino replaced him this weekend and was solid, throughout, taking 16th at the end of the day.
HONDA BACK ON FORM? Lecuona shines despite crash in FP2, Vierge in touch
It was a more than solid day at the office and something of a return to form for Honda; Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was second in P2 and on a mission, before setting a consistent race pace in the mid-to-low 1’50s. Although both riders relied on their morning times, it was a positive day, particularly for the #7 of Lecuona, who was back to something of some recognisable form, although a late crash lap pushing on for a strong lap at the end of FP2 at Turn 14. Lecuona was on the newer chassis, which featured less bracing to help the bike turn in the corners better, whilst teammate Xavi Vierge stuck with the older specification, not seeing much difference. Vierge moved into the top ten in FP2 but was sixth in FP1, before finishing eighth overall, with Lecuona P5 on combined times.
BOGEY TRACK: Yamaha with plenty of work to do, Razgatlioglu outside top six
Over at Yamaha, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was the fastest for the opening day, with the 2021 World Champion seventh in FP1 and inside the top six throughout the second session in the afternoon. Typically, Aragon is a difficult track for Toprak and Yamaha, so whilst on the face of it, it’s more of a weekend of damage limitation, Razgatlioglu aims to ruffle Bautista’s feathers this weekend. Teammate Andrea Locatelli was a solid force inside the top ten with P9 in FP1. Overall, Razgatlioglu took seventh, with ‘Loka’ in tenth.
BMW’S BAD LUCK: Redding injured, van der Mark 14th
In the factory BMW squad, there wasn’t much to shout about with Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) suffering from an injury sustained at home, whilst fellow factory BMW rider Michael van der Mark crashed in FP2 at Turn 12. Thankfully, the Dutchman returned to the circuit with ten minutes to go to try and set a faster lap time, whilst Redding returned not long after, following a brief stint in the pitlane with front suspension work being carried out. As day two hit the history books, Redding was 15th and van der Mark 14th, leaping ahead in the closing stages of FP2.
BEST OF THE REST: Oettl leads the charge in P11, Bassani nowhere
At a circuit where Ducati are so powerful, German rider Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) missed out on a top ten place by just 0.050s, taking 11th at the end of FP2. He was ahead of Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) and Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), with both of Michael Galinski’s BMWs ahead of the factory effort. Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) took P17, ahead of Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), with the #47 having a nightmare first day at Aragon, a track he’s never featured strongly at.
20th went to Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team). Wildcard Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing) took 21st with Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) completed the final order on day one.
Top six after day one in WorldSBK, full results here:
1. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’49.649s
2. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.077s
3. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) +0.176s
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.321s
5. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) +0.799s
6. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.805s
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