Headlines were everywhere you looked as WorldSBK action ignited in Portugal, with familiar faces combined with surprises at the front of the field
The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is into the final two rounds of the season and the Pirelli Portuguese Round from Portimao is certainly going to be a spectacular one. Taking top honours on day one, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) laid down an emphatic gauntlet in the afternoon, although that doesn’t tell the full story.
DUCATI ON TOP, KAWASAKI IN CONTENTION? Aragon 2.0 on the opening day
It was a strong showing for the factory Ducatis of Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi. Bautista was top for most of the session in FP1 before finishing second but he improved in the afternoon and was comfortably ahead of the opposition by over half a second for most of the session. A 1’40.476 was Bautista’s time initially, quicker than the fastest time of FP1 as times tumbled throughout the second session. For Rinaldi, he was fifth in FP1 before consolidating his top five presence in the afternoon. He went P2 with less than ten minutes to go, albeit not able to get to within half a second of teammate Bautista. At the end of the day, Bautista was top by over a quarter of a second and Rinaldi P3.
Third in FP2, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was back inside the top three at Portimao, a track where he’s won at some 13 times and will be keen to add to that tally this weekend if it’s possible to fight at the front. Rea couldn’t match the speed of the Ducatis in FP2, although the Kawasaki ZX-10RR was right in contention through the twisty sectors two and three. Teammate Alex Lowes is back in action after missing Aragon and having been declared fit for the Pirelli Portuguese Round, he’ll also be looking for a strong weekend. Rea finished in fourth as the chequered flag waved on Friday whilst Lowes was 14th but less than a second off in a mightily close day one in Portugal.
GERLOFF A FORCE: American star leads shining Independent order in the Algarve
BMW were in mighty form once again, particularly with Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) who wrote more headlines for the manufacturer by topping FP1 by over four tenths of a second, although he didn’t improve his time in the afternoon. His 1’40.763 put him second on the combined times, whilst Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was P6 and top of the factory team. Teammate Scott Redding could only manage 16th, one place behind Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW).
Gerloff wasn’t the only Independent rider inside the top ten as Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) took top Yamaha honours with fifth place, a superb effort by the Australian rookie who has been strong in the second half of the 2023 season. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was seventh come the end of Friday as Ducati once again look strong, whilst Gardner’s teammate Dominique Aegerter was tenth and was back on form after a difficult couple of rounds at Magny-Cours and Aragon.
RAZGATLIOGLU WOES: taking flight but a turbulent Friday
Being joined by Bautista in his final run for a couple of laps, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was in good company but perhaps not in the best position in the overall standings. He was only able to take P8 in FP2 and was behind teammate Andrea Locatelli, who was one place ahead of him in P7 in what was very much similar to Sunday’s Race 2 at Aragon, although both improved from FP1. Razgatlioglu has won two of the last three races at Portimao but in what has seen Razgatlioglu outside the top six for the second consecutive Friday, he’ll hope to come good come Saturday. One thing to note: whilst Razgatlioglu wasn’t necessarily flying in terms of lap time, he certainly was when it came to the jump on the exit of Turn 8! He got big air over the leap, even more than last year!
HONDA OUTSIDE THE TOP TEN: work to do for Team HRC and more
Having been inside the top seven in the morning session, as the pace picked up, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) dropped to outside the top ten and was P11. Lecuona struggled at Portimao last year and the Valencian star will hope that he can make inroads throughout the remainder of the weekend. On the other side of the garage, Xavi Vierge didn’t feature any better as he struggled to just 17th on the combined times but was only 1.2s off.
Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) took P12 in what was a more positive day from him, ahead of Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), who is now in his final two rounds with Lorenzo Mauri’s team. Behind them, Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) was 18th and had an incident with Gerloff earlier in the session on the exit of Turn 14, when Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing) was in the American’s eyeline. Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) was 19th, with Ruiu completing the top 20 ahead of Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) and Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) took P23 ahead of teammate Eric Granado, whilst Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) completed the running.
Top six after WorldSBK’s Friday at Portimao, full results here:
1. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’40.476s
2. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.287s
3. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.351s
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.542s
5. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.546s
6. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.771s
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