With 16 riders covered by less than 1.5s, it’s game on Down Under as Round 1 looms large, and the pack is shaken up more than anyone could’ve thought
That’s it; pre-season is all done and dusted for the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship field as the final day of testing concluded at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia. The Official Test came to an end and ahead of the first round of the season – the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round – and it was Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who topped the times and leads the way into a new season of racing.
#1 BY NAME AND NATURE: Bautista on top, Rinaldi strong again
Having been strong right from the start, it was a mighty display by Bautista, who opened the day with a 1’30.272 in FP1, the fastest time of the test at that point. Focussing on working for the weekend and with set-up high on his agenda, Bautista was in a class of his own. On the other side of the factory garage, the dream pre-season continued in splendid fashion for Michael Ruben Rinaldi, with the 27-year-old Italian making strides once more and sporadically topping the timesheets throughout the day. After missing “some tenths” on day one, Rinaldi set his fastest time of the test in FP1, comfortably under the 2022 pole time. The only blot on his copy book? A small crash at Turn 10, but he re-joined without too much drama. Third overall, Rinaldi’s step forward is evident in testing.
NEW ORDER: Blue Tuesday for Locatelli, Razgatlioglu tenth in FP2
For Yamaha, it was another positive day for Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), as he was second in the morning session, having topped the corresponding session on day one. Running inside the top two for the majority of FP2 on day two, Locatelli continued working like he did on day one and was doing short race simulations throughout both two-hour sessions, finishing as top Yamaha. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) had a relatively quiet day as he continued his search for improved rear grip, despite a good final run on the opening day. With race simulation being the call of the day, Razgatlioglu was fifth in FP1 but languished in tenth at the end of FP2, placing him sixth overall and third Yamaha.
REA FLIES KAWASAKI’S FLAG: second crash of testing
Following a day of mixed feelings on day one, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was once again top Kawasaki rider and was fourth in the morning session whilst getting many laps under his belt throughout the day. He had a focus on making the bike manageable, with sector three being a weak point, whilst he also had late-race tyre life to continue working on too. With just less than 30 minutes of the pre-season to go, Rea suffered a second crash of the Official Test at Turn 4 but re-joined and made it back to pitlane, taking fourth overall with his FP1 time being his best. As for teammate Alex Lowes, he was only 12th in the morning session and 15th at the end of the day, with work to do for the #22.
AEGERTER ASTONISHES: super Swiss takes P2 in FP2, Gardner in form at home, Oettl shines
Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was in sublime form and took second in FP2 and fifth overall, good and within a second of the top three in the afternoon and on the fringes of the top ten in the morning, as he completed a long run after spending day one trialling different items and electronics. It was a fantastic day for Aegerter’s home-hero rookie teammate Remy Gardner, who briefly topped the final session after 30 minutes and was second for the majority of it. Ninth overall but still strong with fifth in FP2, has the Australian been keeping his powder dry? A late technical problem was the only tint in an otherwise strong first two days of WorldSBK action on home soil.
There was more reason to smile for Official Test revelation Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven), who continued to shine as he was seventh and getting used to the 2023 Ducati, whilst the same couldn’t be said for Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team), who despite finishing the test in P10 and P11 respectively, crashed together at Turn 4, bringing out the first red flag of FP2 on day two. Both were on their feet but taken to the medical centre for a check.
WORK TO DO: Lecuona puts Honda P8, no BMWs in the top ten
After what was a difficult first day for Honda with no representation in the top ten, it wasn’t the strongest of starts in the morning either. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) suffered a big crash at Turn 8 and whilst he was OK, the bike certainly took a beating. Just a few moments later, teammate Iker Lecuona stopped on circuit between Turn 4 and Turn 6 but was able to get back to the pits before finishing the morning in P7. In the afternoon, Vierge was first out, keen to make sure the bike was all OK and make up for lost time in FP1, whilst Lecuona too hit the circuit and was top Honda come the end of proceedings in seventh, as he continued to chase the sweet spot, whilst Vierge was only 17th, with Honda’s target getting the new chassis to work for them.
In the BMW camp, it was Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) who was doing the business and he was able to break into the top ten with just less than hour of pre-season testing to go before finishing ninth in the session and 12th overall. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) was only 17th in the session but was 13th overall, whilst Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was 14th in the morning, 12th in the afternoon and made it a hat-trick of BMWs with 14th overall. With a focus on getting the new M 1000 RR dialled in for Phillip Island, he will hope that more steps can be made during the round itself to meet his target of the top six. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was 16th, making it 16 riders covered by less than 1.5s.
ELSEWHERE IN THE FIELD: crashes and battles until the end
Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) suffered a crash in FP2 which brought out the second red flag of the session at Turn 6 and with his bike reportedly in flames. He was on a personal best lap at the time. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) suffered a second crash in as many days at Turn 4, this time with the bike more damaged on his way to 19th. Behind him in FP2, Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) made it three Kawasakis outside of the top ten, just ahead of Hafizh Syahrin (MIE Racing Honda Team) and rookie teammate Eric Granado.
Top six after Day 2 of testing, full results here:
1. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’30.272s
2. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) + 0.072s
3. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.229s
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.444s
5. Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.467s
6. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.485s
THE GOLDEN ERA CONTINUES: the talking stops now; enjoy Round 1 in style with the WorldSBK VideoPass!