There was reason to celebrate for Yamaha as they took the first pole of 2023, whilst Swiss history was achieved and 13 riders were covered by less than a second
With rain in the air and clouds looming large, the first Tissot Superpole session of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was a frantic 15-minute shootout for pole. With rookies getting used to the new format, last year’s title contenders with extra pressure from up-and-coming stars and plenty of Independent riders in the mix, there were a multitude of dynamics to watch out for. Rising to the top come the end of the session, it was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) who came from outside the top ten on Friday afternoon to take the first pole position of the year on Saturday morning.
STORY OF SUPERPOLE: frenetic from the start
Despite dark clouds overhead, the rain abated for the session, but track temperatures and indeed the ambient temperatures were lower than on Friday, levelling the playing field somewhat as more riders were able to get into the mix. Out on track from the start, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was top in FP3 and led teammate Xavi Vierge around on their first run, whilst Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), who had been the fastest Yamaha in the Official Test and on day one of the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round, led 2021 World Champion teammate Toprak Razgatlioglu on track. After the first laps, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was top ahead of teammate Alvaro Bautista, with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) ahead of Locatelli and Phillip Oettl (Team GoEleven).
However, charging fast behind was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who came up from 20th to provisional pole position with a 1’29.715, the fastest lap of the weekend. Iker Lecuona had elevated himself into the top five, whilst Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was up in eighth, ahead of Razgatlioglu in ninth and Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who completed the top ten with seven minutes. For the second run, Bautista was the first out on track and with Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) right behind him, hoping to improve his time with a fast marker. Once again, Team HRC’s line-up was on track together with teamwork being key. Bautista’s first flying lap was bothered by traffic, with Gardner getting in his way at Turn 9 but nonetheless, the Spaniard improved. Petrucci behind him went up to fourth, before both bailed out on their next lap.
LAST ROLL OF THE DICE: Razgatlioglu rallies to P1
However, with less than three minutes to go, it was an incredible climax to the session as rookie Aegerter stormed up to provisional pole with a sensational lap time, before Toprak Razgatlioglu salvaged his weekend to go top with two minutes on the clock. Formation flying, it was a lap set as he followed Locatelli, with teamwork being key. Alvaro Bautista started his 2023 title defence in solid style and will launch from the middle of the front row in second, whilst the unequivocal surprise was that reigning double World Supersport Champion Dominique Aegerter got an outstanding front row slot with third. It was also a historic front row in WorldSBK for a Swiss rider.
ROW TWO: Rea to charge from P4, Oettl outperforms Rinaldi
On the second row of the grid and lining up in fourth, Jonathan Rea is off the front row in a season-opener for the first time since 2018, when he qualified in sixth. Continuing an electric pace from the Official Test and from Friday, Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) was on a mission as he took fifth on what is a career-best for the German, now into his second season of action. He was only 0.374s behind Razgatlioglu at the top and just 0.001s ahead of fellow Ducati rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who was sixth. His best Phillip Island Superpole result, Rinaldi has made a step in his qualification.
HOME HERO ON ROW THREE: Gardner’s solid debut
Third row honours went to Remy Gardner who will start his first WorldSBK race from seventh place and will be ready to make progress at home. He was ahead of Alex Lowes in eighth place, with Lowes going from the same position which saw him take second in his first race for Kawasaki. After showing great pace throughout the weekend, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was only ninth, but looks good over race distance. Making his debut in the class and having been as high as fourth, Danilo Petrucci took tenth, a first top ten for the Barni Spark Racing Team since Estoril, 2021.
REMAINDER OF THE FIELD: Honda and BMW struggle in crucial moments
Outside the top ten and after topping FP3, Iker Lecuona dropped back and will start from the middle of the fourth row, just ahead of top BMW rider Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in 12th. His teammate, Scott Redding, could only manage 13th and was the last rider within one second of pole position, one place ahead of 2022’s Best Independent rider Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Italian rookie Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha).
Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) took 16th in his BMW debut, ahead of Xavi Vierge, with the Honda rider enduring a torrid weekend so far. Loris Baz (Bonovo Acton BMW) likewise struggled in P18, one place ahead of Phillip Island lap record holder Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team). His teammate Hafizh Syahrin was next up whilst Czech youngster Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) completed the field.
Top six after WorldSBK Tissot Superpole, full results here:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) 1’29.400s
2. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.184s
3. Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.235s
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.315s
5. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) +0.374s
6. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.375s
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