The Turkish sensation finds himself in a familiar starting position in Indonesia and ahead of the top two in the title race – is this where his Championship charge really starts?
A thrilling Tissot Superpole session for the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is in the history books at the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit, with a thrilling trio of races in prospect. With hot and humid conditions as ever for the Motul Indonesian Round and the SCQ returning for the first time in 2023, it was a sensational battle for pole in Indonesia, with it going the way of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) for a third year at Mandalika, heading up a historic Yamaha 1-2 for the first time in nearly 13 years.
STORY OF SUPERPOLE: gloves off on first runs
Heading out on track together at the start, Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW), although van der Mark broke clear of the American and was the first rider to set a lap, being a 1’33.002. However, that time was soon beaten by the chasing pack, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) going half a second quicker, although Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) soon took over before Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) went provisional pole after the first five minutes. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was also on the pace but could only manage third, whilst teammate Bautista went fastest with his second lap. Strategies were varying, with Bautista staying out for a third lap, whilst Razgatlioglu was in the pits.
Elsewhere, Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was in good shape and was on course for pole with nine minutes to go but lost time in the final sector, going ninth, one place behind BMW pairing van der Mark and his teammate, Scott Redding. One rider – who mentioned ahead of the round that a solution was needed for Superpole – who impressed in the opening half of the session was Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), sitting fifth and top Independent. In terms of riders seeking an improvement ahead of their final run, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was only P10 with less than six minutes to go, whilst Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was 16th.
FINAL ATTACK FOR POLE: SCQ tyres fitted
Razgatlioglu was the first rider out on track for a last charge to the top and to keep up his 100% pole record at Mandalika. He was followed by Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), with the Frenchman having a great marker to move up the order with Toprak just ahead of him and going P7. Behind Baz, Locatelli was on a fast lap and scheduled for a second career front row – his other one coming at Mandalika last year. Locatelli went provisionally second, with Razgatlioglu ahead of him going top with a strong final sector. Bautista was relegated to third place whilst teammate Rinaldi went off track into the gravel on a fast lap at Turn 11, meaning he was now banking on a final push.
FRONT ROW: historic Yamaha 1-2
It was all settled for the front rows, with Toprak Razgatlioglu coming out on top to make it a hat-trick of Mandalika poles, consolidating his prowess at the circuit and giving him a vital edge over the opposition ahead of racing commencing. Behind the 2021 World Champion, his teammate and current second-placed in the Championship, Andrea Locatelli. It was a Yamaha 1-2 for the first time since Kyalami in 2010, when Cal Crutchlow headed James Toseland. A fantastic effort by the Japanese manufacturer, who continue to write history in Indonesia with their special Indonesian-flagged livery, with just their fifth 1-2 after Superpole in WorldSBK history. Completing the front row, Bautista will go from third, his best Superpole at Mandalika.
SECOND ROW: late drama costs Rea
The second row featured late changes after yellow flags were waved, meaning some lap times were deleted. Jonathan Rea was originally scheduled to head up the second row but he lost his time, thus making way for Rinaldi to make it to fourth, with the Italian emphasising his step made in Superpole. Rea was originally scheduled to line up in fifth and in the middle of the second row, but was given a three-place grid penalty for Race 1 due to slow riding. He is off the front row in consecutive rounds for the first time since Aragon and Assen in 2019, when he was tenth and eighth respectively and he lines up eighth in Race 1. Completing the second row was top BMW Loris Baz, with the lap behind Razgatlioglu paying dividends.
THIRD ROW: Bassani demoted, Lowes struggles
Axel Bassani was meant to line up sixth but due to the yellow flags, had his time deleted and instead heads up row three, but is still seven places better than he managed in the season-opener a week ago. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) took to Mandalika and used the SCQ tyre for the first time and was eighth, whilst Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) had a very quiet session and could only manage ninth. Michael van der Mark completed the top ten.
FURTHER DOWN: big names with work to do
There’s a raft of big names coming behind, with Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) another rider losing his lap time and starting from 11th. Dominique Aegerter couldn’t replicate his Phillip Island phenomenon and starts 12th. Leading off the fifth row is Xavi Vierge (Team HRC), who is 13th after consistently being top Honda all weekend. Garrett Gerloff was 14th, ahead of Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven), who will be disappointed after his fifth place in Australia in Superpole.
It was a disaster for Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), whose already disastrous weekend got worse when he had his lap time – originally good enough for 11th – deleted, leaving him 16th. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was 17th, ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha), Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team) and his teammate Eric Granado, whilst Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) completed the field. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is out of Saturday action after being declared unfit due to illness.
Top six after WorldSBK Superpole, full results here:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) 1’32.037s
2. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.069s
3. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.165s
4. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.505s
5. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.513s
6. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.601s
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