A frenetic Superpole session in the Algarve brought with it a shaken-up order as Race 1 promises to be a belter
An action-packed Tissot Superpole at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is in the record books for the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as the stage (or rather, the grid) is set for thrilling races to come. The rollercoaster of Portimao always brings surprises and it was no different in Superpole, as Kawasaki bagged a 1-2 with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) took back-to-back poles at Portimao and in 2023, just marginally off the lap record, whilst the two title contenders are behind him on the second row.
STORY OF SUPERPOLE: on the pace from the start
Without the usual SCQ tyre and instead the SCX being the softest available,15 minutes began counting down and immediately, riders hit the track to get their banker lap in. First out of the pits and onto the circuit, the heavy hitters of Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea got straight down to business.
After their opening laps, it was Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who went top with the fastest lap of the weekend so far, and teammate Rea who went second, whilst using them as a marker, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was third, ahead of Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) and Razgatlioglu. After his first lap left him in P9, Bautista moved up to the front row in P3 after his second lap. Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) had a mechanical issue as smoke was coming from his M 1000 RR and he was shown he technical flag with nine minutes to go. Teammate Michael van der Mark was strong in fourth.
FINAL MOMENTS: yellow flags change the order
With eight minutes to go, Jonathan Rea headed back out, looking like he was going for an alternative strategy to the others and taking profit of an empty track. With just over six minutes to go, he started his flying lap for his second run, going on provisional pole with a 1’39.620, just a hundredth off his own lap record from 2022. However, he couldn’t beat it with his second lap and red sectors were everywhere. Moving up to the front row, Razgatlioglu and teammate Andrea Locatelli, before Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) briefly occupied P3. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) then moved up to provisionally rescue Ducati’s session in P2. However, there were yellow flags for separate incidents with Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) at Turn 13 and Alex Lowes at Turn 1, which left Rinaldi and Gardner with their lap times deleted, moving Locatelli to P3 and Razgatlioglu to P4. Bautista was a big beneficiary as he was scheduled to go from P7 but moves up to fifth.
FRONT ROW: Kawasaki’s first 1-2 in over a year, Locatelli P3 but penalty casts cloud
So, at the end of all the changes in the order, it’s a Kawasaki 1-2 with formation flying for the green machines. Just 0.010s off the lap record, Rea stormed to back-to-back pole positions for the first time since last year when he took pole at Donington Park, Most and Magny-Cours. He’s in a good position to go for a 14th win at Portimao, whilst teammate Lowes – despite a crash – took second and made it a Kawasaki 1-2 on the grid for the first time since Donington Park last year. Third place for ‘Loka’ and top Yamaha honours but with a back of the grid start for Race 1 looming large, he’ll be fighting through the field with strong pace present from Aragon too.
SECOND ROW: title battle set for drama – Razgatlioglu P4 vs Bautista P5
Inheriting a Race 1 front row start but qualifying in fourth, Toprak Razgatlioglu has the upper hand on the grid over his title rival Alvaro Bautista and after both lapped together in FP2 on Friday, they’ll be closely matched on the run down towards Turn 1. The fifth place in Superpole also means that Bautista continues to miss the front row at Portimao. Another riding gaining from times being deleted elsewhere, Iker Lecuona made it back-to-back top six results after Superpole for the first time in his WorldSBK career.
COMPLETING THE TOP TEN: van der Mark and Petrucci set for battle, Oettl strong
Heading up the third row but going from the back of the second row in Race 1, Michael van der Mark is always in contention at Portimao, where he was a winner with BMW two years ago. He’ll be fighting off Danilo Petrucci who is directly behind him, with ‘Petrux’ eager to fight for the podium. Remy Gardner’s lap time being deleted leaves him down in P9 but the Australian has demonstrated strong pace across the weekend, whilst Philipp Oettl – who was briefly top at the start of the session – completes a top ten covered by 0.642s and he’ll go from the third row in Race 1.
BIG NAMES DOWN FIELD: ones to watch charging through
Scott Redding’s dramas saw him return to the track but only manage p11, whilst Garrett Gerloff was 12th, with the identical time of Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who is down on the fifth row after his lap time got deleted. Vierge’s crash leaves him 14th, whilst Axel Bassani’s (Motocorsa Racing) torrid Superpole form has returned, with the Italian going from 15th. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) is next up in 16th and the last rider within a second of Rea’s pole but will start from the pitlane for both Race 1 and Race 2 due to exceeding his engine allocation.
Baz is ahead of Dominique Aegerter, (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who struggled to make an impression. Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team), Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) and Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) completed the top 20. Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing) and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) rounded out the order.
Top six after WorldSBK Superpole, full results here:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’39.620s
2. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.142s
3. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.252s
4. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.271s
5. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.369s
6. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) +0.513s
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