FP1 may have been tricky but the track action was fierce on Friday afternoon as the title-deciding weekend for WorldSBK ignites
After losing most of FP1 due to the damp and cold conditions, Free Practice 2 for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto was much better and much needed. Championship leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) didn’t venture out in FP1 and crashed at Turn 6 during FP2, not long after he was being followed on track by Championship rival Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK).
TUSSLE AT THE TOP: Razgatlioglu leads the way, Bautista P3 despite fall
In the blue corner and looking to sign off his Yamaha chapter on a high and delay Bautista’s seemingly inevitable title celebrations for as long as possible, Razgatlioglu was in good form from the start, chasing Bautista in the standings, timesheets and on track for a lot of it. The Turkish star was a double winner in 2021 at Jerez and he’ll need perfection this year – combined with a Bautista disaster – if he’s to fight for the title. He left it late to fly to the top of the standings, meaning business on the opening day. Teammate Andrea Locatelli was inside the top seven for most of the session, finishing in P9 at the end of the day.
Ducati’s day started pretty well as Alvaro Bautista got under the 1’41 mark almost instantly before a small crash at Turn 6 halted his progress with less than half an hour on the clock. However, after returning unharmed to the pits, he was back out with just over 20 minutes of the session still to go, eventually finishing third. Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi has always been competitive at Jerez and was right in contention throughout the session and inside the top four, as he gears up for his final round in the factory Ducati team. Rinaldi took fourth as Friday action finished.
INDEPENDENT STRENGTH: five stars in five-star Friday
There was a raft of Independent stars up inside the leading positions, with Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) riding well in P2, putting together one of the longest runs of the day on his first exit. Behind him, teammate Dominique Aegerter was P5 and made a great save in the closing minutes of the session at Turn 6, whilst a job-hunting Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) took sixth. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) was seventh despite a hefty crash at Turn 8 on his outlap of the session. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) started Jerez inside the top ten with eighth.
BMW AND HONDA: factory riders fighting for the top ten placings
In tenth place, Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was the fastest of the factory BMWs as he looks to finish his tenure with Shaun Muir’s outfit on a high. He won at the track in 2020, claiming his first wins of his WorldSBK career. On the other side of the box, teammate Michael van der Mark was one of just four riders to go out in FP1, finishing second in the end but P12 overall.
The next-best factory team were Team HRC, who with their rider line-up completed for 2024 and 2025 with no changes, took to the track which should play into their hands after plenty of testing over the last seasons. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) and teammate Xavi Vierge likewise have plenty of experience at Jerez and Lecuona was 11th, although Vierge struggled and was down in P18.
STRUGGLING: Rea 13th as Kawasaki chapter nears closure, 2024 Yamaha crew chief confirmed
It was a day of struggles for Kawasaki, with Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) swansong round for the team now upon him. The three-time Jerez race winner languished outside of the top ten on day one, finishing in 13th, one place ahead of his 2024 replacement Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing). Things didn’t go much better on the other side of the box either, with Alex Lowes crashing at Turn 1 and finishing the session in 16th. With regards to 2024, Rea will test for Yamaha in the post-round test and will have Andrew Pitt has his teammate, confirmed via a pitlane interview with the World Feed broadcast by team principal Paul Denning. In KRT, Pere Riba confirmed he’ll stay with the green team, although was coy on what exactly his role will be and with which rider.
REST OF THE FIELD: perhaps a surprise to come?
15th place went the way of Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) despite a tumble at Turn 6, whilst Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was 17th and with his future seemingly still in doubt. Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) was 19th ahead of Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), with Manuel Puccetti’s outfit with a factory ZX-10RR at their disposal this weekend. 2023 IDM Superbike champion Florian Alt (Holzhauer Racing Promotion) was 21st as a wildcard, ahead of Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing); the Italian had a huge highside at Turn 13 which brought out a brief red flag. Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) is substituting for Eric Granado this weekend and grabbed the headlines in FP1 by leading the way but was 23rd in the dry FP2, whilst Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) completed the order in 24th place, suffering a crash at Turn 6.
Top six after Friday in WorldSBK, full results here:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) 1’40.312s
2. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.244s
3. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.320s
4. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.398s
5. Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.511s
6. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) +0.546s
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