2023 is now off and running and with 14 riders covered by less than a second in the opening session, it’s going to be a mouth-watering prospect this year and indeed this round
We’re officially underway; the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has fired into life with an action-packed opening session of the season. FP1 of WorldSBK at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit was our first chance to see everyone on track for what really counts, with testing ahead of the round now behind us. Hitting the ground running with a strong race pace, reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) laid down the gauntlet in emphatic fashion.
With a stunning run in the early part of the session, Bautista an electric pace and clocked over 20 laps in the opening session of the season. second place and once again top Yamaha like in the Official Test, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) continues to make steps and was in fine form in his final run. Third place went to Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), with the Valencian setting his fastest lap on his first flying lap. The #7 Honda rider did however have a big moment at Turn 4 on his penultimate lap before crashing at Turn 10 on what would be his last lap, with the front end washing out. Lecuona escaped injury and will seek a continuation of fast pace in the afternoon. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) made it four manufacturers inside the top four and was just under two tenths away from Lecuona, whilst Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) had a strong end to the session to go P5.
It was a busy session for the BMW M 1000 RR of Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), with the Dutchman crashing at Turn 6 but pushing hard throughout and in the end, making it five manufacturers inside the top six with P6 at the flag, just 0.378 shy of Bautista. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) took seventh place, whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) could only manage eighth. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) took his Ducati to ninth to finish as top Independent, whilst Remy Gardner’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) WorldSBK career started with a top ten in P10, despite a late Turn 2 run-off. Rookie teammate Dominique Aegerter was next up, ahead of Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Xavi Vierge (Team HRC). Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) was 14th and the final rider within one second of Bautista, 0.948s away.
Rounding out the top 15, Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) debuted well, ahead of fellow rookie Italian Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team), Frenchman Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and his new teammate, American Garrett Gerloff). P19 went to Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), one place ahead of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), with the 2013 World Champion missing a little bit of the session at the start. Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas MIE Racing Honda Team) and rookie teammate, Brazilian Eric Granado, rounding out the order.
Top six after FP1 of WorldSBK at Phillip Island, full results here:
1. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’31.032s
2. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +0.037s
3. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) +0.097s
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.272s
5. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.369s
6. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.378s
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