The final European test of the season is done and Toprak Razgatlioglu was on a mission, spending most of the day on top and proving that his potential with BMW is sky high
Faster lap times, new names rising and the established guard holding their own, the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has been sent into February – the month racing commences (AT LAST) – in some style. Once again, Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was fast but even faster was Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), who – for the first time since joining BMW – topped the timesheets.
BMW CONTINUE TO FLEX MUSCLES: Razgatlioglu turns heads to top final European test
Going into lunch time, Toprak Razgatlioglu was on top of the pile, courtesy of a quick stint on the SCX tyre which saw him set a 1’39.255, four tenths under the official lap record but still a couple of tenths shy of Alvaro Bautista’s time from last year’s preseason test. Toprak was testing with the updated swingarm on day one with “continued work” seeming to carry on across to day two. During the first half of the second day, ‘El Turco’ did a long run with the SC0 tyre, where he seemed to lap strongly with all laps in the 1’40s and the first ones being close to the 1’39 barrier. In his final run, he fired in a 1’39.189 to seal the deal, this time with the SCQ, borrowed from Bonovo; he’s topped a test for the first time with BMW with a full grid in action. The lap was also set with teammate Michael van der Mark behind him. van der Mark was working more on the setup of the bike which has “changed quite a lot”, meaning that he can “play more with the setup”, although they’ve already found a good base.
BULEGA LEADS DUCATI’S CHARGE: is the #11 the real deal?
Once more, Nicolo Bulega was in mighty form; whilst many may have thought that ‘Bulegas’ wouldn’t have been a threat to teammate Alvaro Bautista in 2024, he may already being giving the #1 a headache. Electrically fast all through testing, the reigning WorldSSP Champion was once again one of the benchmark riders on day two. Despite Marco Zambenedetti, Ducati Corse WorldSBK Technical Director, stating that Bulega is only “learning and understanding” the bike and being “positively impressed” with a “very good surprise”, he maintained that “races will be a different story” once the season gets properly underway. When asked about whether or not he will be a contender throughout the season, Zambenedetti said “for sure.” For Bautista, Ducati continued to work with the ballast configuration, although at lunch time, he was only P11 and the fourth Ducati before finishing a lowly 15th. Both Ducati riders were double checking items previously tried at Jerez.
RISE OF LOWES: Alex finds pace with Kawasaki to go P3, Bassani improves on day two
Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) continued his work with the ZX-10RR, confirming items from Jerez, with the key focus on maintaining good race pace in the second half of the race. Electronics and chassis work were vital for Lowes, who also had Showa material to try on his way to P3 overall. As for teammate Axel Bassani, the #47 continued to try and adapt from V4 to inline four engine configuration, as well improve his feeling on corner entry. Anti-wheelie work was also carried out, as well as refining the engine braking setting. Whilst Lowes spent most of the day inside the top ten, Bassani struggled and was down in 17th heading into the second half of the day. Come the chequered flag, ‘El Bocia’ was 11th.
OUTSIDERS: Gardner, Petrucci, Redding and Gerloff strong
2024 is shaping up to be the year of revelations, as a variety of contenders were in the mix behind the main factory stars. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was up inside the top three going into the final hour as he worked on a variety of parts, whilst Danilo Petrucci went 1.5s quicker than he did as a rookie at Portimao last winter, up into the top ten at a circuit he’s historically struggled at; he’s been trying a new seat to improve his position on the bike. Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) and teammate Garrett Gerloff tried a variety of settings and finished the test both inside the top ten, meaning all four full-time BMW riders were strong, the only manufacturer with four bikes in that top ten, whereas Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) was still learning a Superbike and how it handles around the rollercoaster of Portimao.
YAMAHA: day of two halves for Rea and Locatelli
Third at lunch time and the first rider in the 1’39s during the day, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) has really found his feet in WorldSBK and was rapid across both days. Teammate Jonathan Rea was less fortunate, with a technical issue in the morning halting his track time and indeed the session. He returned to the track 40 minutes later but was only ninth at lunch. Having spent day one back-to-backing items previously tested at Jerez and understanding the bike on SC0, Rea stated he was still missing a one-lap attack going into day two. Come the conclusion of track action, ‘Loka’ was sixth, one place ahead of Rea.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR HONDA: encouraging signs but work to do
After doing more laps on day one than both days combined at Jerez, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was an early faller on day two at Portimao. He tumbled out at Turn 7, with the bike needing repairing before it could go back out. Portimao was a track where the #7 was fast at in 2023, so whilst signs are more positive than at Jerez (a track Honda struggled at), it’s difficult to determine how competitive they are. The Spaniard moved up the order a little bit with a late lap to improve his time in the final 15 minutes. Both he and teammate Xavi Vierge spent time adjusting electronics, given that most of Honda’s are new for 2024. Vierge commented that they’re still missing traction, so day two was spent trying to resolve that so that they can use one of the bike’s strengths.
ROUNDING OUT: the rest of the stars
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Motocorsa Racing) was working on long runs and found steps on used tyres but much like Petrucci, struggled with fresh rubber. Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) spent day two working on electronics and engine setup and the team even began working within the new fuel rules that come into force from 2025 and finished just behind the #21, whilst Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was next up, who worked on new triple clamps and swingarms on day one and tried to confirm his feelings on day two. Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) took 20th, ahead of Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) and the two BMW Test Team riders of Sylvain Guintoli and Bradley Smith. Top WorldSSP rider was Adrian Huertas (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team), ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (Ecosantagata Althea Racing Team).
Top 10 after day two, full results here (laps are combined across two bikes):
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’39.189s – 74 laps
2. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.086s – 61 laps
3. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.332s – 90 laps
4. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.377s – 79 laps
5. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.428s – 76 laps
6. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) +0.489s– 80 laps
7. Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) +0.496s – 64 laps
8. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) +0.767s – 53 laps
9. Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.946s – 76 laps
10. Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) +0.947s – 59 laps
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