TESTING IS OVER: Razgatlioglu obliterates lap record to top final test ahead of 2024 starting

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 07:11 GMT

The last testing action before racing begins is now over with Razgatlioglu and BMW leading the way

The talking stops and soon, the action will begin for the contenders of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, who will go for glory in a frenetic season. The Official Test has concluded and many riders are now working exclusively for the weekend, with the first points of the season up for grabs. With the new track surface at Phillip Island in Australia, many riders spent the day working on race distance and tyre management, although the proof will be in the pudding as to whether or not their homework will pay have paid off.

RAZGATLIOGLU VS BULEGA: trading blows for lap record honours

It was a busy day for BMW, who continued to try various swingarms. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), like throughout other tests, was right in contention. He wasn’t sure what exactly to expect at Phillip Island but was fast, particularly in the middle sectors. However, outright pace wasn’t the target for BMW as both Toprak and teammate Michael van der Mark worked on chassis balance, in order to preserve tyre life as best as possible. There were also new strategies being tried for engine braking, although chassis and front-end material is fixed. Continued work on engine strategy, electronics and swingarm went on all day. Toprak went all-out at the end of the day and smashed the lap record, snatching it from Bulega to make it a 1’28.511. Van der Mark slipped down the order, finishing in 14th.

Once again at Ducati, a day of two halves. Nicolo Bulega was absolutely sensation in FP1 and became the first WorldSBK rider to lap the track in the 1’28 bracket with a 1’28.890. He did suffer a crash at Turn 4 however but was unharmed. He then turned on the coals during the final ten minutes of testing action, gobbling up the lap record to set a 1’28.585 although he would finish in P2 overall. However, Alvaro Bautista suffered a slightly faster crash at Turn 6 and still isn’t comfortable aboard his machine on his way to P7. Not a consistent threat throughout the day inside the top ten, team boss Serafino Foti stated that it was more of a case of wait and see for the double World Champion with regards to how he’s feeling with his nagging injury. The plan across Ducati’s box was to get used to the new track surface at Phillip Island and understand how the tyre reacts, although Foti stated that he has no concerns over race pace. Bautista has won eight out of the nine races he’s took part in for Ducati at Phillip Island, Bulega was a winner for them in WorldSSP last year.

REA CRASHES, LOCATELLI SHINES: two contrasting sides from Yamaha

It was a day of two sides for the Pata Prometeon Yamaha team too; the headline was that Jonathan Rea suffered a big crash at Turn 11, a highside coming through the corner. Rea was already down field at the time and didn’t look comfortable when leaving the medical centre. As for FP2, he was one of the last riders out, initially doing a short stint. He was outside the top ten with more than an hour to go, with the plan at the start of the day to try some more new items and finalise the package for the weekend. Teammate Andrea Locatelli was in good form at a circuit he loves, a constant threat in the top five as he looked to work on tyre life and race simulations, with his base setup already confirmed from previous tests. The Italian finished in third going into the weekend, Rea was stuck in 15th.

THE MANIAC IS RIGHT THERE: Iannone storms ‘The Island’ as racing return nears

He's always gone well at Phillip Island but even Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) may have had reason to be surprised with his Official Test display. He was magnificent on ‘The Island’ as he got to understand the track surface and how the tyres react, as well as some electronic work. He was leading at points and barely dropped outside the top five all day, finishing P4 overall. Fellow Independent Ducati stars were also fast, such as the #21 of Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) in P6, #14 of Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) in P11, as he and the squad ready for their first taste of WorldSBK action. He did suffer a fall at Turn 10 but was fine; then, there was Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team), who was also on top at points and a regular feature in the top ten throughout the day before finishing 12th at the end of running.

GREEN SIGNS: Lowes and Bassani find form

A promising day was completed for Kawasaki, with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) right in the thick of the action in both the morning and the afternoon session. Eighth in the opening session, the #22 actually went faster in the afternoon, a time that put him second provisionally, showcasing that the collaboration between him and crew chief Pere Riba, as well as Kawasaki’s upgrades – particularly with electronics – are paying dividends. Whilst not as high as he’d have liked to have been, teammate Axel Bassani also made gains and was closer to the front than at any other point during testing and likewise set his best time in the afternoon session. Both had the aim of working over long distance. Lowes was fifth at the end of it all with Bassani tenth, although both were briefly inside the top five at the same time during the afternoon session.

LECUONA INJURED: Honda’s woes continue Down Under

Honda’s day couldn’t have started any worse for Iker Lecuona (Team HRC). The Spaniard was hoping to make up for lost test time from Portimao in a bid to find a base setup for the new bike but instead, his day ended in the gravel. A highside at Turn 11 left him out of action for the remainder of the morning and the entirety of the afternoon, with his arm in a sling. For Vierge, he chipped away and his race pace – as ever – seemed more promising than his one lap pace. The #97 was 16th, whilst Lecuona relied on his FP1 time to be 19th overall, leaving Honda with plenty of work going into the weekend.

BEST OF THE REST: Redding strong as Gardner shows potential

Over at the Bonovo Action BMW team, Scott Redding and Garrett Gerloff were also working on tyre management and race pace; Gerloff suffered a technical issue at Turn 1 earlier in the day but got back out, although he was one of only two riders who didn’t improve in the afternoon. Scott Redding said he didn’t know there was a new surface until he arrived to the circuit and that the plan was out of the window when the testing day was put all onto one. However, he went well in the afternoon and was second-best BMW in P7, P8 overall. He was one place ahead of Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who was P9 come the end of running, whereas teammate Dominique Aegerter was 13th.

Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) suffered tech issues in FP1 and was 17th overall, whilst Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) took 20th ahead of Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda) and his teammate Adam Norrodin. Mackenzie crashed at Turn 3, leaving his bike badly damaged although he was able to walk away.

Top six on combined times, full results here:

1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’28.511s
2. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) +0.074s
3. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) +0.324s
4. Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) +0.490s
5. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.700s
6. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) +0.702s

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