Opening day of free practice at Magny-Cours full of surprises
As the WorldSBK riders undertook their first two practice sessions at the Pirelli French Round on Friday it was Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea who led the way with a 1’37.489 lap, whilst Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) were also in the top three.
Rea’s quickest time of the day – which was well under the best race lap of the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit set by his teammate Tom Sykes last year – put him 0.439s ahead of Friday’s second fastest participant Van der Mark. Melandri was marginally slower than Yamaha’s Dutch rider, going round the French track 0.477s off Rea’s time.
The pace of Rea on the first day saw him start the weekend in good shape as he aims to wrap up a third consecutive WorldSBK title. At this point in the championship Rea leads Sykes by 120 points, so if results go his way in race one he could be crowned champion as early as Saturday.
Also within half a second of Rea was fourth placed Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), whilst Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) went round 0.527s off P1 pace in fifth.
Spaniard Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) was sixth best, just ahead of Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) on the combined timesheets. Camier was unable to improve in the afternoon having lapped second fastest in FP1.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) completed the top ten. Sykes is returning to competitive action after missing both races at the last round in Portugal due to a finger injury sustained in practice at Portimao.
Anthony West was 17th quickest on the Puccetti Kawasaki.
Jonathan Rea – P1
“We just put the package together today and the bike is working really well. I am just trying to understand which one of all the tyre options that Pirelli have brought here to use for tomorrow. I think we have a good idea of that already. I am feeling good for long distance and for a one-lap attack. Whatever happens with the weather tomorrow we have to be ready because it is the first opportunity we can have to win this championship. That is exciting for me but the target is to focus on the first race itself and do the best possible job I can.”
Michael van der Mark – P2
“I am really happy! This morning we started quite strong and we improved lap by lap. I was feeling better and better, then we changed something on the front of the bike and we made another step, which was good enough for P7 this morning. For FP2 we didn’t try anything at the start because the temperature had risen dramatically and we wanted to see what the track was like. After my first run we tried out a different rear spring and tyre options, but it wasn’t really an improvement. Towards the end, we went the other way and then I went out on a new set of tyres and made a really good lap time, so I am happy. I am P2, but everyone is so close at the moment. I am happy we are in SP2, but it looks like rain tomorrow so we will have to start again!”
Marco Melandri – P3
“It’s been a positive day. I always enjoyed this track, and it’s really fun to ride the Panigale R in it. We worked well with the team, trying to cover as much room as possible as the forecast predicts rain for tomorrow. We worked on the pace, bringing the tires to race distance, then we tried to gauge our speed with fresh tires towards the end of FP2. I still don’t feel completely comfortable in some corners and we have room for improvement, both in terms of setup and riding. I think that we can have a solid race tomorrow, even though I practically have no experience in the wet with this bike. I hope the weather stays consistent all day so that we have time to adapt to it.”
Chaz Davies – P4
“Overall, day one was OK and we managed to make small but steady improvements. Unfortunately, we got cut short a little bit towards the end of FP2 by a warning on the dashboard, which prompted us to go back to the pits and verify it while we were on the attack with new tires. I’m still not 100 percent happy with the setup, but we’re going in the right direction. Last year we had a couple of awesome races here, both of which were really fun though in very different conditions, so we’ll try to do our best and put up another good fight with our rivals. There’s a strong chance it will rain tomorrow, but you can never know for sure what the weather is going to be like in Magny Cours. We haven’t done much riding riding in the wet this year, so hopefully we’ll get some time to practice in these conditions before the race itself. We’ll take it as it comes, feeling it out and working step by step.”
Tom Sykes – P10
“I cannot believe we have had such a good first day back after injury and I have to thank the surgeon, Dr. Jordi Font, and all the team for organising everything. Also thanks to all the boys here for making a lot of small changes on the bike – to make me feel more comfortable – and the physios and osteopaths who have been working with me.
“Obviously the situation with my hand is not ideal because it is such a recent injury and I am not able to get the bike through the chicanes as I would like. I am losing time because of it. Up until the point that everyone put fresh tyres on their bikes I was not so far behind the best times. That said, even with an injury the lap time is still there.”
Anthony West – P17
“Started out this morning strong and felt great with the bike and not to bad with the track considering I have only raced on Magny-Cours once on a 600cc back in 2009. I expected to go faster in the afternoon but with track temperatures going up 30 degrees from the morning I didn’t expect I’d have to make such big changes to the bike to bike to get some grip back in the rear. It took all session to get back to the same times as in the morning. Unfortunately I lost a lot of positions so I’m not extremely happy with how the day ended but I’m getting more comfortable on the Puccetti Kawasaki. Tomorrow is a new day and it’s race day.”
WorldSBK 2017 – Magny-Cours – Friday Practice Times
- Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 1.37.489
- Michael van der Mark Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team +0.439
- Marco Melandri Aruba.it Racing – Ducati +0.477
WorldSSP: Mahias takes home advantage on Friday in France
The first day of activity at the #FrenchWorldSBK round saw French rider Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) conclude the opening sessions leading the combined timesheets courtesy of a best time from FP1.
Mahias’ best effort of 1’41.502 on Friday morning was the quickest of the day in the WorldSSP class Magny-Cours, with his title rival Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) just behind him second, followed by Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) in third.
PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) completed a top five of riders whose best times of the day all came in FP1. Sixth and seventh respectively on the combined timesheet were Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing) and Alessandro Zaccone (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), who both recorded their best times in FP2.
Friday’s WorldSSP top ten also featured Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI) and Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven).
An incident-packed FP2 session was red flagged twice due to crashes meaning the riders had to maintain their concentration in their pitboxes whilst waiting for the action to resume. The first incident saw Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing), Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag) and Caricasulo crash at turn 5, with the second red flag being shown later due to a crash at turn 6 involving Sofuoglu, Rea, Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing) and Lorenzo Zanetti (Team Factory Vamag). None of the riders were seriously affected by the crashes.
WorldSBK 2017 – Magny-Cours – Friday Supersport Practice Times
- Lucas Mahias GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team 1.41.602
- Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing +0.599
- Federico Caricasulo GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team +0.639