Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) stole the headlines and the timesheets on Day 1 of the Yamaha Finance Australian Round, leading the charge to Tissot-Superpole 2 with a 1:30.407 set in FP2 to go fastest overall.
Behind the Noale factory machine at the top, Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) took P2 for Honda as he debuts with the Japanese marque, just clear of the second Aprilia machine of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia).
With early morning drizzle, a dry FP2 and then rain once again in the afternoon ahead of the final session of the day, track conditions changed throughout Day 1 but did end dry. Regardless, the best laptime set by Savadori in FP2 remained at the top of the timesheets, unthreatened.
Behind the Aprilia-Honda-Aprilia lockout at the top, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) took fourth and was the fastest Kawasaki machine, just under a tenth faster than teammate and reigning champion Jonathan Rea.
Rea was the first on the timesheets to set his quickest effort of the day in FP3, moving up a couple of places towards the end of play.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) finished up the first track action of the race weekend in P6 after topping a damp FP1, just ahead of 2014 WorldSSP Champion Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who was the fastest Yamaha.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) led a trio of riders who improved in FP3 as he ended the day in P8, just ahead of fellow Panigale rider Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) completed the top ten, with the Brit having crashed in FP2 on his first flying lap but able to get back out in FP3 and secure his place in Tissot-Superpole 2.
Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) was the man to just get pushed out, but the American made a solid debut at the track despite a crash late on Friday from which he escaped unscathed. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was P12 and will be another rider pushing hard to move through from Tissot-Superpole 1 on Saturday – with Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Friday crasher Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) waiting in the wings to try and make it every manufacturer in the top 12 on the grid.
Troy Herfoss remains the quickest of the local riders but failed to improve on his FP2 time, as did Maxwell.
“It’s hard to explain, I grew up watching WorldSBK and it’s been my life long goal to ride at this level. The two-day test early this week was an amazing feeling to be out on the track and riding with these guys, it was great to get that out of the way and settle the nerves and now I’m ready to go racing over the weekend and do the best job I can for my team.”
Daniel Falzon did improve marginally however in the final session, lowering his mark to 1m32.991, two-tenths slower than his YRT team-mate Maxwell.
“The first session took place on a drying track. We rode around, kept the bike in one piece. Its looking like conditions may be wet this weekend at times. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be racing as a wildcard in the WorldSBK championship and to do it with our Australian Yamaha Racing Team makes it even better. I think with how strong ASBK competition is at the moment, it’s good enough to ride at the world level.”
The Friday practice times count towards qualifying for Superpole tomorrow, which is scheduled to get underway at 1230 before the opening 22-lap WorldSBK race of season 2018 slated to kick off at 1500 Saturday afternoon.
World Superbike Combined Friday Practice
Savadori – Aprilia 1m30.407
Camier – Honda 1m30.722
Laverty – Aprilia 1m30.746
Sykes – Kawasaki 1m30.882
Rea – Kawasaki 1m30.972
Melandri – Ducati 1m30.973
Van Der Mark – Yamaha 1m31.114
Fores – Ducati 1m31.225
Davies – Ducati 1m31.515
Lowes – Yamaha 1m31.516
Gagne – Honda 1m31.689
Razgatlioglu – Kawasaki 1m31.824
Torres – MV Agusta 1m31.924
Ramos – Kawasaki 1m32.244
Mercado – Kawasaki 1m32.285
Baz – BMW 1m32.340
Hernandez – Kawasaki 1m32.347
Jacobsen – Honda 1m32.501
Herfoss – Honda 1m32.683
Maxwell – Yamaha 1m32.723
Falzon – Yamaha 1m32.991
Jezek – Yamaha 1m33.553
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) leads the World Supersport ranks into the first Tissot-Superpole sessions of the year, with the Frenchman – and reigning champion – ending Friday action exactly four tenths clear of nearest rival Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team). Swiss rider Krummenacher returns to the class in 2018 after proving a race winner two years ago and was immediately up to speed to impress, as was the fastest rookie on Day 1, 2012 Moto3 World Champion Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing).
Friday at Phillip Island was a damp one, with early morning drizzle then drying out – before rain over the break in the middle of the day affected track conditions once more. The only two men to improve in the second session were five-time champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and newcomer to the class Mike di Meglio (GMT94 Yamaha) as the track just about dried out by the end of the session. Sofuoglu, with his 1:33.576 in FP2, ended the day in fourth behind Cortese, leapfrogging Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) to put Kawasaki into a top five dominated by Yamaha and completed by Caricasulo.
Raffaele de Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was the quickest Italian machine in sixth – just ahead of Aussie home hero and second Kawasaki representative Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing), who took seventh and goes straight through to Superpole 2 on his return to the class.
Championship stalwart Jules Cluzel (NRT) was eighth fastest on Friday, ahead of British rider Luke Stapleford’s (Profile Racing) Triumph Daytona 675. Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) completed the top ten as the final direct graduate to Tissot-Superpole 2 – with his Honda making it five manufacturers heading through to fight for the top ten on the grid.
Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) just missed the cut and will be pushing to move through on Saturday in Suerpole 1, as will Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag), who was within a tenth of the Finnish rider ahead of him.
Wilcard entrant Tom Toparis was 17th and Lachlan Epis 19th.
”It’s pretty cool to be a wildcard in the WorldSSP Class, it reminds me a lot of last season when I rode in Moto3 as you are riding around with guys you watch on TV everyday. I’m really excited for this opportunity and I’m hoping the rain stays away as it makes the track a lot more fun and makes for better racing. We are liking the set up we have right now, as we aren’t far off the pace and if it stays dry over the weekend, we can really improve our times.”
After FP3 on Saturday morning, the first Tissot-Superpole session of the 2018 WorldSSP season gets underway in the afternoon – with lights out to decide the grid at 13:30 local time (GMT + 11).
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