Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) hit the headlines by stunning on his debut at Donington Park for the Prosecco DOC UK Round. The American fastest on a blissfully sunny Friday afternoon, enough to put him on top overall with a 1m27.524, ahead of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK).
It was an Independent on top on Friday in the UK as Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) improved significantly throughout the opening day of action to go top on an SCX tyre in the closing stages. An irrepressible Gerloff topped every single sector around the Donington Park circuit, as he made his debut at the British venue. Impressively going about his business at a brand new circuit and less than a week after a solid substitute performance at the Dutch GP in MotoGP, Gerloff hopes to continue his form into Saturday and Sunday. On the other side of the garage, it was a nightmare for Kohta Nozane, who was ruled unfit following his Navarra testing crash which left him with a fractured middle finger on his right hand.
“It’s funny to say, but I get a lot of US vibes here. Everyone speaks English, and this track reminds me of Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway, and Pittsburgh back at home. Today was good and I look forward to the rest of the weekend. I already feel like I have a really good bike, and the Yamaha R1 has historically always been fast around here, just like on most circuits. It’s nice to know that Les (Pearson, Chief Engineer) always has everything already planned and under control. Whenever I need any information, he already has everything ready. With me focused on learning the track, it is nice to know that he has all the adjustments set to go depending on my comments. I feel really good on the bike, so I just want to get through qualifying and go racing now. I was surprised at how little grip the track had in the heat of the afternoon and my first run during FP2 was all over the place, but it seems like it might rain both tomorrow and Sunday anyway. We have a good bike either way, we will see how it goes.”
The Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK duo of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes enjoyed a positive session, as both riders hit the ground running right from the start of the session. Both riders were running 1-2 in the session in the opening 20 minutes as they continued their work at their home round. Rea was super consistent throughout the opening day and ended the day in second place, whilst Lowes was also in fine form in the afternoon to finish fourth, leaving him on the combined.
Jonathan Rea – P2
“The bike was working pretty well today and straight away I felt a good rhythm. The level of grip of the track is pretty low compared to 2019 but I don’t think there has been a lot of activity here. So it just took a little bit of time to understand and we tried not make too many changes because we expected the track to have more tyre rubber laid down as the day went on. We made a set-up change that would increase agility, especially in the first two sectors and I felt as big improvement – but it compromised the last two sectors where I was really strong in FP1. So we need to find a middle ground for tomorrow. But I felt quite good and my rhythm was really strong. I could ride in the 1’28 lows so I feel that has put us in good shape for tomorrow. I am satisfied with the days’ work.”
Alex Lowes – P4
“We did not have a normal session this morning. I did not feel quite right so I did not really push, so I just did some laps to learn the Kawasaki on this track. In the afternoon we used our base setting, more or less, from the last few tests, and we tried a couple of things on the electronics and I felt quite good from the start. I was able to do a lot of good, fast consistent laps. It was a positive afternoon and I did not feel like I was pushing too hard. The pace was strong so it was probably one of my more positive Friday sessions.”
The factory Yamaha charge was led by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK), as he celebrated a new Yamaha Motor Europe contract that was announced prior to the first track action of the day. Despite a massive moment in the opening moments of the session, he was able to continue on his way and cement his position in the leading positions in third, putting in a long run in his second stint.
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu – P3
“Today we started to try to find a good setup with the bike, because the track was very dirty, but now the track condition is much better. Also we are working for good grip with the rear tyre because I was finding this a problem today. We tried a small race simulation in the afternoon, 12 laps, it was not bad but not really fast and we need to improve the rear grip. Now we are working for tomorrow, I speak with my team because we need to improve a little bit for the race, we will see what is possible – tomorrow we try again. For the future, I’m really happy to stay with this team! Every year Yamaha and my team is working for a good bike. I think next year we can be stronger, because we keep moving forward. But for now, this weekend and this season is important; I like this track and we want to improve for the race.”
Tom Sykes, eager to return to his winning ways around the 4023 metre circuit was quick out the box and made an instant impact to the timing sheets in FP1. Despite a small crash at T11 in the early stages he ended the opening session in P3 (1’28.202). FP2 was not without drama for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team. Sykes in the opening laps had a crash at T6 /7, barrel rolling his BMW M 1000 RR into the gravel. The crew did a fantastic job in getting Tom back out for the final 12 minutes as he finished the session in eleventh, P6 on combined times.
Tom Sykes – P6
“Long and short, I said to myself before arriving here this weekend I will drag the bike around if I have too. In FP1 we took a step back in time with some of our set up and felt comfortable doing the lap times, which was positive. Then for FP2 we had a good plan but unfortunately, I had a crash on my first flying lap. I probably got a bit carried away but I got caught out with a rear slide, so I lost the front which was not ideal. I have to say the guys did an incredible job in getting her fixed. The bike got back to the box with 28 minutes to go and I was leaving the box with 12 minutes left on the clock so great work from those boys. It is what it is, I was not able to try the things I was wanting to do mid FP2 as a result but looks like the rest of the weekend is going to be fairly moist, so it doesn’t matter too much. But it was one of those days, if we had a dry race tomorrow, I feel like we are prepared regardless.”
On a track that Ducati say is not particularly favorable to the Panigale V4R, Scott Redding and Michael Ruben Rinaldi made tangible progress during the first day of free practices. The two Aruba.it Racing – Ducati riders close respectively in fifth and seventh position waiting for tomorrow’s opening race that, according to the weather forecast, could be affected by rain.
Scott Redding – P5
“All in all it wasn’t a bad day but I wasn’t able to be incisive on the single lap. This is a particular track with many different corners that do not play in our favour. The feeling, however, is positive. In the afternoon things improved but we still have to find the best set up that will allow me to ride at my best. The weather forecast? I don’t really care because we’ll all start in the same conditions“.
Michael Rinaldi – P7
“Today was a pretty positive day even though we are a little bit far from the top. This morning we struggled a lot in the last sector, that’s why between FP1 and FP2 we focused a on fixing the set up. In the afternoon things went better but, as it often happens, we missed something, especially in T2. We just have to put together all the pieces of this puzzle and I am confident that we will make it“.
Michael van der Mark who took the double race win here in 2018 equally had a solid opening session this morning, lapping consistently in the low 1m29’s throughout FP1 to finish in P10 (1’29.104).
Michael van der Mark – P10
“I really enjoyed riding today and its great to be back a Donington Park, I have some great memories here. This morning we felt good with the bike and made some small changes which improved our lap time. Unfortunately, we went the wrong direction at the end of FP1 which was frustrating but in FP2 we made a big change on the bike which helped stability in braking. I was having fun and enjoying my time out there, but we are losing too much time in the final sector with the stop and go section. We know this is a weak point of the BMW M 1000 RR but we for sure we can improve in this area, but overall, I don’t think we had such a bad Friday.”
Working hard to find the best possible set-up for their Fireblades around the technical Leicestershire track, HRC factory riders Alvaro Bautistia and Leon Haslam completed a challenging but constructive first session, in which Haslam finished P7 and Bautista P14. During the afternoon’s second timed practice, the Team HRC riders continued their preparations ahead of the weekend’s three races and local rider Haslam rounded out the day in a solid eighth position overall. Bautista also shaved off several tenths to set a 1m29.568, which put him fifteenth at the day’s end.
Leon Haslam – P8
“Obviously I know this track very well, which is a benefit. We’ve not been here on the Honda, but my experience with different bikes here means I know where and how the bike should be turning and so I think we’ve highlighted a few areas where we need to improve. There’s no one specific thing we need to work on, it’s more a case of putting it all together to find a solid overall package. It’s been a tough day but also a very useful one, and now we have more idea as how to move forward”.
Alvaro Bautista – P15
“Today was an objectively difficult day and our position reflects this, because normally we are quite closer to the front group in terms of performance. We need to keep working on the set-up because right from the first few laps this morning I have been struggling to ‘feel’ the tyres. With this problem I can’t push hard and exploit the potential of the bike. The changes we have tried haven’t solved the issue yet, but at least we have done some exploratory work and now we will analyse the data and try to find a solution tomorrow”.
2021 WorldSBK Donington Friday Combined Practice times
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