Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has bounced back to form from the win-less Donington Park round on Friday’s practice, as the Superbike World Championship made its return to Automotodrom Brno. Rea would secure the best overall time of Friday sessions, ahead of teammate Sykes and Ducati’s Marco Melandri.
Rea approached the first WorldSBK race weekend at Brno since 2012 with the firm intention of prevailing in both races. Should he win again this weekend it would be his 60th career victory, making him the stand-alone all-time race winner in WorldSBK’s 31 year history. Jonathan has won five races from the 12 held so far in 2018.
“Not the perfect day to set-up for race weekend but it is the same for everyone. We were lucky that we had a test here last month. After Assen we came directly here and had two good days in different conditions. It looks like today the grip level was a little bit down compared to the test because we were much faster then. I don’t know if it was overnight rain just washing some rubber off, or there has not been a lot of track activity between then and now. The set-up of the bike is quite good and I expect that the track will get better and better.”
Sykes is looking for what would be his second win of the 2018 season this weekend, having become the best ever rider in terms of Superpole starts last time out at Donington. He is yet to win a race at Brno, but came close on two occasions in 2012 while riding for Kawasaki.
“The track conditions this afternoon were different and we tried out some tyre combinations. This obviously did not improve our lap times, but it was necessary for our preparations for the first race on Saturday. I feel ready now. It was definitely worth having the test here recently because today has been a mixed bag of conditions. The circuit is different now in the hotter conditions so if the sun stays out tomorrow it could be an interesting race.”
Ducati’s Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) tested at the circuit about a month ago, found wet conditions in the morning and then was able to focus on his dry setup in FP2 and FP3, closing in third.
“Today really demanded our utmost focus as track conditions changed quite a lot between the morning and the afternoon, and the grip was much lower than during the tests here. We had to study and utilize different setups, but fortunately we managed to do a solid job and the team found a good compromise to make me feel quite comfortable on the bike. We can be fairly optimistic for the race, regardless of weather conditions. Rea seems to have a small edge at the moment, but I’m really determined to close the gap.”
With the first free practice throwing out unusual results due to the damp track conditions, it was the FP2 times that set the bar for the WorldSBK riders in the final afternoon session. Running again on a dry track, only eight riders managed to improve their earlier times – one of those the championship leader – cutting 0.045 seconds off his best lap.
With Sykes running half a second off his previous best and Melandri – the last WorldSBK winner at Brno – not quite able to better his marks, it was Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) who ended the day in fourth overall. The Italian therefore makes it into the Superpole 2 once again, confirming that he is extracting more out of the Aprilia each passing round.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) managed to take the fifth best time of the day, with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in sixth, over half a second behind Rea out in front.
“After a wet FP1, we started working on a ‘dry’ setup for FP2 and on our race pace. We got down to good lap times quite quickly, but then we sort of hit an obstacle, and on this track you can’t really force it, the lap time has to come to you. So, we immediately started analyzing our setup and what changes to make. I feel like we’re getting closer and closer to the mark. In terms of pace, we’re quite competitive, but so far we’ve been struggling to make a hot lap. We’re not actually that far away, we just need to make small improvements for tomorrow.”
Donington double marvel Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) did improve his best lap time in FP3, rising up to seventh by the end of the day.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) created more headlines in the final session of the day – although perhaps not how he intended to.
The Italian, who led the timesheets in FP1, was running seventh overall and second in the final session’s timesheets when an engine issue left him out of action and the track filled with smoke and oil, forcing a red flag with nine minutes to go. His final time of 2’00.191 was enough to keep him in eighth position, and his slot in tomorrow’s Superpole 2.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi
“All in all, it’s been a positive first day, because we’ve been competitive in all conditions. We still need to improve a bit, both in terms of a single lap and race pace, but we’re fairly optimistic despite the fact that track conditions during FP1 slowed down our program a bit. Tomorrow’s weather is still a question mark, so we need to be ready to adapt to all conditions and, most of all, avoid making mistakes.”
The final two riders to make it directly into the Superpole 2 tomorrow were Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) in ninth and Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) just behind in tenth. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) couldn’t follow up his maiden WorldSBK podium with a good start at Brno, crashing early into FP3 and only recording the 18th best lap time.
The WorldSBK Superpole 1 starts Saturday from 10:30 local time (08:30 GMT), with lights out in Race 1 at 13:00 (11:00).
#CzechWorldSBK at Automotodrom Brno: Friday
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 1:59:403
Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) +0.427
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.477
Jules Cluzel (NRT) pipped ahead of Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) with six minutes left on the clock, to lead the FIM Supersport World Championship riders into qualifying at the Acerbis Czech Round. Reversing their roles from FP1, Cluzel took advantage of Cortese’s crash halfway through the afternoon session to set the fastest time of the day.
Ending the day in third at Brno, was Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team), sneaking ahead in the closing stages. Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag), the best non Yamaha rider on Friday, has previously won twice at Brno in the STK1000 class, and the Italian put his talent on display here with the fourth fastest time in FP2.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) beat teammate and championship challenger Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) to score the fifth fastest time, with the reigning champion in sixth. Behind them, Thomas Gradinger (NRT) took seventh, with Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) in eighth on the ZX-6R.
Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag), in search of his fourth consecutive WorldSSP podium, managed the ninth best time on Friday, with Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) rounding out the top ten and taking the last automatic place in tomorrow’s Superpole 2.
The Supersport bikes are back on track Saturday morning for FP3, and the Superpole 1 and 2 qualifying sessions.
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