Jonathan Rea leads proceedings on opening day in France
The opening day’s Free Practice sessions for the Fassi French Round drew to a close with new WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea leading the way aboard his Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R. The 28-year-old Ulsterman was able to break the 1’38s barrier on his penultimate lap of the FP2 session as he lapped the 4.411km Magny-Cours track in 1’37.750, to edge his teammate Tom Sykes and factory Ducati rider Chaz Davies by nearly three tenths of a second.
Jonathan Rea – P1 – “It’s a good start and nice to be back with the leading riders. In Jerez we struggled a bit so for sure my aim this weekend is to be back on the podium. We did a good job today which is important because some people are saying that it will rain tomorrow.”
Chaz Davies – P2 – “I’m fairly pleased with how today went. I’ve always had a bit of a strange time here at Magny-Cours in the past but today we’ve made a good start and I hope that we can continue on like this tomorrow. We’ve continued with the work carried out at the Jerez test, also concentrating on tyre selection. We’ve still got work to do, I’d like to improve my bike’s turning a little more for example, but I’m happy with the progress made today.”
Tom Sykes – P3 – “We’re happy with how today went and of course our aim for this weekend is to beat Chaz and win races. We have a few things to try tomorrow morning to improve the bike and whether the weather throws at us we’ll be ready. I’d like to sort second place out myself and I certainly won’t be asking for anyone to assist me.”
Fourth and fifth placed Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) showed great speed aboard their respective bikes, likewise Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Ducati) who was sixth at the flag, despite an early crash during the session.
Leon Haslam – “I’d say that we got off to a good start. From this morning I had a good feeling with my RSV4. We worked well, trying both tyre options on the front and the rear. Unfortunately I ran into a lot of traffic during my runs so the time isn’t what I could have done on a free track. As for consistency and pace, on the other hand, we are doing rather well. Now we just need to work as usual to find a few more solutions for tomorrow.”
Alex Lowes – P5 – “We had a decent start today, the bike feels quite good and I’m enjoying the track and looking forward to tomorrow. I think we have decent pace, but there is plenty still to work on overnight. The lads did a great job between session one and two – working on stopping the bike and getting through the faster chicanes – so if we can take another step tomorrow we shouldn’t be too far away. We didn’t get as many laps in as we had wanted today – due to a few minor issues – so hopefully we can get more down tomorrow, build-up the consistency and start understanding it a little bit more over the longer race distance.”
Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) continued his familiarisation with the French track by finishing seventh ahead of the Italian trio of Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing Ducati), Luca Scassa (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team) and Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia), who rounded out the top 10.
Jordi Torres – P7 – “Today went well. We did a good job on a rather difficult track. I didn’t expect it to be this hard after trying it in the video games. There are a lot of downhill sections that make it hard to hold the line, so you have to play with the gas to keep your trajectory. This morning I was struggling to get a clean lap in, but the feeling was getting better lap by lap, thanks in part to the teamwork with Leon who had a great FP1 and helped me out. In the most violent braking sections I’m still not quite fast enough. I can’t seem to do it as well as the others. I’ll sleep on it tonight and tomorrow I’m sure we’ll take another step forward.”
Luca Scassa – P9 – “It’s gone well today, although I’m still feeling a little rigid on the bike. We started using the base that we had at the Jerez test. Tomorrow we’ll continue to make some changes that should help us to take a step forward, especially in the very slow turns but, having said that, I’m happy with the bike. It’s more a case of me having to adapt to the Panigale and to the track. I don’t really mind if it rains tomorrow, it’ll be another challenge, but if I’m able to qualify directly for Superpole 2 thanks to today’s time I’ll be happy…”
Outgoing WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike) was headed by Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Ducati) for eleventh, while one wildcard rider Markus Reiterberger (VanZon Remeha BMW) claimed a provisional thirteenth place ahead of tomorrow morning’s FP3, which will decide the riders taking part in the twelfth round’s Tissot-Superpole.
Sylvain Guintoli – P12 – “This morning was good straightaway. We were able to get into some decent lap times early on and we were only 0.4s from the front with a good time. But it then became a struggle to go faster this afternoon and I could only match the morning time and not improve. I felt like I was riding on the limit and couldn’t go any faster. We’ve got some different geometry and settings to use tomorrow morning to try and improve where we are weak, and we’re lacking a little on top speed, too. I know the track here really well and I know how to go fast quite quickly but improving after that has been quite difficult.”
WorldSBK Magny-Cours – Combined times Free Practice 1 and 2
1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team
2 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team +0.294
3 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team +0.323
Kenan Sofuoglu (TUR) started his ‘match point’ weekend on a high note
World Supersport leader Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) topped the opening day’s on track activity at Magny-Cours, leading the way thanks to the 1.41.660s he set in the morning session.
Behind the Turk, who could wrap up his fourth WSS title on Sunday, was a confident and fast Lucas Mahias, who closed to within 0.091s aboard his MG Competition Yamaha.
Third overall on the combined times was PJ Jacobsen (CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand), the American suffering a front end crash at Adelaide with 17 minutes of the session remaining. Great work by the team ensured he made it back on track, losing very little time.
Positions fourth to sixth were taken by Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team), Lorenzo Zanetti (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and recently married Alex Baldolini (Race Department ATK#25).
Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing) was seventh ahead of Nico Terol (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) who continues his WSS adaption, the Spanish rider ending the day eighth ahead of Roberto Rolfo (Team Lorini) and Kevin Wahr, who recovered from an early FP1 technical problem to round out the top ten.
Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) suffered a huge crash in FP1 when running 3rd. The Englishman was sat in leathers in his garage throughout FP2 as his team raced against the clock to repair his machine. Running out of time he will have to wait until FP3 to show his true potential. He ended the day eleventh overall courtesy of his morning time.
There were some eye catching performances from a number of ‘wildcard’ and ‘one event’ riders, WSS debutants Xavi Pinsach (Team Lorini) and Estonian Hannes Soomer who is riding for Kallio Racing) finished day one in 17th and 20th respectively.
World Supersport Magny-Cours – Combined times Free Practice 1 and 2
1 – Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 1’41.660
2 – Lucas Mahias MG Competition Yamaha +0.091
3 – PJ Jacobsen CORE” Motorsport Thailand +0.397