Garrett Gerloff, Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Loris Baz all showed strong pace during Free Practice on Friday in wet conditions
Tricky conditions greeted everyone as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship touched down at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours for the Pirelli French Round and it was three Independent riders who stole the headlines as they finished in the top four positions in the combined classification after Friday’s two practice sessions; and all three have shown in previous races that it is no fluke they are at the top of the timesheets.
Fresh from his maiden WorldSBK podium at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, American star Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) topped the timesheets in France after a last-minute lap at the end of Free Practice 2 in wet conditions, as he continued to show impressive form despite the challenging conditions.
Reacting to this day, Gerloff said: “I was a little bit nervous because I saw it might rain all weekend. I was watching videos from the past and seeing guys complaining about grip from the track, but then I got here and the track’s got new pavement! This morning was just about doing laps, trying to figure out where the track was, how things felt. In FP2, there was a little bit more water on the track but the changes we made from FP1 still worked and we worked a little bit more on electronics.”
Race winner Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) finished the day in third place, less than a tenth away from Gerloff with reigning Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) separating the pair. Rinaldi has three podiums so far in 2020 and will be looking to add to his tally after a strong showing on Friday.
Describing his day in the wet conditions, Rinaldi said: “We started to learn the bike in difficult conditions. The new asphalt gives us more grip and is better. We improved the bike since this morning and we tried a different tyre and it works, but if it rains tomorrow the story will be different because a lot of things can happen. We hope to find tomorrow all dry conditions or all wet conditions – not mixed conditions because these are the worst!”
The third Independent rider in the top four was Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) as the home hero looked to put on a show for the fans at Magny-Cours. Baz had been fastest of all during the first part of Free Practice 1 before Rea usurped him, but the Frenchman was able to continue showing impressive pace throughout the day to finish in fourth place.
Baz admitted he had a problem with his visor during FP2, saying: “I was happy to learn the new tarmac. The grip here used to be a struggle for everyone, so I just went out and tried to understand every corner, how the grip level was. I had a strong FP1 with the second-best lap time and strong again in FP2. I didn’t have as good a feeling as I did this morning, but I did a good lap time finished fourth. I had a small issue with my visor in the last two laps, I made a mistake with opening it and I had some rain inside so I could not push the last two laps.”
You can follow all the action from the Pirelli French Round with the WorldSBK VideoPass!