11 riders covered by less than nine tenths of a second – the Motul Portuguese Round is shaping up to be a thriller
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship season is in its closing stages as the final European round comes into view at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for the Motul Portuguese Round. The Portimao track welcomes the next chapter of the Championship duel and day one saw the advantage go to Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the Ulsterman leading a Kawasaki 1-2 in Portugal.
KAWASAKI CONQUER: Rea heads Lowes
It was a strong session for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), as the master of Portimao topped FP1 on Friday morning before moving on to finish first again in the afternoon. Rea improved with less than six minutes to go to increase his advantage over the rest of the field, completing a solid opening day’s work. Teammate Alex Lowes was third in FP1, with both Kawasakis showing strongly in the cooler temperatures. Lowes improved his overall time in the last 20 minutes of the second session, meaning that he finished in second overall.
INDEPENDENT CHARGE: top six sensations
Finishing in third at the end of the first day and looking like his old self, Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was up in third and back on the pace. The American rider was second in FP1 but was only pipped by Lowes in the overall classification come the end of the day. He led the Independent charge as Loris Baz (Team GoEleven) joined him in the top six overall in sixth. The French super-sub, deputising for Chaz Davies, is right on the pace at the circuit where he returned to the podium at last year following a six year wait. Baz set 38 laps, more than anyone else in the top six, getting valuable track time with Ducati Panigale V4 R.
HONDA AND YAMAHA: shining solidly
It was a very promising first day at the Portimao office for Honda, with Leon Haslam (Team HRC) one of the biggest improvers compared to the morning time. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ knocked off 1.2s from his morning time, running well inside the top three for the majority of the second half of the second session. On the other side of the garage, the sun was also shining as Alvaro Bautista was up inside the top eight in FP2 and for most of the session, less than half a second from the top spot. Come the conclusion of the first day, Haslam finished in fourth overall, with Bautista in ninth.
It was a solid day for Yamaha as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) got his weekend underway. The Championship leader, who sports a 20-point advantage, was fourth in the morning session and was consistently inside the top four in the afternoon. Toprak set highly consistent lap times, with many laps all within a couple of tenths of his fastest time but ultimately, finished fifth. Teammate Andrea Locatelli had quite a quiet day in general, going about his business in the top eight and finishing the day in tenth overall.
WORK TO DO: Ducati and BMW set for Saturday improvements
It wasn’t the easiest first day at Portimao for Ducati, with Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) placing as top Ducati in the morning in sixth place, whereas teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi was only 13th. Both were well inside the top ten in FP2 but only Rinaldi was able to improve, as Redding lost time in the pitlane following a technical issue. Getting out for a flying lap at the end of the day and setting his fastest time, Redding finished in seventh come the close of business, whilst Rinaldi was eighth.
Friday saw another tricky start for BMW, with no representation inside the top ten. Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was marginally faster in the afternoon than the morning but consistent too, with both times being in the 1’42.3 bracket. For Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), he was back in action in place of the injured Tom Sykes, and finished the day in 15th place, although the Irishman did suffer a technical issue on his final run at the end of FP2.
THE REST: a surprise from afar?
Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) took 12th place as he got to grips with Portimao’s undulations, whilst Isaac Viñales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was 13th on his return to WorldSBK action. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) continued to impress next up in 14th, whilst Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) was 16th behind fellow BMW rider Laverty. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), Samuele Cavalieri (Barni Racing Team) and Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) completed the top 20, whilst wildcard Gabriele Ruiu (B-Max Racing Team) was next up, ahead of OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini duo Loris Cresson and Lachlan Epis.
Top six after day one at WorldSBK, full results here:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’41.466s
2. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.191s
3. Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.217s
4. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) +0.250s
5. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.283s
6. Loris Baz (Team GoEleven) +0.294s
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