Bautista, Razgatlioglu and Rea led the way on Friday after a hard-fought battle at the top of the timesheets across two practice session
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s visit to the TT Circuit Assen for the Motul Dutch Round kicked off on Friday with Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leading the way across Friday’s two practice sessions. Bautista was fastest in the combined classification after a stunning lap time in FP2, while Razgatlioglu claimed the top spot in the opening session of the day, leaving the weekend finely balanced ahead of racing commencing on Saturday.
Spanish rider Bautista had to settle for third place in FP1 after posting a best time of 1’35.246s, finishing just ahead of teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi but four tenths behind Razgatlioglu. Bautista, like Razgatlioglu, completed some race simulations in FP2 with seven laps in the 1’34s bracket, three more than Razgatlioglu, while the other two were 1’35.0s laps in a nine-lap stint. He also showed strong pace to claim top spot in FP2, posted a 1’34.382s which came on lap two of the nine-lap stint.
Reacting to Friday’s pace, Bautista said: “It has been a positive day for us because it has been three years since I rode the Ducati at this track. For me, it was important to get the feeling again. In the morning, I struggled a little but with the cooler conditions, but we worked on small details like electronics and a few small changes on the suspension to give me more feedback on the bike. I finished with quite good feedback and then in the afternoon, we continued the same work. We didn’t change many things on the bike, just small details to get me more comfortable riding. I think it will be even harder than MotorLand because, for sure, Jonathan and Toprak want to get again the first position in the Championship. They are hungry for the victory and, for sure, it will be hard. I hope to be there and don’t forget my teammate, Rinaldi, because he is very strong and very consistent. I hope to see good races on Saturday and Sunday.”
Razgatlioglu finished the morning session four tenths clear of his nearest rival, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), as he laid down a marker in search of his first victory at the Dutch venue. Posting a best time of 1’34.466s, Razgatlioglu’s fastest lap was under the race lap record by a tenth of a second. Razgatlioglu completed a 17-lap stint on the SCX tyre in FP2 with 13 valid laps in the 1’35s or faster while four laps were discounted as he goes in search of a first win at the iconic Dutch venue.
Razgatlioglu discussed Friday’s action, saying: “This morning was very positive because, after Aragon, we improved the bike and improved the setup. I’m feeling much better. This morning, we started very well with a very good lap time with the SC0 tyre. In the afternoon, we worked on a race simulation which was very positive. This weekend we had a good start. I remember last year; we were not very strong but this year we were in the race simulation. I’m seeing and feeling more relaxed, I ride much better. Last year, in some sectors, I was not very fast but this year we improved. For me, the race simulation was very good but in the race it is difficult. At MotorLand, I tried fighting with Alvaro and Jonny, but it wasn’t easy because we are not really strong at the Aragon track. We are very strong in this track and I am coming here to fight for the win. Tomorrow, I will try my best for the win, I will fight.”
Rea’s day started with fifth place in the morning FP1 session as he posted a best time of a 1’35.295s, some eighth tenths off the time of reigning Champion Razgatlioglu after ‘losing’ FP1 with the setup of his Kawasaki ZX-10RR. In FP2, Rea responded to finish second in the session with a 1’34.680s, finding around seventh tenths between FP1 and FP2, with his best time putting him third in the combined classification behind Bautista and Razgatlioglu. Rea didn’t do a stint as long as Razgatlioglu but lapped in the 1’34s on five occasions throughout FP2.
Discussing his chances of claiming victory in the Netherlands, and his Friday at Assen, Rea said: “I feel optimistic but talking about winning is so difficult now, WorldSBK is in a really competitive place right now but that’s our target. Our target is to win, but it’s not as simple as that. You still need to go out there and do that. I feel like we have good tools out there to do it and it’s kind of up to me now. Today was a solid. In FP1, I felt like we lost the session a little bit with our setup. The bike didn’t quite feel like my bike. It’s a setup we’ve been using since the start of the year so something back to like a halfway house compared to the Assen setup we had and what we had at the start of the season. I felt much more comfortable in FP2, it was almost like starting again, so I feel like tomorrow we can try to make a step, finetune the bike a little bit. It was quite windy and gusty out there, so depending on what way the wind is tomorrow, we have to understand because that can have a huge effect on the final gearing. All in all, my pace was okay. One lap pace wasn’t anything special yet, but I feel like I’m in the ballpark compared to FP1.”
Watch all the action unfold starting with FP3 at 09:00 Local Time (GMT+2) on Saturday using the WorldSBK VideoPass!