Dutchman Michael van der Mark has topped the opening WorldSBK free practice at Jerez with a late lap to edge out team-mate Alex Lowes with series leader Alvaro Bautista in third place.
Having achieved strong results across the last two rounds, van der Mark sat in third for the majority of the session before elevating himself up the order into first, with a sequence of fast laps following. Lowes also lifted himself up the order, and concluded the session in second, with a Yamaha one-two after.
After a difficult Imola which saw Bautista struggle to adapt to the circuit, he was back on familiar territory at the Jerez, a track which he knows inside-out. The home-hero set to work and was the first rider into the 1’39s bracket, but only managed third after a late charge from the Yamahas.
Team-mate Chaz Davies also made a return to a circuit at which he has three wins at, placing eleventh after an uneventful first session of the weekend.
Fourth position belonged to Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha), who was on pole at Jerez back in 2017 and finished FP1 at top Independent. The veteran Italian is seeking a return to the podium for the first time since the opening race of the season, with a perfect start to his weekend giving him good foundations to build from. Team-mate Sandro Cortese was tenth at the end of the opening session.
Returning to the scene of his first championship win, Jonathan Rea made steady progress in FP1, putting in a time that was good enough for fifth position. The four-time WorldSBK Champion, who took points out of Bautista’s lead with two wins at Imola, will hope to get on terms with the Spanish rookie as the weekend unfolds. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team) completed his first session back at Jerez in seventh place.
In sixth position, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) was reaping the rewards of a strong Misano test before Imola and again, before Jerez. The Italian was lying outside the top ten for most of the session before climbing up the order into sixth place. Fellow Independent rider, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), was in eighth place, with a strong lap set after following Jonathan Rea.
Robbed of a podium at Imola, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) comes to Jerez with a burning desire to get back on the rostrum. FP1 was a quiet affair for the 2013 WorldSBK Champion, who finished in ninth place after being inside the top six for the majority of the session. German teammate Markus Reiterberger had problems and only got out with eight minutes to go but didn’t set a lap time.
Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) returned to action and was 13th, whilst Yuki Takahashi (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was 15th, as he replaces Leon Camier. Leandro Mercado’s return to action saw him suffer a technical issue but complete the session in 14th, whilst Tommy Bridewell (Team Goeleven) finished 17th after a crash at Turn 5.