Phillip Island WorldSBK test: Rea edges Baz for top spot

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Reigning WorldSBK king Jonathan Rea finished the final WorldSBK pre-season test on top of the timesheets but by less than a second from Frenchman Loris Baz with ex-champ Tom Sykes in third place.

Leading the way into the weekend, Jonathan Rea moved into top position and put in a strong lap time of 1’30.448, coming in the morning session. The Ulsterman used today for long runs, showcasing his ability to work well and return to first place.

However, his day wasn’t without incident and was one of a handful of riders who crashed at turn four. He was OK and the bike was virtually undamaged.

Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes continued his switch to the KRT squad but was down in 12th and suffered a crash at Siberia in the morning, giving him plenty of work ahead of the racing weekend.

Flying the flag for the Independent teams once again was Ten Kate Yamaha’s Baz as the Frenchman continued to be quick in the pre-season tests and finished second. What is impressive for Baz is that he hasn’t used the 2020 engine yet, so his pace is done purely on the 2019 motor and he expects a big step forward come Friday and his race pace is already looking strong.

Other independent revelations inside the top ten included Michael R=Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) in eighth.

There was a vast improvement in lap time from Aruba Ducati’s Scott Redding, despite the more inconsistent weather at the start of the day. The WorldSBK rookie managed to get into the 1’30 bracket as he perfected the balance of his bike. Still learning the Q tyre, Redding is aiming to be on the pace come the start of the weekend.

His team-mate Chaz Davies struggled to keep pace with the rookie but worked away nonetheless. Redding finished in sixth but with big gains, whilst Davies was 11th on combined times.

BMW’s Sykes led his team’s charge as he continued to shine at the sharp end. Having struggled with rear grip in the 2019 races, Sykes can now run comfortably for longer in the 1’31s. He’s been working on the balance of the bike, whilst also using a new rear shock, placing him third.

Team-mate Eugene Laverty completed his swingarm and chassis work and is now focused on electronics and short runs. He finished ninth overall.

Having been flying high at the head of the field on day one, Toprak Razgatlioglu’s day two was slightly different. Toprak Razgatlioglu couldn’t replicate his day one pace in the tricky conditions, but was focused on settling in a good race pace and not just setting a strong one-off lap time. However, his ability to set a strong one-off lap time with the Q tyre itself confirms the strides he has made over the pre-season at a time attack in Tissot Superpole style.

Michael van der Mark crashed in the morning session at MG but was OK. The Dutchman didn’t put a fast time in on Monday but set 15 consecutive laps in the 1’31s, demonstrating a good race pace. Toprak was fourth whilst van der Mark was seventh.

Leon Haslam (Team HRC) was once again in the top six, making it all six manufacturers inside the top half dozen once again. His lap time of a 1’30.882 was right on his race pace from last year, so there’s plenty of promise from Honda and their new CBR1000RR-R already.

On the other side of the garage, Alvaro Bautista wasn’t up at the sharp end and suffered a crash at turn four during the morning. He was in the top ten however, which is an important step forward ahead of the weekend.

Sandro Cortese (OUTDO Kawasaki – TPR) was just outside the top ten in 13th, 0.005s behind Lowes. Cortese was impressive, considering this was his first testing on the ZX-10RR.

Behind Cortese in 14th was returning Spaniard Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), whilst Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) continued to impress in 15th.

He was just ahead of Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) and his teammate Federico Caricasulo, whilst Leon Camier (Barni Racing Team) and Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing Althea Honda Team) were just behind. In all, the top 17 were covered by just 1.5s.

Click here for times