WorldSBK Magny-Cours: Rea, Razgatlioglu in closest-ever Superpole

| | WorldSBK

In what was a titanic battle, the closest ever WorldSBK pole margin was set at Magny-Cours with both Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) setting an identical pole time although Rea heads the grid courtesy of a faster second-fastest lap time.

Riders hit the circuit straight away, eager to get as much dry track time as possible, having lost 95% of Friday.

With a new soft tyre for the front which offered more initial grip at their disposal, riders got down to business and were right on the pace.

As the first laps came in, it was Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and teammate Jonathan Rea who went immediately quicker than Toprak Razgatlioglu’s (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) time from FP3, whilst Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was third, with Razgatlioglu fourth and Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) completed the top five.

However, on his second flying lap, Razgatlioglu rocketed to the top, with a 1’36.354 being the new benchmark, two tenths ahead of Lowes.

Razgatlioglu pushed on for another lap but made a mistake at Turn 6, having to go across the run-off. With eight minutes to go, everyone was back inside the pitlane and preparing for the final runs. Notable riders who were seeking an improvement outside of the top five included home-hero Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), who was only tenth, one place ahead of Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing). Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was only 13th, one place ahead of the returning Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). With the calm in pitlane bringing the tension before the on-track storm to pole position, all bets were off going into the final five minutes.

Bautista and Lowes hit the track straight away whilst in the pits, Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was waiting for Jonathan Rea, although Rea wasn’t having any of it, the six-time World Champion waving him on and not allowing Mahias to latch onto him for a flying lap. The first laps on the final stint saw Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) and Lecuona all up on Toprak’s time, with Rinaldi going fourth and pushing teammate Bautista back to fifth, but red sectors filled the timing screens. Rea went top by a tenth over Redding, whilst Bautista went fourth and Bassani in eighth.

A flurry of action in the closing stages saw Rea and Razgatlioglu BOTH set the fastest lap time, with Razgatlioglu rallying on his final lap of the session. A 1’36.124 by both of the title contenders, although it is Rea who starts from pole, courtesy of his second-fastest lap being quicker than Razgatlioglu’s. It’s the third consecutive pole position, the first time he’s achieved that since last year. Razgatlioglu achieves his 13th consecutive front row start, whilst it was a mighty show from Scott Redding, who starts third, his and BMW’s first front row of the season.

Heading up the second row and making it four manufacturers inside the top four with Alvaro Bautista. The Championship leader has been steadily improving across the weekend and has been solid at a circuit where perhaps it will be more about damage limitation. In the middle of the second row, Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) took top Independent honours and a first top five of the year. After a strong start to the session, Alex Lowes was shuffled back to sixth.

The third row features an Italian battle, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi starting seventh, unable to join teammate Bautista on the second row of the grid. Behind him, Axel Bassani, who is targeting Rinaldi’s seat for 2023, will go from eighth place, eager to get in the battle for the top five. Home-hero Loris Baz got himself up onto the front three rows and took ninth, one place ahead of Philipp Oettl, who took his best Superpole result in WorldSBK in tenth.