WorldSBK Most: Rea and Razgatlioglu battle for FP1 honours| Christina Bulpett | WorldSBK
Just 0.035s split WorldSBK title rivals Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu in the opening free practice session at Most on Friday morning.
The Kawasaki man bettered his long-term opponent with his penultimate lap of FP1 - a 1’31.893 - to relieve Razgatlioglu of the lead after a dominant second half. GRT Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff completed the trio just under half a second adrift with championship leader Alvaro Bautista running sixth.
The momentum was firmly in the hands of the reigning champion as the action fired up in the Czech Republic following a clean sweep at Donington Park for the Pata Yamaha rider. Razgatlioglu having claimed his debut victory of the season at Misano and seemingly not looked back.
Perfect conditions greeted the Superbike class as the first 45 minutes at the 4.2km Autodrom Most kicked off with ambient temperatures in the mid-20’s, the treat of rain expected across the rest of the weekend. Razgatlioglu led the way in the early times thanks to a 1’32.915 pace with fellow Yamaha rider Gerloff seven-tenths behind on the GRT R1.
KRT’s Jonathan Rea trailed the BMW of Scott Redding in third and fourth before the six-time champion improved to top the times with a 1’32.707. Teammate Alex Lowes rising to fifth, just a second adrift, after ten minutes on track.
British Superbike and FHO teammates Ryan Vickers and Peter Hickman began their wildcard rides from 19th and 22nd respectively before the Pedercini stand-in improved to 17th. Vickers in for Leon Haslam on the satellite Kawasaki with Hickman replacing the injured Michael van der Mark - and super-sub Ilya Mikhalchik - on the factory BMW as Suzuka 8-hour preparations intensified.
Razgatlioglu headed Rea and Redding with half an hour to go, as last year’s battles returned to the standings. Gerloff challenging the former MotoGP rider for third next time around as the pace headed into the low 1’32’s.
Michael Rinaldi arrived at the halfway stage with a 1’32.381. The Aruba.it Ducati rider the last on track having remained in the pitbox for the opening stages before storming to the top of the times on his seventh lap. Bautista circulated in seventh as the second half ignited before claiming the top five, three-tenths adrift of his teammate with 20 minutes to go.
The closing ten saw Razgatlioglu on the bubble of the 1’32 barrier, Axel Bassani challenging Lowes in the top seven on the Motocorsa Ducati with Honda’s Iker Lecuona and Andrea Locatelli narrowly behind. MIE Honda’s Hafizh Syahrin took tenth with a 1’33.639 on his 13th attempt of the morning as the clock counted down, before the second Pata Yamaha demoted him with a personal best lap out next time around.
Having shown impressive consistency on session leading pace, Razgatlioglu clinched the first 1’31 of the weekend - a 1’31.955 - with his 19th revolution. The penultimate minute likewise providing gains for Rea as the Northern Irishman sat just 0.166 adrift of his rival before taking the spoils with a 1’31.893 and 20 seconds to go.
The battle was far from done, however, as Razgatlioglu looked to hit back with his final efforts, falling just 0.035s short as Rea moved the goalposts once again. The chequered flag ultimately calling time on the fight as Bautista derailed the Turk’s final push.
Gerloff claimed third from Rinaldi and Locatelli with Bautista heading Lowes, Lecuona, Redding and Bassani in the top ten. Hickman completed his first session on the world BMW from 21st ahead of Eugene Laverty and Vickers in 23rd and 24th respectively.