WorldSBK Portimao: Rinaldi sets the pace in FP1

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Aruba.it Ducati’s Michael Rinaldi was the man to beat in Friday’s opening WorldSBK free practice in Portugal.

The Italian’s 1’40.965 bettered closest rival Garrett Gerloff on the GRT Yamaha by just over a tenth with reigning champion Toprak Razgatlioglu collecting third, a quarter of a second back.

A bright and sunny Portimao circuit greeted the World Superbike class on Friday morning as FP1 fired up on the Algarve. 2022 MotoAmerica Champion Jake Gagne joined the action for the first time since 2018, his full Attack Performance Yamaha team alongside for the weekend, with Leon Haslam back on the Pedercini Kawasaki for his third event of the season.

Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea led the initial times with teammate Alex Lowes sitting second before Honda’s Iker Lecuona split the pair and Razgatlioglu bettered overall on the Pata Yamaha. The KRT duo were back in second and third next time around as Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista and Rinaldi joined the fight from fourth and fifth.

Bonovo BMW’s Eugene Laverty proved his familiarity with his home circuit - after moving to the Algarve - from sixth, Scott Redding rising to the top four with his second attempt on the factory BMW after a delayed start in the opening ten minutes.

Gerloff was the next to improve as the American claimed fourth, six tenths shy of Razgatlioglu’s 1’41.249 out front. Lecuona maintaining his mid-pack effort from sixth as Bonovo’s Loris Baz and Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani dropped the championship leader to the back of the top ten.

Bautista was back into the top five as the session counted down. The Aruba rider half a second off his title-rival with teammate Rinaldi half a tenth behind as Redding dropped to seventh. Lecuona the first running 1’42 pace, from eighth.

Gerloff hit the top in the closing five minutes with a 1’41.082, Bautista continuing to fine tune his pace but remaining fifth. Lucas Mahias crashed the Puccetti Kawasaki out at turn two with four minutes left to run as Xavi Vierge joined his Honda teammate, in eighth.

Andrea Locatelli was the next to advance as he pushed the second Pata R1 up to sixth, half a second short of his teammate. Rinaldi taking charge overall with the first 1’40 of the weekend as the final minute prepared.

Gagne began his WorldSBK wildcard from 17th, two seconds adrift of the outright best, Haslam a tenth behind the American, in 18th before the pair switched positions at the flag following a late personal best from the Englishman.

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