Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) issued a strong statement of intent on Friday at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, taking the top time in Free Practice as Round 11 of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship got underway in France. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) followed his teammate on the timesheets in second, with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in third.
The Northern Irish rider said on Thursday that the “fairytale” result for him at the Acerbis French Round would be to clinch his fourth consecutive WorldSBK title with a win, and if his pace on Friday is anything to go by then Rea is in a prime position to do just that. A best time of 1’37.202 managed in FP1 was enough for the man from Ballymena to top the day’s timesheets, although he also claimed the fastest lap in FP3 to top off a near-perfect day.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was also amongst the top three fastest in every Free Practice session on Friday, ending the day in second place in the combined standings. A strong effort overall from the Kawasaki Racing Team who could make history at the last European round of the year.
Lowes was closest to the KRT duo on Friday, closing the gap with Rea to 0.287 seconds with the third fastest time. He leads his way into Saturday ahead of Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia), who put in another superb Friday performance to claim fourth fastest in France, whilst the fifth fastest time went to Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team).
All four Ducati bikes on the grid managed to make their way into the top 10 on Friday, but not without some late drama as Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team), who had struggled in the first two sessions, finally found his pace in the closing minutes of FP3 and shot up to sixth on the timesheets. That lap momentarily put Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) outside the top ten, but a strong final lap from the Welshman moved him up to seventh and above teammate Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in eighth, while Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) made his way into tomorrow’s Superpole 2 with the ninth fastest lap.
The late surprises in FP3 meant that the battle for the Superpole spots was fiercer than ever. Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) managed to take the final position inside the top ten by just 0.004 seconds, to the delight of the home fans. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was the biggest victim of these changes, as he ended up eleventh at Magny-Cours and forced to figure his way through tomorrow’s Superpole 1.
A decisive and potentially historic day awaits! Watch tomorrow’s Superpole 1, Superpole 2 and Race One starting from 10:30 local time (08:30 GMT).
#FrenchWorldSBK at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours: Friday
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1:37.202
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 0.201
3. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) +0.287