Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) set the early benchmarks in the grand opening of the Circuito San Juan Villicum, ending Free Practice 3 and Friday on top of the timesheets, as Round 12 of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicked off in Argentina for the very first time. Runner-up on Friday was Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), with an impressive Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) claiming the third fastest time.
In a repeat of the final minutes of FP2, it was the young Turkish rookie who pushed the WorldSBK champion the hardest in the opening stages of the final session of the day, with the pair exchanging fastest laps several times inside the first 20 minutes. A couple of brilliant sub-1’41 laps from Rea finally gave him the edge by half a second, until Melandri closed the leading gap to under two tenths with a third of the session remaining.
The real fun began with six minutes on the clock: the Ducati rider blasted into P1 with a lap of 1’40.142, nearly half a second faster than Rea at the time, but that lead didn’t last long – the champion clocked an amazing 1’39.914 lap four minutes later, pushing him back into first. A late surge from Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) put the Yamaha rider ahead inside the first two splits, but there would be no more changes at the top, Rea’s rhythm inside the final two sectors impossible to match.
Lowes ends Friday in a promising fourth position, in stark contrast to his teammate Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) who was edged out of the top ten in the final moments of FP3 and will have to fight through tomorrow’s Superpole 1.
Fifth on the day and just over fourth tenths of a second behind Rea was Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia), the Italian again displaying good form in Free Practice. Sixth position on Friday went to Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), the Brit’s Fireblade coming good in FP3 after spending most of the day in the lower third of the timesheets.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) managed to scratch his way into the top ten with his final lap of the day, taking seventh position after a day of ups and downs. Homeboy Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) also claimed a ticket for tomorrow’s Superpole 2 after the checkered flag, finishing his first day in front of his local crowd in eighth.
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was ninth on the day, with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) – who could claim the independent riders championship this weekend – in tenth, a second behind the fastest time in FP3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who held the fastest time overall at different points of the day, dropped to a disappointing 14th by the end of Friday, setting up an incredibly tight Superpole 1 tomorrow alongside van der Mark.
Who will take the first ever Tissot Superpole in South America?
#ARGWorldSBK at Circuito San Juan Villicum: Friday
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1:39.914
2. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.228
3. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) +0.316
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