WSB: Rea remains quickest as rookie Razgatlioglu shines

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Jonathan Rea remained quickest as the Portimao World Superbike test drew to a close on Monday, although it was fellow Kawasaki rider Toprak Razgatlioglu who grabbed the attention by cracking the top five on his Puccetti bike.

Following two days of running in Jerez last week, Portimao became the scene for more testing on Sunday and Monday. The track was open between 10am and 5pm local time, with glorious sunshine replacing an overcast start, although continuous strong gusts of wind meant it was difficult to set consistent lap times and there were several crashes across the course of the day.

More at ease than at the ‘back-to-school’ Jerez gathering, Rea topped the timesheet on a race tyre with a lap time of 1:41.485. Perhaps ominously for his rivals, this was just 0.055 seconds slower than his pole position time at last year’s Round.

Honda’s Leon Camier fitted a qualifying tyre to go second quickest while Alex Lowes completed the top three from Yamaha team-mate Michael van der Mark. After a frustrating second day in Jerez with technical issues, Lowes leaves Portugal much happier; the Englishman focused on race pace as opposed to one-lap speed, hailing ‘big steps’ on corner entry as well as completing two race simulations before setting his quickest lap with a qualifying tyre. Van der Mark also fitted the softer tyre but made a mistake on that lap, meaning his best time was delivered on race rubber.

Razgatlioglu once again raised eyebrows. At his last Portimao test in 2017, the Turkish rider impressed Rea by closely following the Northern Irishman for a sequence of laps. There was a similar scenario today, with Rea again providing feedback to the newcomer. Toprak’s best time of 1:42.105 may have been six tenths down on the leader, but was within a tenth of the closest Yamaha. Pirelli has confirmed to MCN that Razgatlioglu set his time on race rubber; the 21-year-old had planned to fit a qualifying tyre but was denied the chance when he suffered a sizeable crash at the final corner. Adding further to the buzz in the garage, team boss Manuel Puccetti described the bike as ‘only 90% official’; a new engine will come for Australia, which has generated plenty of optimism.

Two notable riders tested for the first time this year. Xavi Fores rolled out the Barni Racing Ducati with a modified exhaust, which allows the Spaniard to attack heavy braking zones with more confidence. PJ Jacobsen made his debut on the TripleM Honda, immediately running with the Magneti Marelli electronics system which is yet to find its way onto the Ten Kate bikes of Camier and Jake Gagne which continue to use the Cosworth ECU. Gagne was ruled out of action before the end of the day, electing not to rejoin the session after crashing at the Turn 5 hairpin. Tom Sykes had lost control of his Kawasaki in the same spot on Sunday.

Ondrej Jezek was left annoyed after his Guandalini Yamaha racked up almost no mileage thanks to a broken exhaust on Sunday and engine failure today.

Pirelli tested no less than eight new Superbike front tyres and one new rear. It also trialled two new front and rear tyres for the Supersport runners, which included five-time World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu who last week had been fortunate to walk away from a heavy accident at Jerez’s Turn 4.

The WorldSBK teams now return to base for one last push before descending on Phillip Island for the opening round of 2018. As per usual, a crucial test will precede the racing in Australia on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th February.

Times from Day 2 

Note: Some transponder issues - times understood to be correct 

Picture: KRT

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Greg Haines

By Greg Haines

Superbike reporter and Eurosport commentator