Ten Kate Honda team leader Jonathan Rea headed the time sheets in the opening practice for the 14th and final round of the eni Superbike World Championship in Magny-Cours France.
The British Honda CBR1000RR pilot took advantage of the warm and sunny conditions to turn a best lap of 1:39.064, comparing well to the outright circuit record of 1:37.49 set last year by the same pilot. Rea’s outright performance was turned in Saturday SuperPole part three, with the softest rear Pirelli slick tire option.
Given that the track was “green” due to recent rain and this was the first on-track session for the Feature class, Rea’s morning effort was a strong start to his weekend. Recently, Rea has not only won the prestigious eight hour endurance event at Suzuka Japan, but also re-signed with the Honda Superbike program and subbed for injured MotoGP superstar Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda RC212V.
Second quickest was popular French rider Sylvain Guintoli aboard the Pata snacks backed DFX Ducati 1098R with a time of 1:39.105.A winner of two wet events in 2012, British-based Guintoli is rumored to be leaving Ducati for FIXI Crescent Suzuki duties in 2013.
Third best time went to FIXI Suzuki team leader Leon Camier, on form during recent events, with a lap at 1:39.335.
Three riders enter the final round of the 2012 World SBK series with a shot at the Championship. Second in the standings Tom Sykes was the best of the trio, fifth quickest with a lap at 1:39.414 on the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.
Max Biaggi heads the title chase for Aprilia with 347 points, followed by Sykes at 316.6 and third overall Marco Melandri with 308.5 points on the lead BMW Motorrad S100RR entry. There is a potential maximum point gain of 50 over the course of Sunday’s two scheduled races.
Melandri took over the Championship lead mid-August in Russia, but since then has crashed out of three of four events and failed to score a single point. A fall in race one in the rain at Portimao less than two weeks ago injured his ribs, but the former G.P. star in racing in France and determined to fight to the finish.
Series leader Biaggi wound up sixth in the opening session with a best lap of 1:39.812, while Melandri netted eighth at 1:39.991.
The first qualifying session takes place at the end of Friday’s schedule, with another slated for first thing Saturday morning, with the three part Tissot-SuperPole going mid-Saturday afternoon.
Canadian ace Brett McCormick is on site at Magny-Cours, even though his squad pulled out of the event at short notice. Coming off a career building best SBK effort of fifth in Portugal on September 23, McCormick was visiting with his similarly jobless former crew in the paddock early in the day.