The Autodrom Most welcomes the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock and it was a momentous Friday for the Acerbis Czech Round. After a wet FP1, all eyes were on FP2 with a fully dry session in prospect. Making hay whilst the sun shone, albeit behind a lot of cloud, was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK). However, with 15 riders covered by less than a second, it could all change at a moment’s notice.
MOMENTUM CONTINUES: Razgatlioglu stars on Friday
With just over eight minutes left to go, Toprak Razgatlioglu went top and took half a second out of the best time of the day at that point, showcasing his pace at a track where he is the most successful rider at. Two flying laps later and he went half a tenth quicker, whilst Italian teammate Andrea Locatelli elevated himself from outside the top ten into P2 momentarily but finished up in P7. Razgatlioglu however was on top come the end of Friday, as the momentum continues to be in his corner.
INDEPENDENT STRENGTH: Gardner, Petrucci and Bassani fly high in top five
The Independent riders were in mighty form at Most on Friday, with Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) only 0.012s adrift of Razgatlioglu’s top time. The Australian’s first weekend at Most seems to be off to a good start, with the #87 looking competitive in the dry FP2 and in the wetter FP1. Behind him, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) is another rookie tackling the Czech track for the first time, and he was P3 and just over a tenth away from Toprak on top. He was also top Ducati, something he’ll be keen to hold onto through the weekend. Then, in P5, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) is straight from his Imola success and on the pace at round eight. In P8 despite a crash, Gardner’s teammate Dominique Aegerter was looking strong, making it four Independent stars inside the top eight and in the thick of the action.
BAUTISTA ONLY SIXTH: plenty of places between the #1 and his title rival
12 months ago, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) took victory at Most and in doing so, delivered Ducati’s 1000th podium and this weekend, he’s on the edge of an 18th win of the season, which will be a new record. However, he struggled on day one at Most; he sat out the dry end to the session and was left in 17th, whilst in FP2, he was sixth and the fourth Ducati. It seemed like the #1 had a technical issue, missing the first part of the session. His teammate, Michael Ruben Rinaldi, knows how important this weekend is in terms of his future, with a good result needed before the summer break. Rinaldi took the flag in fourth as he chases a return to the podium.
BMW’S FRIDAY: strong in the wet, van der Mark returns with crash in FP2
Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) may have topped a far from ideal FP1 but found himself down in P9 after the fully dry FP2, with the BMW riders reportedly struggling with the new hard rubber this weekend. However, his afternoon was better than teammate Michael van der Mark’s, as the #60 was last after suffering a dramatic crash at Turn 10. Unfortunately, his bike wasn’t able to be get back to pitlane as it ended up on the outside of the circuit and not on the side of pitlane, meaning the Dutchman lost 40 minutes of desperately-needed track time. It’s going to be a big Saturday back in action.
KAWASAKI IN TROUBLE? Rea the best in P10
With 12 minutes left on the clock, it was a Kawasaki 1-2 as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) led teammate Alex Lowes at the Autodrom Most, with the dry session seeing times right on the pace. Kawasaki have never won at Most before and Rea hasn’t won in 2023, but despite the strong times, it didn’t seem that a time attack was put to the test at the end of the session. For teammate Lowes, he suffered a crash at Turn 2 but was all OK, got the bike back to the pits and got back out within five minutes. When he got back out, he crashed again, this time at Turn 10, so another slow-speed spill but untimely with three minutes to go. At the end of the session and thus on the combined times, Rea was in 10th and Lowes took 11th.
HONDA DOWN FIELD AGAIN: Lecuona and Vierge 13th and 16th respectively
Once again, Honda struggled on Friday as Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) only managed to finish in 13th, whilst teammate Xavi Vierge took 16th at the end of the session. Honda were probably the one team that could’ve done with fully dry running all day as they fight to get back into contention after what has been a torrid few rounds; Lecuona’s 13th-best lap time was however less than three quarters of a second away from Razgatlioglu’s top time. There’s work to do for Honda at Most.
FURTHER DOWN: Gerloff and Baz outside the top ten
Just ahead of Lecuona was Garrett Gerloff in 12th, at Most with BMW for the first time; he suffered a run-off in sector three at the start of FP2 but was OK. Teammate Loris Baz took 14th and was upside inside the top five at one point as his future hangs in the balance. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) was 15th, whilst Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) took 17th. Home-hero Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) was 18th and up in ninth place after FP1, whilst Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) completed the top 20.
THE REST OF THE ORDER: Soomer ahead of Tamburini
‘Baltic Bullet’ Hannes Soomer (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) was back in action in the WorldSBK paddock and despite a big highside in FP1 at the final corner, he got back out and was a respectable 2.6s off the pace of Toprak at the head of the field. Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) suffered a technical issue in pitlane, meaning his handful of laps left him in 22nd, whilst Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) crashed at Turn 17 and was taken to the medical centre for a check-up, where he was declared fit.
Top six after WorldSBK’s opening day at Most:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) 1’32.367s
2. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.012s
3. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) +0.104s
4. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.193s
5. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) +0.244s
6. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.287s
- From WorldSBK.com