Rea and Bautista lead the way on the conclusion of day 1
The sun has set on the final day of Friday Free Practice for the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, and things got a bit heated towards the later stages of FP2! It was an action filled FP2 session in WorldSBK, with the red flag coming out just minutes after pit lane opening due to the well-known Cape Barren Geese. After a short halt to the session, the birds vacated the pit lane entrance and riders were back underway to see out the remaining 40 minutes of FP2.
For Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), today could be the confidence boost the six-time World Champion needed to see an end to his drought of wins, topping the timesheets in spectacular fashion in both FP1 and FP2. Rea has six race wins to his name around Phillip Island, sharing the record with three-time World Champion Troy Bayliss as the second most successful WordSBK rider at this iconic circuit.
Reacting to his strong pace, Rea said: “I really enjoyed the bike from Lap 1, the guys did a pretty good guesstimate at the setup. Phillip Island is quite a unique track because, with experience, the more you try at this circuit, sometimes the slower you go. I tried to start calmer, be smooth with the bike, not fighting the bike and things were working. I just tried to be very clear with my comments to my guys to make the bike setup changes between FP1 and FP2 and the bike was good. There are a few areas we really need to improve tomorrow. We’ll sit down tonight and analyse that to make things a little bit easier over a race distance. A little bit more turning is top of the agenda, and also throttle connection in some corners needs to be a little bit smoother. We have to be pretty satisfied.
“Like I said in the last races, we’ve been quite far from Alvaro and Toprak in terms of race time. At the end of the race, we’ve been struggling. My only target is just trying to be there at the end, keep consistent, give my 100% and if it’s possible to do well then so be it. I try not to worry about them. Alvaro’s already done his job this season and with Toprak we’re still fighting for second in the Championship. He has a big gap, but anything can happen with the forecast. With my pace being good, we can fight at the front and try to take it to the last race at least.”
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) didn’t quite get the start to the weekend he was hoping for, heading into the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round as the newly crowned 2022 World Champion. Bautista came under pressure from Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) midway through FP1, with the Turkish rider looking to get a tow. Bautista ultimately couldn’t get his Ducati Panigale V4R stopped for Miller Corner, ending his FP1 session in the gravel trap. Fortunately, Bautista was uninjured and was back out on track for FP2 where he finished just 1 tenth behind Rea to finish day 1 in second overall.
Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team) rounded out the top 3, making it a Kawasaki Racing Team 1-3 to end the day 1 for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. Lowes fastest lap of the day was at the start of his second stint in the final session, when he posted a 1:31.416, just 0.184 seconds behind Bautista, and 0.289 seconds behind Rea.
Discussing this, Lowes said: “It was good, really positive, coming off the back of a tough weekend last weekend where I couldn’t get the feeling I needed. Today’s been the opposite, I didn’t touch the bike today really. I just tried to relax. It’s all about tyre life and trying to get the tyres to last over the 22 laps here. Honestly, it was good. In the first session, I used the same tyre. The afternoon, we made a small change, and it felt a little bit better on the front. In general, we had a really positive day and I feel happy with the feeling I have with the bike. It was good for Kawasaki. We want to be fighting for the top step. Obviously, Jonny’s not won for a long time so it would be nice to have a Kawasaki up there winning and I feel this weekend, if it’s dry anyway, we have a good chance to go and fight for victory.”