News 3 Nov 2017

Rea tops WorldSBK time-sheets on Thursday in Qatar

WorldSSP title leader Mahias fastest as Sofuoglu makes return.

Source: Supplied.

Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea was fastest on Thursday at the final round of the 2017 Motul Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) in Qatar.

Rea posted a 1m57.666s lap-time at the floodlit Losail International Circuit during FP1, which put him on top of combined times aboard his title-winning Ninja ZX-10RR.

Rea was unable to improve in FP2 and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) closed the gap at the top of the combined time-sheets to 0.259s as the fastest man in that session and the second quickest overall on Thursday.

FP2 was interrupted briefly after a technical problem at turn 10 for the day’s third best overall performer Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), which led to a red flag, but the riders were soon back in action after the track conditions were confirmed as safe for them to continue riding.

Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati) was fourth quickest and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) also featured in the top five. At this season-concluding round in Qatar Sykes and Davies will battle it out for the runners-up position in this year’s championship behind title winner Rea.

Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team), Marco Melandri ( Racing – Ducati), Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Laverty’s Aprilia teammate Lorenzo Savadori completed the top 10.

World Supersport Championship leader Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) was the top man after FP2. The Frenchman was joined in the top three on the practice time-sheets by compatriot Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Briton Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing).

Mahias shot to the top of the timing screens at the end of the second practice of the evening in Qatar, with a 2m01.316s putting him a significant 0.412s margin ahead of Cluzel, whilst Stapleford was 0.006s further adrift.

Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) and Australian guest Anthony West (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) all featured in the top six, whilst the big news of the day was the return to action of Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).

After suffering fractures to his pelvis at the French round of the championship in September it looked like Sofuoglu could be out for the rest of the season but he has remarkably made it back in time to attempt to prevent standings leader Mahias from wrestling the title from him.

Sofuoglu needs to win Saturday’s race and for his rival Mahias to score only five or less points, otherwise the defending world champion needs to finish second and Mahias not to score at all, to lift what would be his sixth WorldSSP World title.

In FP1 Sofuoglu was back on track after that triple hip fracture he sustained in France just over one month ago, the Turkish rider putting in 17 laps on his Kawasaki ZX-6R and ending up seventh in the opening practice of the weekend despite a brief technical problem mid-session. He was given a medical check-up at the circuit in between FP1 and FP2, then going on to finish seventh in the second session too.

Thursday’s combined timesheets after FP2 saw Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI), Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) and Christian Gamarino (BARDAHL EVAN BROS. Honda Racing) complete the top 10. Of the remaining Aussies, Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing) was 24th and Giuseppe Scarcella (Team Lorini Honda) 26th at the conclusion of day one.