Michael Ruben Rinaldi proved there were no lingering ill-effects from his huge accident at Donington Park as he powered to the fastest time right at the end of Friday free practice at Imola.
One of seven Italian riders racing on home soil this weekend, Rinaldi was required to pass a medical in order to compete this weekend after sustaining concussion in a high-speed incident involving Tom Sykes last time out.
However, he was right back up to speed upon his return at Imola today, Rinaldi capitalising on a late red flag period to pop in a timesheet topping lap of 1m 47.123secs once the session restarted with just under three minutes left on the clock.
That was enough to deny Alex Lowes a satisfying Friday boost having sprung to the top of the leaderboard just prior to the late stoppage on the factory Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
An incident-filled, stop-start session featuring three red flags periods, each for crashes at the final Variante Bassa chicane, the last of those led to a frantic finish as riders attempted to use a fresh set of tyres to leapfrog up the order.
Among them was first-time Imola visitor Garrett Gerloff, who found form at the death to surge towards the summit and end his day third.
Ironically, the strong end to the session came after a disastrous start to it, Gerloff triggering an accident that led to him crashing into Bonovo BMW team-mate Loris Baz. Occurring just seconds into the session as the riders warmed up for their first laps, Gerloff got out of shape under braking for the first Rivazza and couldn’t get the M 1000 RR stopped without T-boning a rather bewildered Baz up ahead.
In fourth, Axel Bassani earmarked himself as a rider to watch this weekend, the Italian - not known for being quick of the box on a weekend - having held the top spot for much of the afternoon on the Motocorsa Ducati.
Andrea Locatelli and Danilo Petrucci made it fourth Italians in the top six positions, with championship leader Alvaro Bautista keeping a low profile en route to the seventh fastest time.
Scott Redding was another to make late gains, the Briton together with Gerloff giving BMW some optimism for the weekend as they out-paced Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu.
Rea was to blame for one of the red flags, his fall coming early on when he dropped the Kawasaki ZX-10RR at the tricky final corner chicane. With the session stopped to clear the gravel that had been dragged onto track, identical crashes for Gabriele Ruiu and Tito Rabat led to two further pauses..
Razgatlioglu, meanwhile, had his last flying lap cancelled to explain his mid-pack position, the Turk just ahead of Bradley Ray, who showed up GYTR GRT Yamaha counterparts Dominique Aegerter and Remy Gardner by comfortably out-performing them in 11th, compared with their 19th and 14th.
Leon Haslam, meanwhile, lost a portion of track time with a technical issue on his ROKiT BMW M 1000 RR to end the day in 16th, nestled between the bikes of his former HRC Honda team.
WorldSBK Imola | Combined Friday Practice RESULTS [FP1 + FP2]
|2023 Italian WorldSBK | Imola | Combiend Friday Practice Results [FP1+FP2] | Round 7 of 12|
|1||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||ITA||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1m 47.123|
|2||Alex Lowes||GBR||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1m 47.279|
|3||Garrett Gerloff||USA||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||1m 47.454|
|4||Axel Bassani||ITA||Motocorsa Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1m 47.548|
|5||Andrea Locatelli||ITA||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||1m 47.592|
|6||Danilo Petrucci||ITA||Barni Spark Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1m 47.693|
|7||Alvaro Bautista||ESP||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1m 47.737|
|8||Scott Redding||GBR||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||1m 48.802|
|9||Jonathan Rea||GBR||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1m 47.830|
|10||Toprak Razgatlioglu||TUR||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||1m 47.916|
|11||Bradley Ray||GBR||Motoxracing||Yamaha R1||1m 47.982|
|12||Loris Baz||FRA||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||1m 48.440|
|13||Philipp Oettl||GER||Go Eleven||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1m 48.686|
|14||Remy Gardner||AUS||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1||1m 48.694|
|15||Xavi Vierge||ESP||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||1m 48.749|
|16||Leon Haslam||GBR||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||1m 48.779|
|17||Iker Lecuona||ESP||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||1m 48.907|
|18||Lorenzo Baldassarri||ITA||GMT 94||Yamaha R1||1m 48.961|
|19||Dominique Aegerter||CHE||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1||1m 48.985|
|20||Gabriele Ruiu||ITA||B-Max Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||1m 49.081|
|21||Roberto Tamburini||ITA||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||1m 49.777|
|22||Isaac Vinales||ESP||TPR by Vinales Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1m 50.437|
|24||Tito Rabat||ESP||Puccetti Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1m 50.622|
|24||Oliver Konig||CZE||Orelac Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1m 50.747|
|25||Eric Granado||BRA||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||1m 50.819|