Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea was unsurprisingly fastest in the opening WorldSBK practice at Jerez this morning, opening a gap of 0.6s over second-placed Alex Lowes while Marco Melandri was able to bag third place despite spending half an hour in his garage.
Rea put in a 1’40.291 - already a second under lap record pace on the new surface - with his very last lap to go six-tenths clear of Lowes’ Pata Yamaha which has clearly benefitted from two days of private testing at Portimao. The Derby-based rider told BSN earlier this week he had found some confidence with corner exit, and it is showing at the Andalucian circuit where he set a 1’40.891.
Melandri is the lead Ducati even though an engine problem saw him sit out half of the hour-session. The tiny Italian only completed 11 flying laps but his third lap on the final run was enough to bag third place. Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty rocketed into fourth with his last effort, setting a 1’40.986 which put Michael Van Der Mark back on place.
The Dutchman had been sitting in top spot with ten minutes left but slowly slipped back. He finished on a 1’41.102, only two-tenths behind team-mate Lowes. Surprise of the morning came from Roman Ramos who is eager to impress in front of a home crowd.
The Spaniard, who re-signed with Go Eleven Kawasaki this week, followed Rea around at the beginning of the session and took top spot with a 1’41.459 but then improved to a 1’41.191 on his own to end in sixth place and ahead of Chaz Davies.
Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres was also a front-runner right until the ten-minute mark but ended in eighth place. The Spaniard was a second off the pace but ahead of Tom Sykes, who is looking to wrap up second place in the championship this weekend.
Lorenzo Savadori completed the top ten with Xavi Fores, Rafaelle De Rosa next along. Former champion Sylvain Guintoli finished in 13th place in his debut for the Puccetti Kawasaki team. Tati Mercado and Rico Russo completed the top 15 with Leon Camier down in 17th place.