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WorldSBK Estoril: Gerloff heads Yamaha charge for FP1

GRT Yamaha’s Garett Gerloff claimed the opening honours with a 1’36.572 as free practice fired up at circuit Estoril in Portugal on Friday.

Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatliolgu and Aruba.it Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista sat second and third with KRT’s Jonathan Rea beginning his Portuguese weekend from sixth in the standings.

Friday began with the walking wounded firmly back in the pack as Michael van der Mark, Eugene Laverty and Xavi Vierge had utilised the near month between races to recover their fitness. Roberto Tamburini, however, was out of action due to a right ankle fracture with Yamaha’s Marvin Fritz replacing on the Motoxracing R1. Issac Vinales joining Pedercini Kawasaki for the Portuguese race.


The red flags came out after six minutes of action as van der Mark’s BMW lay stricken in the middle of the track at turn ten with the Dutchman taken to the medical centre for checks before being transferred to hospital to review his still recovering right leg. Razgatlioglu headed the initial times with a 1’38.295, Axel Bassani and Scott Redding second and third after just three laps around the 4.2km layout.

Rea took charge as the session fired back up before Bautista immediately bettered thanks to the new 1’37.650 target. Gerloff was the next to climb the rankings, sitting second, 0.12s adrift of the Ducati ahead with Razgatlioglu, Redding and Rea behind. The Kawasaki circulating on the bubble of 1’38 with teammate Alex Lowes neatly behind in sixth.

The reigning champion was back at the top with 15 minutes dispatched as he pushed the pace to 1’37.457. Gerloff continuing to challenge on the GRT Yamaha as he maintained his position inside the top three with Lowes improving to fourth.

The top ten battle saw Bassani fending off Laverty, Andrea Locatelli and Loris Baz from seventh with the second Pata Yamaha setting identical pace to the Motocorsa Ducati with his tenth lap, the Northern Irishman a mere hundredth back in the closely matched fight.

Honda’s Assen podium star sat 11th at he halfway stage as Iker Lecuona circulated on 1’38.7 pace. His teammate Vierge down in 15th as the weekend began with Kohta Nozane and Philipp Oettl splitting the pair.

Laverty launched to fourth as the second half got up to speed with countryman Rea narrowly behind before the six-time champion bettered for position next time around. Lowes and Redding ran sixth and seventh as the final quarter of an hour approached with a trio of Italians rounding out the top ten with Michael Rinaldi heading Bassani and Locatelli on the Aruba.it Ducati.

The closing ten minutes saw Razgatlioglu increase the target with a 1’36.831. Bautista’s best now half a second adrift as Vierge entered the top ten and Baz improved to sixth. Five to go and Gerloff bettered with a 1’36.5 as he continued to shine, sitting a quarter of a second clear of the factory outfit. Satellite form continued down the pack as Bassani claimed fourth before Locatelli demoted his countryman in the closing stages.

As the chequered flag dropped Gerloff claimed the session with his 1’36.572 from Razgatlioglu and Bautista with Locatelli and Bassani bettering Rea in the top six. Laverty headed Vierge and Bonovo teammate Baz in the mid-pack with Lowes rounding out the top ten from Redding, Lucas Mahias, Oettl, Rinaldi and Lecuona.

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