Former WorldSBK king Jonathan Rea topped the second and soaking free practice at Magny-Cours, beating Axel Bassani by a second with Kawasaki team-mate and overall fastest man Alex Lowes in third.
Rea was 19th in FP1 but only went out in the wet conditions, whilst in the wetter running of FP2, he was up in third and was the top-placed out of his title rivals. Going to make it a perfect ten wins at Magny-Cours, Rea chases his first victory since Estoril back in May.
Having been fastest during the opening session courtesy of his fast time at the start of the day, Lowes remained on top overall and was also getting good track time in the wet FP2 session. Running second for the majority of the session, Lowes, who has a good history at the Magny-Cours venue, took third and will be hoping that Friday is a good platform for a return to the podium and start his second half of the season in good spirits.
Whilst the factory riders and teams were scattered throughout the order, there was plenty of reason to smile inside the top ten for the Independent riders. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) led the majority of the session before being pushed back to second, the only rider (apart from Rea) to lap in the 1’50s, of which Rea got down to a 1’49.379. Bassani was second ahead of Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), with the American sixth, although he crashed with a highside on the exit of Turn 12, resulting in a red flag for debris. His teammate, Kohta Nozane, had his strongest Friday of the year and was eighth in the wet afternoon session.
In the factory Ducati camp, it was a mixed day as Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) finished fourth overall after one dry run but he was also fast in the wet track conditions. However, his day didn’t end in the best way as he crashed at Turn 15 in the tricky conditions. Despite a wing flying off the Ducati, the Championship leader was back up on his feet and rode back to the pits, before returning to the circuit, albeit without his right front winglet. For Michael Ruben Rinaldi, he crashed at Turn 5 when the rain started falling in FP1, before he was up inside the top five in the wet conditions in the afternoon.
For BMW, it was a solid opening day despite tricky conditions with Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) taking seventh at the end of FP2. Redding was just half a second from a top six placing in the wet and will hope that if the weather is tricky in the races, the valuable 17 laps from FP2 will put him in a good place to make the most of the M1000RR package. It was a welcome return for his teammate Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), with the Dutchman making his second comeback from injury this year and placing ninth, with both factory BMW riders in the top ten in the wet conditions.
The rider in form and one of the fastest around the Magny-Cours circuit, reigning World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) was fast in the morning to finish third overall, but in the wet he was also on the pace. Building up slowly from 18th after his first flying laps, he was inside the top eight before ultimately finishing in tenth at the end of the session. His teammate Andrea Locatelli had an eventful day, with the Italian going down in the closing stages of FP1 in the morning, before securing 11th in the wet afternoon.
At Team HRC, it was a day of discovery as Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge took to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours for the first time in their careers. Having been going strong earlier in the wet afternoon session, come the end of it, Lecuona took 13th, gaining valuable track time, although he’ll hope for a fair crack at the action in dry conditions throughout the remainder of the Pirelli French Round. Xavi Vierge finished in 16th but with over 30 laps set in the FP2 conditions alone, valuable data has been garnered for the pairing moving onto the two race days that lie ahead.
Amongst the Hondas were the next two Independent riders were both home heroes, as Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) took 12th, whilst Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was 14th. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) was strong in 15th at a circuit he’s got good form at in tricky conditions from the past. His teammate Hafizh Syahrin, also a notable wet weather rider, was 17th, ahead of Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven), debutant Oscar Gutierrez (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), who was a fine 19th and home-hero Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha).
Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW), Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team), Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team) completed the order, Bernardi having been in the top ten in FP1 but also crashing in FP2.