The 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship fired back into life at the famous Imola circuit, in Italy. The undulating rollercoaster-style circuit witnessed the first WorldSBK track action for four weeks, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) returning to the top of the time sheets. The session was red flagged with 31 minutes left on the clock for a crash with Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) on the exit of Acque Minerale.
A promising start to the weekend was just what Jonathan Rea needed, having come off the back of his worst result of the 2019 WorldSBK season, with third in Race 2 at Assen. After a positive start to the weekend, Rea will look to carry this on and aim for his eighth win at the Imola circuit. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was back in WorldSBK action at Imola, having visited the circuit last season. Completing the session in fourth, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ will hope to continue heading in the right direction.
At their home circuit, what with being based just 50km away from Imola, Ducati riders were having a strong session. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) had a strong opening session, consistently running within the top three and completing the session in second. His championship leading teammate, Alvaro Bautista, continued his mission to learn Imola and dialed his Ducati in well, finishing up third overall.
Carrying on from a strong Motul Dutch Round at the TT Circuit Assen, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was a prominent feature towards the top of the time sheets. Placing in fifth at the end of the session, the 2013 WorldSBK champion will be seeking to remain within in the top five at the Italian circuit. German teammate Markus Reiterberger endured a tricky start to his weekend and placed in eleventh.
On paper, Imola is not one of Yamaha’s strongest circuits on the WorldSBK calendar but it was a solid start for the manufacturer in 2019. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was riding well and completed the session in sixth, just under a second from Jonathan Rea’s time. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) arrived at Imola in search of a return to the podium battle, with his quest beginning in ninth after FP1.
Top Independent rider honours went to Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), who completed the session in seventh place. He also placed as top Italian rider, something the home crowd will be cheering about, with him being aboard the Ducati Panigale V4 R. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was right in behind his fellow countryman, charging hard to eighth position in the closing stages, whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) was tenth and third in terms of Independent teams.