Drying conditions lead to a late shuffle at the top of the order, with a surprising top six featuring home-hero Loris Baz and Honda’s Alessandro Delbianco
The 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship touches down at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, with gloomy skies greeting the WorldSBK class for the opening Free Practice session. Early morning rain left wet and slippery conditions for the riders, as proven when title challengers Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) crashed within minutes of each other.
Despite sitting out much of the first half of proceedings, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) leapt to the top of the leaderboard with his final lap of the morning as conditions gradually improved. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) secured second ahead of former Magny-Cours winner Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) while Leandro Mercado warmed up for his home round in Argentina with fourth this morning, just in front of home favourite Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha).
Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) demonstrated his wet weather prowess once again with sixth spot, keeping reigning champion Jonathan Rea in his wake. Alex Lowes rose to eighth with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), who led the session with 15 minutes remaining, dropping to ninth ahead of Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven).
Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) made a welcome return to WorldSBK action and showed promising pace, ultimately ending the session in 11th, with Alvaro Bautista climbing to 13th in the latter stages after his crash, one spot ahead of team-mate Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati). The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team also made a quiet start with Tom Sykes going quickest at the half-hour mark, only to fall back to 18th after failing to improve on the drying track, while team-mate Markus Reiterberger completed the 20-rider field.
- Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 1’51.852
- Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.223
- Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.795
- Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) +0.868
- Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) +0.968
- Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) +1.053