The fourth edition of the Prosecco DOC Catalunya WorldSBK got underway today at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with the first day open to the public. The opening of the fourth event of the year for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was marked by the multiple test sessions carried out by not only the premier class (WorldSBK), but also the World Supersport, Supersport 300 and the Yamaha bLU cRU European Championship.
With this full field on track, the different series have begun to give clues as to what could happen on the world championship track this weekend. Still, if there is one thing the World Superbike Championship has shown, it is that excitement and surprises are guaranteed from start to finish, right up to the chequered flag. Today, however, World Championship leader Álvaro Bautista continued on his usual course of the last few rounds, and that is his almost absolute dominance.
The Aruba.it Racing-Ducati rider was fastest in Friday’s combined qualifying thanks to a time of 1:41.486, set in the second free practice session in the afternoon. That time was not bettered by any of his rivals, but neither was it faster than Iker Lecuona’s 1:41.396 set in testing last year. Even so, Bautista is confident on a track that gave him a hat-trick last year, a result he will be looking to repeat this weekend.
Besides, the Ducati rider is not pushing alone. His team-mate Michael Rinaldi saw the end of the day from second place. A time of 1:41.633 was enough to place him just behind the World Championship leader, thus monopolising two of the three podium positions. Although there is no doubt that the Ducati riders will be causing a lot to talk about, the times of the day were quite close in the middle part of the timesheets. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), for example, was just 19 thousandths of a second off Rinaldi.
Rea also knows what it’s like to win on Catalan soil, and his thirst for victory is more than evident. On the other hand, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), who was fourth overall today, did not have the honour of winning gold at the Circuit. With his lap time he proves that a podium finish is very possible, something also done by Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), the fifth placed rider and the first to break the one minute and 42 seconds mark. Lecuona was the owner of the 2022 Superpole, so his name is also in the betting.
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) and Dominque Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) were 6th and 7th respectively. Home rider Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) found his place in 8th, followed by Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW), who rounded off the top 10 in the combined classification. Former MotoGP riders Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) were 11th and 12th respectively.
Bulega takes the lead in WorldSSP
Nicolo Bulega proved today that he is the World Supersport leader for a reason. The Italian Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team rider took first place with a time of 1:44.740. In addition to the position of honour, Bulega set a stratospheric time, being much faster than most of his rivals. Proof of this is the almost eight tenths of a second ahead of Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph).
Both riders set their best times in the afternoon, something that Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Augusta Reparto Corse) did not do. The Turkish rider clocked a 1:45.582 in the morning session. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) was fourth, followed by Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) in fifth place. Manzi will have to be at his best tomorrow if he does not want to lose a single point to Bulega, his biggest rival for the title so far this season.
Oliver Bayliss (D34G Racing), the son of three-time Superbike World Champion Troy Bayliss, finished sixth. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) was the best of the Spanish riders with ninth place on the timesheets.
Perez Gonzalez clocks the best time in WorldSSP 300
José Luís Pérez González was the fastest rider in the WorldSSP 300 class on the first day of testing. The Accolade Smrz Racing BGR rider placed his Kawasaki Ninja 400 in first position thanks to a lap time of 1:55.948. This time was set in the afternoon session, which was slightly faster than the morning session. The Spaniard also managed to sneak into the top 4 of the first session.
Italian Matteo Vannucci (AG Motorsport Italia Yamaha) was the closest to the reference lap time, although almost four tenths of a second off Pérez González with his 1:56.342. Practically matching that time was Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki), who took third place of the day, just 35 thousandths of a second behind the Italian. Both riders stood out in the afternoon session, although Vannucci also did so earlier in the day with his second place in Free Practice 1.
Other riders to highlight were Samuel di Sora (ProDina Kawasaki Racing), third in the championship, and Peter Svoboda (Fusport-MT Motorsport by SKM Kawasaki), the championship leader. Daniel Mogeda, the only Catalan rider present, was 9th and 15th respectively in today’s sessions.
Mahendra takes pole position in the Yamaha bLU cRU European Championship
The Japanese manufacturer’s cup has already decided the starting grid ahead of the two races scheduled for tomorrow. Aldi Satya Mahendra (bLU cRU Yamaha Racing Indonesia) will lead the field, followed by the only Spaniard Marc Vich (DS Racing School) and Emiliano Ercolani (Yamaha bLU cRU Italy), who will close the front row. Mahendra’s fastest time was 2:01.047.
Programme of the event
On Saturday, WorldSBK will hold Free Practice 3 at 9.00 am. This will be followed by the Tissot Superpole for WorldSSP 300 (9.45 am), WorldSSP (10.25 am) and WorldSBK (11.10 am). At 11.45 am the Yamaha bLU cRU will contest Race 1, followed by WorldSSP 300 (12.40 pm), WorldSBK (2 pm) and WorldSSP (3.15 pm). The Yamaha Cup will close the day at 4.15 pm with Race 2. The Parade Lap will take place at 4.45 pm and the Pit Walk at 5.05 pm.
On Sunday, from 9.00 am to 10.00 am the WorldSBK, WorldSSP and WorldSSP 300 Warm Up sessions will run one after the other. The WorldSBK Tissot Superpole Race will take place at 11.00 am, followed by the Pit Walk at 11.25 am. The final races will take place at 12.30 pm (WorldSSP), 2.00 pm (WorldSBK) and 3.15 pm (WorldSSP 300).
A sustainable event
The Prosecco DOC Catalunya WorldSBK has been ISO 20121 certified since 2021 for its commitment to sustainability, promoting actions to raise awareness among all stakeholders.
This year, for instance, sustainable mobility and the efficient use of resources are promoted. For this purpose, the Circuit works with suppliers that use electric vehicles, and also has charging points in the paddock for teams and promoters. The efficient use of resources is also promoted, with an emphasis on water consumption restrictions due to the current drought context.
Another action to be highlighted is a committed and 0 km catering offer, the reduction of plastic waste through reusable cups, as well as the correct segregation of all waste, and the donation of surplus food generated by the teams.
All this always trying to raise awareness in the community with areas such as the Crater Forest, the sustainability stand in the paddock (open Saturday and Sunday from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm) and the Red Cross point located next to Gate 1 offering ambulance service for people with reduced mobility.
The event also features the participation of a group of castellers, who will perform the opening ceremony of the WorldSBK race and a demonstration in the paddock on Saturday. This display of traditional Catalan culture will feature the Sant Cugat group of castellers. They will build four human towers, which symbolise the four columns of Puig i Cadafalch reflected in the event trophy.
Fans can enter the venue from 8.00 am on Saturday and Sunday through Gate 1. Ticket office 1 will also be open for any formalities, and vehicles can be parked in car parks A1 and A2. The grandstands open for viewing are C, B, G and Pelouse Privilege (the building will be closed), while the Main and VIP Grandstands are for the exclusive use of people with paddock access.