As the WorldSBK riders undertook their first two practice sessions at the Pirelli French Round on Friday it was Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea who led the way with a 1’37.489 lap, whilst Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) were also in the top three.
Rea’s quickest time of the day - which was well under the best race lap of the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit set by his teammate Tom Sykes last year - put him 0.439s ahead of Friday’s second fastest participant Van der Mark. Melandri was marginally slower than Yamaha’s Dutch rider, going round the French track 0.477s off Rea’s time.
The pace of Rea on the first day saw him start the weekend in good shape as he aims to wrap up a third consecutive WorldSBK title.
Also within half a second of Rea was fourth placed Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati), whilst Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) went round 0.527s off P1 pace in fifth.
Spaniard Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) was sixth best, just ahead of Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) on the combined timesheets. Camier was unable to improve in the afternoon having lapped second fastest in FP1.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) completed the top ten. Sykes was returning to competitive action after missing both races at the last round in Portugal due to a finger injury sustained in practice at Portimao.
In the opening session of the French WorldSBK round earlier on Friday morning Laverty crashed at turn 6, losing the front end going into the right hander ahead of the Nürburgring chicane. The Irishman was unhurt and was soon able to return to the track.
The WorldSBK riders will be back on track on Saturday morning at the Pirelli French Round at 8.45am local time for FP3. SP1 takes place at 10.30am, SP2 follows at 10.55am and Race 1 will start at 1pm.