Superbike, Portimao Test analysis: Ducati sets the pace, Rea in the slipstream
Panigale V4R and record-breaking World Champion Bautista in Portugal, with Rinaldi being positive and only the British Kawasaki rider able to keep up. Razgatlioglu’s Yamaha near the front and always on the lookout
The record times set at the end of the two-day Sbk tests in Portimao by the four aces Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea, Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Toprak Razgatlioglu show another leap in the technical quality of the racing cars derived from the series and herald a 2023 – Championship light bulb on. Even more powerful engines that can be used downwards, even more powerful aerodynamics, wonderful tyres: Even with “restrictive” regulations, these bikes continue to amaze and improve again and again, as lap times and telemetry scans prove. When we add riders who have no one to envy, at least on the front two to three rows, we understand why this superbike is technically valid and will have a strong appeal right from the very first World Championship round on the weekend of February 26th at Phillip Island, after the last tests on February 20th and 21st again at the Australian circuit.
other work, but the times remain
When testing, it is always important to remember that each team and each driver has their own work program: some are in time attack mode; others focus on the long term; Still others work on specific components and pay little attention to the stopwatch. In the end, however, times are written and count and in Portimao the headlines were headlined by Alvaro Bautista’s best time (the Spanish World Champion also crashed without consequences at Turn 7), who lapped “035” in 1’39 on the new Ducati Panigale V4R, six tenths under Rea’s previous Superpole record in 2022 (1’39.610) and, most importantly, just three tenths away from the MotoGP record set by Pecco Bagnaia on April 18, 2021 with much more favorable asphalt temperatures on Ducati. It’s not hard to predict that at the inaugural MotoGP World Round of 2023, taking place in Portimao on March 26th, lap times will take another leap and restore the ‘gap’ between motorcycling’s top two categories. The technical validity of the performance of Bautista and his closest rivals remains, with Rea finishing second on 9 thousandths and Rinaldi on 109 thousandths from his teammate.
the Razgatlioglu gap
Toprak Razgatlioglu is further down, “only” fourth and 4 tenths behind the Ducati World Champion, but he’s definitely below the old record too. Why this gap to the Yamaha spearhead? The answer is simple and has a purely technical reason: Toprak’s time comes from tire choice. In fact, the Turkish rider of the Pata Yamaha Prometeon team didn’t mount the qualifying tire and chose not to take part in the final time attack. The reason? Faced with tight deadlines and a lot of work still to be done, the Yamaha rider and the team have decided to commit themselves to testing and re-testing various technical components, such as the new swingarm that achieves the desired results with increased grip on the rear wheel delivered : in these conditions, 1’39”441 is a respectable time. “It’s a great time – commented Razgatlioglu at the end – that shows our potential. More importantly the great work that has been done on the new parts of the bike, especially the new swingarm, a big leap forward compared to last season. We didn’t put on qualifying tires, not for tactical reasons but because we didn’t have the time. That’s all”.
On the Kawasaki front there’s a satisfied Jonathan Rea with a mischievous smile: his 1’39”044 speaks for itself. “It’s a good time, I’d say excellent, made easy. Last year we went with the 1’39”6 qualifying tire and now with the racing solutions we’re even faster, just like my closest competitors. That means we’re all improving going forward and the pace is also incredibly fast: we just have to see what happens in the race with 20 laps on the tyre. Compared to the end of the two days of testing in Portimao, I can’t be entirely satisfied with the Supersoft used. Maybe because of the lower temperatures I didn’t have the same sensations as with the other compound: I expected more from the qualifying tire that didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. When we put on tires with grip we usually make a big step forward: I wanted to see a 1:38 to do the fastest lap, we got close but not enough. Anyway, I am very happy with the technical advances, we have been able to improve and the new developments have given us the desired results.” Kawasaki did not sit idly by and met the expectations of a Rea who was satisfied with the many new functions, starting with the variable ones “Grains” waiting for the new homologation. Ahead of Phillip Island, the other novelties of the ZX-10RR are spotted, including engine speed, currently legally limited to 14,600 but expected to exceed the 15,000 threshold. They say 1000 rpm more, which could put the “Verdona” back in the role of the fox, but without the lag of the last two seasons, especially in terms of top speed and acceleration. Much work was done on the electronics during the Portimao tests to meet Rea’s repeated requests.
ready for the ring
Therefore, a ring championship is expected to see everything. Bautista-Ducati remains the favorite combination to beat but the others, notably Razgatlioglu and Rea, are there. Then, from fourth to fifth to tenth to twelfth, there will be a big fight, all united to take first place below the podium and finish in the top five.
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