KRT WorldSBK riders Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes experienced one wet and one dry track session on the first day of practice during the opening round of the new season at Phillip Island in Australia today, with Rea ending up sixth fastest and Lowes 11th.
After two days of official tests at PI earlier this week on the Ninja ZX-10RR both British riders concentrated on trying to maximise their race pace rather than go for a single fast lap time from the outset, to make sure they approach race one on Saturday afternoon in the best possible condition.
As well as finding a different grip level from the asphalt compared to the recent tests, after overnight rain and then two heavy showers today that made FP1 fully wet, Rea worked on final raceday tyre choices as he starts his campaign to become a six time world champion.
In his first season with KRT Lowes was unfortunate to lose the first free practice session to rain and then be forced to spend some time in the pits, but he is confident his race pace will be much better than his first day 11th fastest lap time suggests.
Alex was still just 0.900 seconds from the fastest time of the day, and just over half a second from the second fastest rider.
Now the official Kawasaki WorldSBK pairing will face FP3 on Saturday morning, then Superpole qualifying and finally a 22-lap opening race. On Sunday a short ten-lap sprint race and then a second full distance 22-lap contest will round out the first weekend of the long championship campaign.
Jonathan Rea: “The bike set-up was quite similar to the recent test but I did not feel as good today and we did not make too many changes. We concentrated on testing both the new option tyre that Pirelli brought and the standard tyre we had at the tests. Both have different feelings, some positive some negative. So we need to look a bit deeper at why the feeling was not so good and there is clearly a lack of grip compared to the tests. Tomorrow morning, depending on the grip level, hopefully there will be a lot more rubber down from the support classes, and the track will be a little bit different. It is always a difficult one when you have a lot of rain. But I feel we are not so far away.”
Alex Lowes: “The first session was wet and then we lost a bit of track time in the pits today, which was a shame, but we used the same tyres all session and we stayed in the 1’31 lap times right to the end. My pace was definitely better than during the tests; my bike set-up felt better even after 18 or 19 laps. I need more laps but I do not think my pace was that bad. A lot of people used new tyres at the but we chose to work on the same set of tyres, trying to work out what it is going to be like at the end of the race on Saturday. I need that experience on the bike but I am happy that we have made a step in my feeling on the bike. I could have done with another session today but a clean FP3 tomorrow, then put a good lap in during qualifying and I am looking forward to my first race in green.”