The 4.182km long Estoril track was last used for WorldSBK racing in the early nineties so it was an all-new challenge for the whole KRT squad to learn in two 50-minute practice sessions on the opening day. The weather was kind, with sunshine and mild temperatures throughout, and expectations that the weather should hold throughout race weekend.
In the final Friday session Rea was to finish just over half a second from the fastest rider Scott Redding, who has raced at Estoril in the earlier years of his MotoGP career. Jonathan, who was still learning secrets of the track layout right up to the final minutes of FP2, was occasionally on course to be fastest rider of all, only losing some pace in the final sectors.
Armed with set-up improvements based on the opening day’s data, Rea and his crew will reconvene on tack on Saturday for FP3, Tissot-Superpole and then race one, which will offer Jonathan the first chance to win the championship outright. It will also be an opportunity to score his 100th career race win in WorldSBK. He only needs three points from this weekend to guarantee his sixth successive title.
It was also a positive opening day for Lowes in Portugal, as he who was one place and only 0.120 seconds behind his team-mate Rea. His top five performance gave him confidence to take into the opening race as he goes for more podium finishes to wrap-up his first season as a Ninja ZX-10RR rider.
Having been resurfaced two years ago the grip from the track surface at Estoril has proved to be been consistent and drew praise from most riders, the majority of whom were seeing the track for the first time.
Now the KRT competitors will maximise their combined potential to take into the first of three races that will complete a compact and intense eight round championship.
Race one, over 21 laps will take place on Saturday afternoon at 14.00 local time in Portugal, with a ten lap Tissot-Superpole race on Sunday morning and then a final 21-lap race in the afternoon.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “The track is really nice; a big challenge because there are a lot of technical aspects. It is enjoyable and fun to ride. It is also quite ‘busy’ to ride on a more than 200 horsepower WorldSBK bike. It is day one and honestly I am still leaning the way around. Even in the last laps I felt I was doing different things on the bike and trying to understand the best way to attack it. We understood two rear tyre options and the track layout a little bit and we now need to improve the bike set-up for Saturday, especially during trail braking. My rhythm with used tyres is very strong so if I can find just a little bit more performance I can fight for the podium, and possibly even better. That is the target. I will try to forget about the championship as I have three chances to wrap that up but we are in a good position because in FP2 I felt a lot better than in FP1. Even on old tyres I set my fastest lap. All good for the opening day.”
Alex Lowes, stated: “I like the layout here. It is quite a small track, the sections are all inside each other and the surface is quite good. I heard some reports that the track was quite bumpy, and there are corners with some bumps, but honestly it is not bad. To go to a new track is always good fun. It is a little bit different, and I am not sure which other circuit I can compare it to. It is a lot tighter and smaller than I expected but I enjoyed riding the track for the first time. I feel OK on the bike but we do not really know how things will turn out yet until we can get in a few more sessions and everything settles down a little bit more. I enjoyed it today.”
Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) placed 14th overall on Friday and was top independent Kawasaki rider. Two new Kawasaki riders were drafted in to replace injured regulars at this round. Sheridan Morais (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) took over the ride of injured Chilean rider Maximilian Scheib and was 21st, while Loris Cresson (Outdo Kawasaki TPR) was 23rd as he substituted for the injured Sandro Cortese.
2020 KRT Rider WorldSBK Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019
2020: Races 21, Wins 11, Podiums 17, Superpoles 4
Career Race Wins: 99 (84 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 185 (143 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 27 (23 for Kawasaki)
2020: Races: 21, Wins 1, Podiums 4, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 2 (1 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 24 (4 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 1 (0 for Kawasaki)
7 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Tom Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
5 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017, 2018 & 2019)
5 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 158 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 454 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 92 – second overall