It was a welcomed return to the top for Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) on the opening day of Official Portimao Testing, as WorldSBK takes a break from their 10 week summer break. The Italian set a time of 1.42.324 in the opening two hours of the day before track temperatures soared to 55 degrees, finishing ahead of Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).
As expected, Rea was the first rider out on track in the Algarve and set the first flying lap time of the test after four weeks away from his ZX-10RR. Using the two day test to prepare for the final four rounds of the season, he was also on top of a few new 2019 parts, as the lone KRT rider in Portugal. With the top seven covered by a second in the opening hours, it was a close start to proceedings.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) was the first rider to suffer a crash, coming down on his YZF-R1 at turn three but he was able to get up and walk away, continuing with the day. Fresh off the back of their Suzuka win, both Lowes and team-mate Michael van der Mark were getting used to the Pirelli spec tyres throughout the morning, whilst working on some small electronic and chassis updates.
But by 12pm it was all change and Melandri hit the top of the timing tree, ahead of fellow Ducati rider Fores. It was a difficult afternoon for Rea and his Provec Racing squad, as a rare engine issue forced the reigning world champion to sit out of on track action for a few hours. Ending the day third fastest and 0.537s behind, it was not a disaster day for the Northern Irishman, but one he will not be used to.
With multiple red flags waved throughout the day due to track conditions, there was plenty to keep teams busy in the searing Algarve heat. Ultimately, it was Melandri who finished the day on top after he spent the time working with the team on the balance of the chassis, and some electronics. Fores finished in second position overall – setting a lap time of 1.42.856 as he worked on the set-up of his Barni Racing Team machine off the back of some difficult rounds. He compared the bike he used in the winter and the bike he raced most recently at Misano.
It was a strong day for Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), finishing in fourth after sitting in second position at the start of the day. Following on from a two day private test in Portugal, the team have been working on the new electronics for 2018 as well as a new engine spec which has been brought in for the final four rounds. The British rider ended with a time of 1.42.898, whilst team-mate Gagne was in the top eight.
Despite a crash in the morning, Lowes rounded out the top five in Portugal with a time of 1.43.058, narrowly ahead of van der Mark by 0.038s. The pair were working on 2018 and 2019 parts around the rollercoaster circuit – at which van der Mark took his first Yamaha podium last year. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) sits in seventh position on the end of day one, with his fitness levels still only 90% after breaking his collarbone at the start of the summer break, he was 0.951s behind his team-mate.
Ninth and tenth positions were rounded out by Milwaukee Aprilia duo Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty, who were shaking off the dust after the summer break. Putting in over 70 laps, the duo have been working hard to get back up to podium pace the team found from Laguna Seca.