The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team took it back to the track at Portimão (Portugal), home of the tenth round of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship, for Friday's free-practice sessions. In perfect summer weather, Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies moved forward with the setup of their Panigale R on the rollercoaster-like Portuguese track, which hosted a two-day collective test at the end of August. Melandri, who was fast also during the tests, finished in second position with a personal best of 1:42.003. Still not in optimal shape physically, Davies posted the 15th best time with a 1:43.325, also hindered by a technical problem occurred during FP3, which resulted in an innocuous crash that forced the Welshman to close his session ahead of time.
The Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team also resumed action with Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who reached the penultimate round of his rookie season in the top class. The young Italian took one second off his best time through the day to finish in 10th position with a personal best of 1:42.778. The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team and the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team will be back on track tomorrow at 08:45 local time (CET -1) for a last free-practice session ahead of Superpole and Race 1, which is scheduled to start at 13:00.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – 1:42.003 (2nd)
"It's been a good day for us. First of all, it's always nice to get back on the bike after a long break. Track conditions were a bit faster compared with the recent tests we've done here and we worked well together with the team, even though we still need to make a few improvements to match Rea's pace. Tomorrow we need to be quick during Superpole to start at the top, then we'll have to stay focused because we struggled a bit in turn 1 today, making a few mistakes. That said, I have very positive sensations."
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7) – 1:43.325 (15th)
"We just tried to build our way into the round and make small steps with the setup, given my current physical condition. But, as expected, it wasn't a particularly easy day for us. Unfortunately we also suffered a technical problem in FP3, which set us back a little bit further but luckily it didn't make the collarbone worse. Physically I don’t feel too bad, but I'm not at my 100 percent either. Now I’m going to get the shoulder treated and crunch the data with the crew to make sure we start off with the right foot tomorrow morning and get closer to the top."
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team #21) – 1:42.778 (10th)
"Today was quite positive for us. We worked hard on race pace and then took advantage of FP3 to gain direct access to Q2, meeting our objective. We still have room for improvement, and we'll focus on some specific details to pick up the pace tomorrow. The goal is to score our best result to date, we still need a few tenths but hopefully we'll find them tomorrow morning. I'm confident."
Weekend schedule (CET -1):
Saturday (September 15th)
08:45 - 09:05 SBK FP4
10:30 - 10:45 SBK Superpole 1
10:55 - 11:10 SBK Superpole 2
13:00 SBK Race 1
Sunday (September 16th)
10:10 - 10:25 SBK Warm-up
15:15 SBK Race 2