No photomontage – Valentino Rossi on a Yamaha R1 is chasing Toprak Razgatlioglu here with the BMW M1000-R, which is still fairly new for him. If we had known this, we would probably have traveled to the Autodromo do Algarve near Portimão again like we did five years ago. But the season really begins with Phillip Island in Australia for the first round of the Superbike World Championship, with the first round on February 24th.

Prominent guests at the final European tests of WorldSBK

The WorldSBK starting field was joined in Portugal by various MotoGP riders, although they were on production machines. In addition to the MotoGP icon Valentino Rossi, who retired two years ago, his arch enemy and Gresini Ducati newcomer Marc Marquez, as well as Marco Bezzecchi from the team of “the Doctor” and the reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia were also on the track. Of course you can’t compare their times with those of the WSKB Elite because their machines, which have been upgraded with tuning parts, are on a completely different level. In terms of the attention generated by these guest starters, the campaign was of course a direct hit, especially because Rossi has rarely been on race tracks on two wheels since 2022. However, the sporting attention was primarily focused on the players in the series-based World Championship, where some new entries provided a refresher.

Andrea Iannone (Ducati) behind Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) – we are particularly excited to see how the returnee does after his 4-year ban. However, the Italian, who comes from Vasto (southeast of Pescara), immediately proved that he had not lost his speed during his absence.

Be careful with hasty interpretations of the test results

It’s not just because Alvaro Bautista has not yet reached full performance with a training handicap and has not yet reached full performance due to the long overdue regulation with an additional weight, that one shouldn’t draw hasty conclusions from the test times. The little Spaniard has long been known for his fondness for bluffing during tests and training sessions and for not revealing his cards. What is more worrying for his competitors is the fact that his new Ducati factory team colleague Niccolo Bulega regularly sets best times on the Panigale V4R straight away. The reigning WorldSSP world champion was already the fastest rider at the Jerez test last week. It was also the Italian who secured the provisional top spot on the first day of testing at the Autodromo do Algarve. Toprak Razgatlioglu (BMW), just 0.094 seconds behind, and Jonathan Rea, his successor at Yamaha (+0.148), were close behind this time. A total of three Yamaha riders completed the top five on Monday, with Remy Gardner setting the third best time ahead of Andrea Locatelli.

WorldSBK newcomer Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) on the Ducati Panigale V4R, like his brand colleague Iannone, is one of the newcomers to keep an eye on for the 2024 season. For once he was even faster than his twin brother Alex on the factory Kawasaki. The times set during the test on Monday were in the range of the fastest laps in last year’s sprint race.

The ten fastest on Monday

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) 1’39.913 – 82 laps
2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.094s – 73 laps
3. Jonathan Rea (Pata Yamaha Prometeon) +0.148s – 74 laps
4. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.355s – 89 laps
5. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon) +0.357s – 78 laps
6. Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) +0.550s – 74 laps
7. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.723 – 82 laps
8. Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) +0.760 – 86 laps
9. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) +0.816s – 89 laps
10. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.866s – 65 laps

A cheerful six-time record world champion in the Yamaha box, which is still quite new for him – Jonathan Rea will definitely be a force to be reckoned with again this season. With his predecessor on the Yamaha R1, there are still a few question marks on the BMW M-1000R, although the Turk is right at the front and must therefore also be counted among the favorites.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).