The Phillip Island weather provided plenty of excitement in the closing minutes of the first Motul FIM Supersport World Championship Free Practice session, with Andrea Locatelli (Bardahl Yamaha 1:34.061) ending the session as fastest. Many riders chose not to go out in the early part of the session while the damp track dried, leaving a flurry of activity for the final ten minutes of the session before another bout of rain. Australia’s Wild Card competitor Oli Bayliss acquitted himself well, ending the session 13th fastest.
The World Supersport riders faced a damp track for their first Free Practice session, with the resultant water from morning rain just before World Superbike FP1 not clearing by the time the 600s got underway.
bLU cRU’s Andy Verdoia and Galang Hendra Pratama were the first out of the pit, keen to get some track time ahead of their first round in WSSP having moved up from WSSP300 last year. Hannes Soomer on the Kallio Racing Yamaha was out not long after, making it a trio of Yamahas out testing grip levels as the sun came out and the dry patches slowly started to take over. Soon after, Soomer and Hendra Pratama ducked back into the pitlane, leaving Verdoia with the track all to himself. After banging in seven laps (his best 1:47.124) he was in the pits as well and Phillip Island fell silent.
It wasn’t long before Verdoia’s teammate Hendra Pratama was out again, still on wets despite the sunshine that now bathed the circuit- he’d now have a turn with the drying circuit all to himself.
After ten minutes of what must have been great fun going around on his own, Hendra Pratama had a 1:47.580 to show for it, three tenths off teammate Verdoia. Corentin Perolari and Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) decided that Hendra Pratama looked lonely enough on track to join him, going out on track to test the conditions for a lap before coming back in.
By this stage Perolari was game enough to try slicks, and headed back out. Perolari immediately went six seconds faster than Hendra Pratama’s wet tyre time, knocking out a 1:41.060 and tempting the rest of the field out of the pitlane- but not before Perolari lowered the mark even further to 1:38.062, then a 1:36.604, then a 1:35.797.
Ten minutes to go and it was busier than the Monash Freeway on a Monday morning in pitlane as the riders suddenly scrambled to get some track time. Aussie Wild Card Oli Bayliss (Cube Racing Yamaha) was out flying the flag in front of the local crowd, his first flyer a 1:39.660 and good enough for third behind Perolari and Soomer (1:36.868) at that stage. By then there was only six minutes to go and the track was almost completely dry, letting Cluzel jump to the top with a 1:35.055 ahead of Perolari.
Four minutes to go and Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Yamaha) punched into the 1:34s for the first time (1:34.890), ahead of Cluzel, with Isaac Vinales (Kallio Racing Yamaha) rounding out the top three with 1:35.320. Three minutes to go and the tailwind down the straight had done a complete 180 to become a headwind, and with that the blue skies disappeared and the grey skies returned. Andrea Locatelli claimed the top spot on the Bardahl Yamaha (1:34.061) with all the riders now on track as the clock ran into the final 90 seconds of the session. But it looked like it was too late- riders began putting their hands up as they ran through Turn 1, with the Phillip Island weather gods calling an early end to the session.
At that point many of the teams were appearing with stands in the pitlane, to practice tyre changes for the planned flag-to-flag races, but there were no more laps. Locatelli ended the session fastest (1:34.061) ahead of Perolari, Cluzel, Soomer and Odendaal, with Bayliss in 13th (1:37.011). Raffaele De Rosa, Federico Fuligni (MV Agusta), and Hikari Okubo (Dynavolt Honda) all failed to set a time.
The Yamaha Finance Round of the 2020 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship continues until Sunday (1 March) from Phillip Island.