EL VILLICUM, Argentina – Jonathan Rea set the early benchmarks in the grand opening of the Circuito San Juan Villicum, ending Friday’s third practice atop the overall practice charts.
Marco Melandri ended the day second overall ahead of Kawasaki Puccetti Racing’s Toprak Razgatlioglu.
In a repeat of the final minutes of the second practice, it was the young Turkish rookie Razgatlioglu who pushed Rea the hardest in the opening stages of the final session of the day, with the pair exchanging fastest laps several times inside the first 20 minutes.
A couple of brilliant sub-1:41 laps from Rea finally gave him the edge by half a second, until Melandri closed the leading gap to under two tenths with a third of the session remaining.
The real fun began with six minutes on the clock: the Ducati rider blasted into first with a lap of 1:40.142, nearly half a second faster than Rea at the time, but that lead didn’t last long – the champion clocked an amazing 1:39.914 lap four minutes later, pushing him back into first.
A late surge from Alex Lowes put the Yamaha rider ahead inside the first two splits, but there would be no more changes at the top as Rea held firm at the top of the scoring pylon.
Lowes ends Friday in a promising fourth position, in stark contrast to his teammate Michael van der Mark, who was edged out of the top-10 in the final moments of the third practice and will have to fight through tomorrow’s Superpole 1.
Fifth on the day and just over fourth tenths of a second behind Rea was Lorenzo Savadori, the Italian again displaying good form in practice.