Laverty was fastest through the opening minutes, though Sykes got the best of him briefly as lap times dropped into the 1’43 range. The Irish rider answered back with a lap that left him out front for an extended period until Rea made his move with a series of 1’43.5s in the final minutes that bumped Laverty down the ranks. Despite running a handful of laps after Rea’s charge, neither Sykes nor Laverty were able to regain the top-spot.
Although the Honda ace notched the top-time, it was a difficult day fraught with persistent mechanical issues.
“It was quite a frustrating day as we had loads and loads of problems, but the good thing is that it didn’t stand in the way of a good run at the end,” said Rea. “So it’s mixed emotions really, because although my guys worked really quickly to resolve the problems, it was frustrating that we’re still having issues on the electronics side.”
Laverty’s teammate, Sylvain Guintoli, ended the session fourth-fastest and was followed by Althea Racing’s Davide Giugliano in fifth. Like Rea, Guintoli made his World Superbike debut at Portimao (in 2009) and has since been on the podium twice out of eight races. The French rider currently leads the championship by four points over Sykes.
BMW Motorrad GoldBet duo Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies came in sixth and seventh-fastest, respectively, while Team Ducati Alstare’s Carlos Checa finished eighth. Checa continues to suffer from shoulder pain but has maintained his physiotherapy and said in Team PR leading up to the round that “at Donington I was probably around a six out of 10 but now I feel like an eight.”
FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier has also been dogged by injury through the first third of the 2013 season, but is now recovered to almost full fitness and is looking to make up for lost time in the remaining rounds. He ended the first qualifying session at Portimato in ninth. Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, rounded out the top-10 followed by Checa’s teammate, Ayrton Badovini, in 11th.
Camier’s teammate, Jules Cluzel, who finished 12th, was one of two riders to crash during the session. Team Pedercini’s Federico Sandi was the other rider to suffer a fall, but both riders were unharmed and both were able to remount for more laps before the end of the day.
Competition continues with an additional practice session and Superpole on Saturday, followed by races on Sunday.
World Superbike Portimao Friday Results 2013:
1. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’43.551
2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1’43.603
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’43.648
4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’43.934
5. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) 1’44.017
6. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1’44.026
7. Chaz Davies (BMW) 1’44.245
8. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1’44.246
9. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1’44.278
10. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1’44.496
11. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati) 1’44.550
12. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) 1’44.593
13. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1’45.075
14. Max Neukirchner (Ducati) 1’45.827
15. Alexander Lundh (Kawasaki) 1’46.269
16. Vittorio Iannuzzo (BMW) 1’46.469
17. Federico Sandi (Kawasaki) 1’47.322
18. Ivan Clementi (BMW) 1’47.844