‘You should improve and we did not’ - Rinaldi at a loss over qualifying pace

Quickest on day-one of the Portimao WorldSBK test despite failing to improve with a qualifying tyre, Michael Ruben Rinaldi remains at a loss for his lack of performance over one lap.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Ducati WorldSBK Portimao 2023
Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Ducati WorldSBK Portimao 2023

What was the case during last week’s WorldSBK test in Jerez, but also several rounds last season, finding improvements in time attack situations continues to be a problem for the Italian. 

With race tyres Rinaldi was in supreme form as he concluded the first of two days testing in Portimao quickest from Jonathan Rea and team-mate Alvaro Bautista.

That included setting a time just shy of the all-time Superbike lap record, however, any improvement in qualifying trim would have seen him achieve that feat. 

Speaking after day-one, Rinaldi was both pleased and concerned: "It has been a good day for us. In the morning I jumped on the bike and felt really good, really comfortable. I was quick. But I didn't look at that. I just tried to get a good feeling with the bike and during the day we just tried some tyres. 

"We followed the plan but at the end it was strange because I put the qualifying tyre on and I didn’t improve my lap time. My best lap time was with the 800 which is the race tyre. 

"In the last ten minutes we put the 800 and I improved the lap time. That means that we are really strong with the race package but for the time attack we are not good. 

"You should improve a lot with the qualifying tyre and we did not. For tomorrow we have a plan but I will try to improve this weak point which is the qualifying. But I’m quite happy with today and it’s always positive to start with the right foot."

With a bike underneath him that is clearly working, Rinaldi does not want to make big changes on day-two although trying a new clutch could be one of the parts he tests in order to get an understanding on its reliability.  

Rinaldi added: "I have to go and talk with my engineers because they are analysing the data [from day-one]. Later we will try to understand what is the best to do. There is nothing big. I want to ride the bike because I feel strong, fast and I don’t want to touch too much. 

"If I have a clutch to try, for example, then I will try it but except the Pirelli tyres it’s nothing for the lap time. It’s more for the durability of the parts. The new bike is working well and I feel good. I don’t want to change too much."

Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 25-26th January
Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 25-26th January

Faster than his team-mate, something that rarely happened in 2022, Rinaldi once again showed that he can challenge the likes of Bautista, Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu, after also being very close to the ‘big three’ in Jerez.  

But with that said, Rinaldi is not obsessing over lap times and was instead keen to stress that this is only testing. 

"I’m not racing against my teammate," said the Italian rider. "He is the fastest, last year he won the championship and we know the potential of Alvaro. I don’t look at it like I’m stronger because it’s just a test and everybody works differently. 

"We know he will be the favourite for the first race, especially in Phillip Island, because he is so quick there. 

"I don’t want to talk too much; I just want to stay humble and work hard. I’m working on a step up. I want to try and fight for the title, it’s the main goal for this year. 

"Position one is what I want. It’s something that I must be always if I want to try and achieve my goal. Really happy, for sure, but we need to keep this line and this motivation."

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