Valentino Rossi Shares Track With WorldSBK Riders

The WorldSBK test in Portimao also opened an opportunity for some MotoGP riders to hit the track, too, leading to some unusual - and pretty cool - moments

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Valentino Rossi, 2024 Portimao WorldSBK test. - WorldSBK

WorldSBK is less than one month away from the beginning of its 2024 season, meaning its preseason testing programme is ramping up.

This week's test has taken WorldSBK to Portimao, where they happened to share the track with a MotoGP rider or two - and a GT3 racer - on the first day. 

The car racer in question also happens to have a few MotoGP titles under his belt, as Valentino Rossi (on his distinctive and trick Yamaha R1 GYTR) joined his VR46 Academy riders - including reigning MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia, Marco Bezzecchi, Luca Marini on his new Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade, Celestino Vietti in his new KTM Ajo leathers, and Franco Morbidelli on his new Ducati Panigale V4 S - in Portimao for the test/track day.

Rossi and the Academy riders were not the only MotoGP stars present, though, as Bagnaia’s factory Ducati teammate Enea Bastianini and new VR46 Racing Team recruit Fabio Di Giannantonio also turned up. Further still, a certain Marc Marquez showed up with his new Gresini Racing-styled Panigale V4 S, along with his brother and teammate Alex Marquez on identical (bar the number on the front) machinery.

The arrival of the MotoGP riders meant there was a rare chance to see the likes of Toprak Razgatlioglu and Nicolo Bulega on track at the same time as the likes of Rossi and Marquez.

In the WorldSBK field, the presence of the MotoGP riders was nothing more than a sideshow, in reality, as the proximity of their first round in Phillip Island next month means that the intensity of the respective testing programmes for the teams is increasing.

So far, the star of the show is on an Racing Ducati, but perhaps not the one you were expecting. Nicolo Bulega, the 2023 Supersport World Champion, topped last week’s WorldSBK test in Jerez, unofficially breaking the all-time lap record, and topped the first day in Portimao, too. 

“Very good first day,” Bulega said. “I was a bit worried before starting this morning - this track is very difficult with this bike. It was difficult to be fast, so I'm really happy about the time today. 

“This track is one of the most difficult this season and I needed to adapt a little bit because it's really different from Supersport. My pace was good in the end, so I'm happy about today. We focused on braking because there is a lot of hard braking here, and we need to improve in that area. During the day, we were able to improve, and we know in which direction to work tomorrow. We're already doing a great job, and I want to continue this way.”

Bulega’s workload was among the largest yesterday, as he completed 82 laps of the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. Of the top 10, only Remy Gardner (89 laps), Alvaro Bautista (86 laps) and Xavi Vierge (89 laps) did more than Bulega.

Toprak Razgatlioglu tested the BMW at Portimao briefly last November, and did 73 yesterday, ending the day second fastest and the only rider within one-tenth-of-a-second of Bulega. Jonathan Rea completed the top three, 0.148 seconds down on Bulega, completing 74 laps on the Yamaha R1, now out of its winter scheme and back in its regular blue paint.

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