Scott Redding did his part to notch up the pressure on WorldSBK Championship rival Jonathan Rea in first free practice for the 2020 WorldSBK finale in Estoril with a truly dominant showing around the unfamiliar Portuguese venue.
The first time WorldSBK has visited the circuit since 1993, making it an unknown for a number of the riders on the grid, Redding nonetheless looked confident as he repeatedly moved the benchmark over the course of the 50mins session.
The Ducati rider comes into the weekend with the slimmest of mathematical chances to wrest the WorldSBK title from Rea, with the Kawasaki rider needing only three points – from 62 available this weekend – to make it a sixth straight win.
Undeterred, Redding was half a second up on his rivals in FP1, heading off a quartet of Yamahas led by the increasingly impressive Garret Gerloff, plus Loris Baz, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Michael van der Mark.
By contrast, it was a more modest start for Rea as he found his limit in Estoril, his sixth place result putting him 0.7s adrift of his main rival.
Making his second wild-card appearance of the season as he looks to source a full-time 2021 WorldSBK ride, Jonas Folger was eye-catching seventh best on the MGM Yamaha, ahead of Alex Lowes, Federico Caricasulo and the soon-to-be-ex-Ducati rider Chaz Davies.
Elsewhere, Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam were closely matched on their Hondas in 11th and 12th, while Tom Sykes was the fastest BMW in 13th.
The biggest grid of the season will compete in Portugal with 23 riders making the last trip of the year, including returnees Folger, Matteo Ferrari – this time on the Barni Ducati – and Sheridan Morais, who gets his first WorldSBK start since 2016 on the Orelac Kawasaki.
Making their debuts this weekend are Eric Granado, riding a second MIE Honda, while Loris Cresson is on the Pedercini Kawasaki vacated by the injured Sandro Cortese.