Tom Sykes ends two-day test quickest
Images by GeeBee
Despite strong fog rolling in on the Southern Spanish circuit of Jerez in the morning, the sun shone through and riders took to the track for the second and final day of pre-season action. As the days to the 2018 opener at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit draw ever closer, riders utilised the track time to make the most of the day.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) impressed out on track at the end of the day, as he finished the two day test at the top of the timing screens after slotting in a rear qualifying tyre near the end to set his outright best time, however, Sykes was also fast on a full race tyre set-up, and was pleased with the tyre life his Ninja ZX-10RR delivered, even at the high pace he displayed throughout.
“Of course we used a qualifying tyre to our fastest time but we used it along with an old front tyre. I had a small crash and credit to the boys in the team because they swapped all the suspension and everything into the second bike and I went back out on track to test something else. I was straight back into fantastic lap times. I think even on race tyres we were the fastest but that was not the target. The target was to understand the bike, and I have to say I am very happy with our performance even on very old tyres. Even though the bike is moving in those conditions, the lap time is nice. I am definitely getting my head around how to ride it a little bit better and I have a different mindset this year. I am really looking forward to finishing testing off and heading over to Australia. I feel we are more prepared and ready for action.”
Joining Sykes at the top of the screens was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), who finished in second position after a strong opening day. Putting in a time of 1.39.470, he put in a hard day’s work – with 83 laps completed of the 4.4km circuit.
“I started to feel my flow a little bit more today. It is not that I have forgotten how to ride but it feels a little bit strange to be going really fast. But we had a positive day. We managed to confirm a lot of things and get some confidence back. There is still a little bit to work on but I think our pace is pretty good. Today I did not make many laps outside the 1’40s, which is positive. There was not so much to try out but this was more of a set-up test. Really, it was understanding how the bike is working because the track is definitely not in the best shape compared to the November test. So it just required a little bit of a different set-up. For me it was important to do long runs because, as much as it is nice to still be fast, it is more important to get myself race ready.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea
“I am happy with this test. Jonathan did not use a qualifying tyre and even without this he was one of the fastest riders. He did one long run yesterday and two today. This is something he likes to do and it allows us to collect information. Jonathan had two small crashes on day one but the grip level compared to the last test here in November was down. Johnny was not really comfortable yesterday, as you have to set up the bike for the track, and today we improved straight away. He was comfortable, doing a very good job. We did a lot of work at the end of last year so this was a confirmation of different things to prepare for the first race in Australia. We move to Portimao now to keep checking the settings, doing laps and keeping the rider in good shape.”
Third in the overall standings was Yamaha test rider Niccolo Canepa (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), as he spent two days on the 2018 YZF-R1 getting the bikes up to speed for both Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark.
Canepa’s time of 1.39.524 left him just 0.635s off the top, whilst full time riders Lowes and van der Mark slotted into eighth and ninth position at the end of day two, both just over 1.5s behind Sykes’s Kawasaki.
In a stunning performance, Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) is finding his feet very quickly on board the Fireblade CBR1000RR SP2, and completed the Jerez test in fourth position and only 0.719s behind leader Sykes. The British rider has come up to speed with his new bike and team at an impressive speed, and his lap of 1.39.608 is not one to ignore.
The Red Bull Honda men undertook a full test programme with chassis components, electronic settings and a new exhaust system from Akrapovič being evaluated. The comprehensive testing yielded positive results with the team not only able to find improved performance over a single lap, but also more consistent pace was found during race simulations.
“I’m really happy with how this test went, we’ve made some good progress and I’m learning the bike more and more. There’s still a lot I’d like to work on at the next test in Portimão and I think as I ride this bike on different tracks I’ll be able to get even more out of our package. I’m looking forward to doing more long runs in the upcoming tests as this will help me understand how the bike will behave over race distance, but all in all I’ve learned a lot over the last two days, I’m feeling good and am a lot more comfortable on the Fireblade and now we just need to keep up the good work at the upcoming tests.”
On the other side of the Red Bull Honda garage, Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) ended in 15th position as he continues to adjust to the WorldSBK paddock.
“I made some steady progress here at Jerez and it was really good to be back with the team and work with my new crew chief Mick. We made some changes with the bike to adapt it to my riding style and figured out what I could on the bike to help me get the most out of the Honda. I really learned a lot over the couple of days and the main thing for me was not to make any big mistakes and just focus on getting more out of the bike. Although my lap-times weren’t right up there with the front guys, I’m really happy with how Jerez went and me and the crew will keep moving forward at the next tests.”
Kervin Bos – Red Bull Honda Team Manager
“The Jerez test was a success from a team point of view as we managed to test a lot of new components and made some solid improvement with the CBR1000RR SP2. Leon made some big steps with the bike compared to the test here in November and we were able to find a really good balance with the Fireblade which not only helped improve performance but also gave some benefit in terms of tyre durability. On Jake’s side some good progress was also made although the focus there was different as Jake has no experience of the Jerez track on a Superbike. Instead he worked hard with his new crew on adapting the bike to his riding style while learning the circuit and every time he went out on track he was able to improve which was great to see and shows his potential. Overall I’m quite satisfied with what our riders and team were able to achieve over these two days and we’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going at Portimão in a few days time.”
Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team-mates had a varied day around Circuito de Jerez, as Marco Melandri had a strong day in fifth position with his Panigale R but Chaz Davies ended down in 12th.
“It’s been a positive test overall, even though we still have plenty of work to do. We improved in certain aspects, but we still need to make more progress. We worked on race tyres, and with these the gap isn’t big, but we want to make other steps forward. In particular, we need to focus on the engine, for which we hope to have some technical upgrades before the season opener, and on the transmission. It will be interesting anyway to try the current spec of the bike on a such a different track as Portimão.”
Still recovering from the injury sustained here in November, Welsh rider Davies put in 69 laps but his lap time of 1.40.723 could only get him in the top 12.
“The knee and shoulder are still not in perfect conditions since the injury last November, but anyway I knew before coming here that there’s still room for improvement physically. We got through most of the work and managed to test some important stuff, including something we didn’t get to try here in November, with some positive feedback. Unfortunately Jerez isn’t the best track to evaluate some of the stuff we tried, it’s been a bit of a struggle for me with the new surface. In terms of pace we’re not far, but we need to improve on the single lap. We know where we need to get better, and we’ll look for ways to do it in Portimão.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi also enjoyed his first official test with the Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team, which will participate to all the European rounds of the WorldSBK championship this season. The Italian rookie showed constant improvements throughout the test to finish with a 1:40.862. All the lap times were set on race tyres.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi
“Given that it was our first outing of 2018, it’s been a good test for us. There’s plenty of work to do. First, I need to learn and adapt to WorldSBK-spec Panigale R, which is very different from the Superstock I was used to. In these two days we made constant progress, but so did our opponents, and this class is particularly competitive. We can only improve, and that’s what we’ll try to do in Portimão.”
Continuing to work with a new team structure, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was able to finish in a solid sixth position around Jerez, with a time of 1.39.876 and putting him 0.987 behind Sykes.
Hoping to returning to podium fighting positions, Laverty is having a positive pre-season so far whilst team-mate Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) ended the day in a disappointing 17th position, 2.522s behind the top.
“It’s been a very good test overall. Tuesday was frustrating because the lap time was reasonable but the rear grip was bad, and I knew we could improve with more grip. Wednesday was a great day and we achieved a strong lap time, and I’m really happy with how the whole team worked to make the progress. To do a 1’39.876 at the end was a big step forward and we are right in the mix now. There is still work to do, we are in the window but still have more pace to show. The difference for me has been making the rear tyre push more into the track. Some of the bigger don’t struggle so much with that because their weight is an aid, but for me being small it’s more difficult. We struggled in 2017 with the rear tyre; not the life of it, we just couldn’t use it fully as it didn’t push enough. We’ve overcome that by altering the bike’s balance and corner entry, and I’m confident we can get even stronger. I knew Jerez would be the most important period of pre-season testing because the bike has to be quick here to work. Heading to Portimao, it’s a track that I know very well and have learnt a few secrets to find that lap time. This has been a key day for us, we have halved the gap to the top and there’s more to come.”
Spanish hero Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is still learning and understanding the Italian machine, and a top seven position is a strong one for the Spanish rider. Over 70 laps were clocked by Torres on day two, and a lap time of 1.40.155 as his pre-season regime continues.
New faces on the 2018 grid Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Yonny Hernandez (Pedercini Racing Team) were also getting to grips with their new machines.
Loris Baz familiarised himself with the Althea BMW S1000RR and completed more than 160 laps across the two days.
“We did a good job these two days. The lap times are maybe not impressive, however, my conclusion is quite positive. We continue to understand the bike. I am still struggling a bit to go fast with new or soft tyres, we have not mastered everything yet, but we are improving step by step. I am finding my pace and a feeling with the Pirelli tyres. The objective of this test was to reduce the amount of work we still have to do. I did not take long to get into a rhythm and did more than 160 laps. We have started making some changes to the set-up of the bike that seem promising. Now we are focused on the next test in Portimão, where we will be looking to get closer to the limit and move up in the classification. I think it will be important to ride on a different track in order to understand how to master the bike in different conditions.”
Young Turkish rider Razgatlioglu was in the top 14 with team manger Manuel Puccetti explaining how happy the team are with his progress and the lack of pressure on the 21 year old.
Yonny Hernandez is still adapting to the Pirelli tyres and ZX-10RR SBK machine, and ended the day in 18th position overall.
WorldSBK Test – Jerez – January 24th, 2018
WorldSBK / STK1000 / WSS / BSB
- Sykes 1m38.889
- Rea 1m39.470
- Canepa 1m39.524
- Camier 1m39.608
- Melandri 1m39.754
- Laverty 1m39.876
- Torres 1m40.155
- Lowes 1m40.398
- Van der Mark 1m40.532
- Haslam 1m40.576
- Mercado 1m40.639
- Baz 1m40.707
- Davies 1m40.723
- Rinaldi 1m40.862
- Mossey 1m41.038
- Razgatlioglu 1m41.114
- Gagne 1m41.200
- Zanetti 1m41.226
- Savadori 1m41.411
- Hernandez 1m41.807
- Delbianco 1m41.982
- De Rosa 1m43.715
- Sofuoglu 1m43.822
- Jezek 1m43.876
- Okubo 1m44.471
- Badovini 1m44.833
- Calero 1m45.336
WorldSBK Test – Jerez – January 23rd, 2018
WorldSBK / STK1000 / WSS / BSB
- Jonathan Rea 1m39.862
- Alex Lowes 1m40.064
- Tom Sykes 1m40.178
- Marco Melandri 1m40.238
- Chaz Davies 1m40.704
- Michael Van Der Mark 1m40.758
- Eugene Laverty 1m40.775
- Leon Camier 1m40.888
- Niccolo Canepa 1m41.034
- Lorenzo Savadori 1m41.038
- Loris Baz 1m41.129
- Michae Rinaldi 1m41.202
- Jordi Torres 1m41.314
- Leon Haslam 1m41.438
- Lorenzo Zanetti 1m41.665
- Yonny Herndandez 1m42.035
- Jacob Gagne 1m42.060
- Leandro Mercado 1m42.143
- Toprak Razgatlioglu 1m42.168
- Luke Mossey 1m42.605
- Raffaelle De Rosa 1m43.738
- Alessandro Delbianco 1m43.924
- Kenan Sofuoglu 1m43.998
- Hikari Okubo 1m45.010
- Ayrton Badovini 1m45.273
- Nacho Calero 1m45.491