Overnight Jerez hosted the second and final day of testing where four Motul FIM Superbike World Championship teams continued to work on their 2019 set-ups.
Over 600 laps of the 4.2km circuit were run by the eight riders, and steps were made ahead of what is set to be an interesting 2019 season with new bikes, new teams and new riders.
There were no signs of Honda at the test as elsewhere in Europe the Ten Kate race team was declaring bankruptcy, and also announcing that they were initiating legal action against Honda. This stems from the fact that Honda did not tell the Ten Kate brothers they would cease co-operation with the squad until the end of October. Until that time Ten Kate thought their almost two-decade association with Honda would continue in perpetuity, and they had made plans as such.
Honda instead will return to WorldSBK competition with HRC support in 2019 alongside Althea Racing and Japanese high-performance firm Moriwaki Engineering, with Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari. Camier campaigned the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 in 2018, while Kiyonari will be returning to the series for the first time since 2009. The new look Honda effort though was not to be seen at the Jerez Test.
In Spain though, despite all the changes, it was still that man, four-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who led the way. Rea continued with his sensational pace out on track for the second and final day of testing, as the 2018 world champion was continuing to work on getting the chassis in tune with the engine on his ZX-10RR.
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager
“Jerez has been the final test of the season and the last time all at KRT will work together in 2018 to give our riders the best package to challenge limits and attack the stopwatch. We are so happy with Rea’s end of year performance and we are all together working so hard to start in Australia with a Jonathan Rea nobody has ever seen before. The biggest surprise is that he is the most motivated of any team member! Leon has accepted a difficult challenge this year but after three years out of this championship he has demonstrated a huge motivation to be on top again and to give his best again. In his blood he has racing fuel and we are sure we can help him a lot to make the best of himself. It will not be easy with only three months to arrive at 100% in Australia for the first race. But, for Leon to be so high in the rankings at this test, ahead of several WorldSBK race-winning riders from last year, is something we must recognize in him. Big credit to him and we can be sure he will be in the show next year. I want to use this last event of the year for KRT’s racing activities to thank all our sponsors. Especially Kawasaki but also Monster, Motocard, ELF and all the others that make this dream possible. Thanks to the fans to give us power to continue working hard every year and especially the KRT riders. They are the ones who always give their maximum on our ZX-10RR. Big respect to them.”
Rea explained that his new bike offers even more potential than the 2018 Ninja, he was a force to be reckoned with, setting the fastest lap time of 1.38.713.
“It was a positive final day. We are putting the pieces together and we have to be satisfied with the work. It is always difficult when the track is not in great shape. In all those tight corners, with the ruts developing, it is difficult to feel the confidence to push to the maximum. Aside from that, the track temperatures are very critical here with the base tyre that we have. Like yesterday, we tried some different things with the bike and at the end of the day we tried something quite interesting with the balance. I felt really good with an old tyre so that is something to keep working with in 2019. I also did a longer run in the middle of the day. We did pretty much what we set out to do at this test and I was on the pace on day one, so we could go testing straight away.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea
“Honestly speaking, maybe we missed a little bit of time to still try a couple of things, but not the important ones. The priorities, the important points to work with and understand the direction for next year, have been tested. They have been good and some we even tested and then tested again to reconfirm. We have a new engine so we have to confirm some points for next year. We have been focused on the balance of the chassis and we have made another step forward. We have been working with Showa, to improve our package, and it has been positive. We also gave Pirelli information on the new tyres. Finally, Johnny was able to do the fastest lap with the qualifying tyre and then the fastest lap with race tyre. We have collected all the information we needed and now we will start thinking about the best points to prepare for more tests in January.”
On the other side of the garage, new team-mate Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team – WorldSBK) was left with one bike after a big crash on Monday. However this didn’t stop the Brit putting the laps in, as he reached over 100 on the second day. Ending the day in third with a time of 1.39.766, Haslam was able to continue with his base setting of the ZX-10RR and will take some strong pace into the winter.
“I am really happy with these two days. We really worked on my feeling with the bike. Not making too big a change and not trying any of the soft, experimental tyres. Every time we put a new tyre in we did not really gain much time but we just worked on the race set-up and race distance, and on changing my style to adapt to the bike. Every time out, every session, every day, we are getting a few tenths closer and in the end I was really happy with my pace on tyres with a lot of laps on them. I managed to get out on track with Jonathan for a few laps and see how he has changed in his style to make the bike go forward. That helped a lot.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Leon Haslam
“This test was good because the time we had in Motorland Aragon at the previous sessions was a bit short but we continued our text programme here and I am very satisfied with the result. As everybody knows Leon has been out of this championship for three years, and now he is mixing with riders who have been winning races in the last couple of seasons in WorldSBK. Leon being one of the fastest guys with a qualifying tyre makes me confident. We did 100 laps today and he was fit, motivated and we did not make so many changes to the bike. Leon adapted himself to the bike and in the end, especially over distance, he is there. He is more than there. After ten laps his speed is very, very competitive.”
It was a telling two days for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, as they began to understand the work they will need to do to bridge the gap to the green and red machines out on track. Working through their small updates for 2019, Alex Lowes had a strong test sitting in second position for most of the day, bridging the gap to fastest man Rea.
“It’s been a good two-day test here in Jerez and we managed to work our way through what was a pretty big list of things, some positive some not so much, but that’s what testing is for. Yesterday we worked on the front of the bike and today on the rear, before putting together the best combination of the two. I was quite happy with how I felt on the bike today; we’ve highlighted two main areas that we want to focus on at the January tests, so it was good to end the season on a positive note. A massive thank you to the guys in the team for all their hard work this year; now we’ve got some time to recharge the batteries before getting back to it here in Jerez in January.”
Whilst for team-mate Michael van der Mark, it was a tough test as he was riding injured from his crash in Qatar, which resulted in a fracture to his wrist. Working to get more grip and acceleration on exit amongst other factors, Lowes finished in second position overall, 0.664s off Rea’s pace whilst van der Mark was sixth and 1.379s behind.
Michael van der Mark
“It’s been a really interesting test, but it’s a shame that I’m still not fully fit after sustaining a wrist injury in the final race in Qatar. Still, we completed a lot of work here in Jerez; the first day we had a long list of things to try and I didn’t really feel comfortable on the bike, but today was much better. Again, we were trying many things, mainly with the geometry and suspension but also the electronics. This afternoon I managed to find my rhythm, improve lap by lap and we made some steps forward. Initially we were struggling a little on corner entry, but at the end we found quite a good solution. I’m really happy with the end of the second day and I’m already looking forward to January.”
Lessons continued to be learnt for the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati squad with Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista getting to grips with the all new Panigale V4 R. Luigi Dall’Igna was also present for the two-day test and told Italian press that once on top of the Superbike program, Ducati may also take on the World Endurance Championship with the Panigale V4 R at a later date.
British rider Davies is continuing to struggle with his shoulder injury sustained over the summer break, meaning he isn’t riding at 100%. Moving his focus over to electronics and throttle connection on his new machine, it was a busy day for Davies who finished in fifth overall.
“It was a positive test. We learned quite a lot about the bike, and we have a better understanding of what we need to focus on during the winter break to improve the package. We took several sets of tires to race distance and also tried a new swingarm with positive feedback, but in general the main thing at this stage is to avoid confusion, and I think we have pretty clear idea of the direction we need to go in. We have a lot of information to process, now we just need to put it together. I will undergo surgery next week on my injured shoulder, and then I’ll resume training to make sure to be 100 percent fit come next test.”
Whilst for Bautista, he had a more challenging second day with his V4 R, suffering two crashes during the day around Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto.
Able to walk away from both crashes, Bautista was still happy with the bike as he works on his base set up and understanding the WorldSBK machine. Putting in an impressive pace on his debut, Bautista was able to finish in fourth, with a lap time of 1.39.845.
“Today we started to make some changes to the setup to see how the bike reacts, and we found some positives as well as some room for improvement. In terms of pace, we’ve improved a lot as I was able to lap consistently in the 1’40 mark, while on the flying lap I felt there was less grip even though track conditions were a bit better in theory. I still need to understand the limits of the tires, anyway. In general, we’ve completed our program and I’m happy with how these first two days went.”
For new WorldSBK team GRT Yamaha, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri were continuing to get to grips with the YZF-R1. Happy with the progress they have made, 2018 WorldSSP champion Cortese was still working on adapting and adjusting to a Superbike, whilst Melandri was working on his base setting and with the Pirelli tyres.
Sandro Cortese – GRT Yamaha WorldSBK
“I am really pleased with my first WorldSBK test with the new team and with the Yamaha YZF-R1. It was a special experience for me because I’ve never raced a superbike before, but I think we made a big step over these two days and I now have a much better understanding of how to race this bike. Of course, I’m still facing a steep learning curve, and I also need to prepare my body for the demands of racing this bigger bike, as I can feel it wasn’t ready after two full days on track here! Now I understand how I have to work with this bike and I am really looking forward to returning to Jerez with the team in January.”
Andrea Dosoli – Yamaha Road Racing Manager
“This has been a very positive test, from more than one perspective. With the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK team, our reference team in WorldSBK, we were able to evaluate new hardware and start to define the specification of our 2019 machine. Together with his crew Alex worked his way through a very detailed test plan and we achieved our goal of coming away from this test with a clear direction for development. Michael’s test was compromised somewhat by his injury, but we will confirm the direction with him in January, once he’s back to full fitness. Overall it was a positive test with the Pata Yamaha riders, both of whom showed good pace here in Jerez, and it means we are on target to improve our consistency in 2019 and be in a position to fight for podium finishes at every track. The step up to WorldSBK by GRT Yamaha in 2019 is an important milestone in our project. It doubles the number of YZF-R1 machines on the grid but, more importantly, it underlines Yamaha’s commitment to providing a progression path for young riders that stretches from national R3 championships all the way up to the FIM Superbike World Championship; a fundamental aim of our racing program. Bringing together Sandro and a rider as experienced as Marco at GRT Yamaha is already working well, with both team and riders impressing with how quickly they’ve adapted to this new challenge. It required a huge effort from everyone at Yamaha Motor Europe to realise this project, but already we can see those efforts paying dividends.”
Jerez WorldSBK Test Day Two Unofficial Times
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1.38.713
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1.39.377 (+0.664)
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1.39.766 (+1.053)
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1.39.845 (+1.132)
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1.39.852 (+1.139)
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1.40.092 (+1.379)
Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha Team) 1.40.235 (+1.522)
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