Phillip Island pre-season Test Day Two
World Superbike Tuesday AM
It was somewhat of a strange overcast morning that greeted World Superbike competitors at Phillip Island this morning.On the opening day of testing it was World Supersport that went out on a track first but on this second and final day of testing that order was reversed.
The two-hour penultimate session for WorldSBK got underway at 0910, ahead of what would be the final two-hour bout from 1340 to 1540 on Tuesday afternoon.
The ambient temperature was a pleasant 17-degrees and the track temperature only around five-degrees warmer when the first bikes went out on track.
The silence erupted into a symphony of exhaust notes as mechanics rhythmically warmed up their freshly fettled steeds.
There were air blowers being pointed at the machines to help keep them cool as their innards warmed, but none more so than the Aruba Ducati machines. They had blowers pointing all over them, over the exhaust shielding, every surface of the bike was continuously and studiously cooled by mechanics with small handheld blowers. This was not a casual exercise, there was a distinct method and attention being paid to all areas of the bike that might soak up too much heat.
Speaking with Bautista on Monday evening he noted that the 2023 specifications of the Ducati V4 R engine was much more linear, and allowed him to open the gas much easier. He no longer had to work around any specific steps in the power delivery that last year he had to try and avoid opening the throttle at.
At Pata Yamaha both Razgatlioglu’s and Locatelli’s machines were carefully filled with coolant which required some contortions by mechanics to ensure they were filled completely and air purged out of the system. The radiators on all these bikes are works of art in themselves.
Looking up close and personal with the 2023 BMW M 1000 RR I was struck at how huge the latest aero is on the bike.
Photos don’t do it justice, the surface area is absolutely huge but the angle relatively shallow, presumably aiming for the best of both worlds, downforce but with minimal drag. It might just work as the BMW’s were very fast through the speed traps yesterday.
I purposefully focussed on the upper edge on one of these shots, and then on the lower edge in another to try and give you an accurate perception of depth and scale.
After the completion of yesterday’s session Jonathan Rea said they had made a step forward for 2023 but was coy on exactly what he was referring to. An educated guess reading between the lines suggests he was hinting at a change in engine character that benefits them. He also said they had some problems that they were working through and no doubt that will be a focus for KRT today.
On the other side of the garage it was all action early on. Alex Lowes went out before returning to the pits and handing his bike over to mechanics way out in the pit lane, not even making an attempt at getting it near the garage entry.
There was then a hive of activity with KRT personnel crowded around him in debrief amidst some obvious angst on the part of Lowes. Things were relatively serene on the other side of the garage.
A delay in the container of 2023 specification tyres sees riders predominantly lapping on the rubber left here at Phillip Island after the event last year.
The cooler track conditions this morning made things a little easier for riders and it clearly suited the Aruba Ducati pairing of Bautista and Rinaldi, that duo 1-2 for the first half of the session, a 1m30.272 to Bautista and 1m30.501 to Rinaldi.What made that really stand out though is that they were reeling plenty of laps around that pace.
Remy Gardner was making good progress early on also, ranking fourth on the time-sheets 45-minutes into the session and lapping four-tenths quicker than he managed yesterday.Chipping away…
Philipp Oettl had been quick yesterday and the 26-year-old German was also looking good this morning. Axel Bassani was the leading satellite Ducati in season 2022 but on early form it looks as though Oettl is on course to take that mantle in season 2023.
It wasn’t until the session entered its second hour at the halfway point that Toprak Razgatlioglu started putting in quick laps. Pata Yamaha team-mate Andrea Locatelli again started strongly by getting straight into the 1m30s but Razgatlioglu didn’t join him until well into the session.
Similarly Jonathan Rea was not in the 1m30s until there were only 45-minutes left in the session.
Locatelli upped his game around the same time, dropping in a 1m30.394 to split the two Ducati men.
With 30-minutes left on the clock Bautista was on track circulating in mid 1m30s, again and again…
With 15-minutes left in the session the red flag came out for geese once again which saw all riders return to the pits. The track temperature was now a few degrees warmer but a still quite conducive 28-degrees while the ambient was just under 20-degrees.
Riders got back out for the final five-minutes or so once the geese were cleared and Jonathan Rea was the first to improve his standing, moving from sixth to fourth after recording a 1m30.716, and Toprak then also improved to be just behing Jonny. Gerloff another one to improve in the dying seconds, sneaking just inside the top ten but was then bettered by Lecuona.
While the times are fairly close, the amount of consistent 1m30s from Bautista stood out from the rest. On the form being displayed here it is fair to say he has the competition worried. The competition will be hoping that is somewhat of a Phillip Island aberration and that they will be closer at other circuits.
The relative lack of pace from the BMW riders here will be a major cause for concern and it will be much the same for Honda as at this stage a top ten would be a good result for one of their riders this weekend. That’s a major concern for the championship as if the likes of HRC and BMW remain uncompetitive they won’t be here for long.
WorldSBK riders will be back on track at 1340 this afternoon for their final two-hour bout.
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