The 2018 WorldSBK field is now preparing to head Down Under for the start of the 2018 championship at Phillip Island on February 23-25 following the completion of European testing at Jerez and Portimao over the last week.
Familiar names have again graced the top of the timesheets in Europe, with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) the fastest in the two-day hitout at Jerez on January 23-24, before his world title-holding teammate Jonathan Rea took over the top spot at the undulating Portimao layout in Portugal on January 28-29.
At Jerez, Sykes was the pacesetter ahead of Rea, while Leon Camier continued his impressive form for new employer Red Bull Honda in third position. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Jordi Torres (MV Agusta) filled positions 4-6.
When the WorldSBK caravan hit Portugal, it was Rea’s turn to take the front running ahead of Lowes, Camier, van der Mark, Razgatlioglu, Sykes, Laverty, Davies, Melandri and Torres.
Rea was fastest on both days of action at Portimao, with his opening session 1’41.475 the best overall time.
Jonathan Rea – P1
“Today was actually bit of a difficult day with the conditions, very windy and gusty as well, so I really did not feel comfortable pushing on the limit. It did not make any sense to use a qualifying tyre or do long runs. We also made some practice starts and tested a new front and a new rear tyre from Pirelli. We expect those to come in some time in the future, but both times I used them I got interrupted by red flags. So it was a strange day in some ways. Generally the test has been good because yesterday we were able to have two hours while the wind was a bit reduced and do some productive testing. We have ticked all the boxes and the feeling with the bike has improved. I have woken up, because in Jerez last week I was still fast but I did not feel 100% on the bike. Here I was much better on the first laps.”
After setting a scorching pace at Jerez, Camier once more showed a very fast turn of speed, setting a best lap time of 1’41.623 on the newly laid Portimão asphalt.
“It was a good test all in all, we made a lot of progress and smoothing things out as we go. We did some slightly longer runs as well to understand how the bike’s going to work towards the middle and end of the race, I was pretty comfortable with that. We still have some areas we’d like to work on to improve our race pace and lap time on the race tyre but it’s all progressing. We had a good feeling on the qualifying tyre as well so, as I said, all in all pretty happy and looking forward to getting to the first race and getting started.”
Sykes set his personal best time of 1’41.952, also on the less windy first day of action.
Tom Sykes – P6
“It went relatively well today but we did not get that initial fastest lap time. On used tyres the pace and was much better and where we need to be. The last two days we have been basically function testing so we never really got to dial in the set-up but I am happy because were are not too far from where we need to be. I felt we were making good progress and we have got everything done in time to go to Phillip Island. I can go there with a clean slate and really start working.”
Chaz Davies improved his lap times by circa half a second throughout the test to finish with a 1:42.542, just ahead of his teammate Marco Melandri, who posted a 1:42.606.
Chaz Davies – P8
“After Jerez our focus was on consistency, which has improved for the main components we introduced, but is not what we’re looking for yet. Apart from that, I think we simply need to fine-tune the chassis just a bit more. It was really windy, from time to time it was quite hard to even put a good lap together. There have been a lot of red flags, so my priority was to avoid crashing as my knee and shoulder are still improving and we didn’t want any setbacks. Still, we got plenty of data to digest and we’ll get some upgrades at Phillip Island that we’ll get to try in the official tests to make sure we got the best package come race time.”
Marco Melandri – P9
“It’s been another important test for us, even if a bit more complicated than the one at Jerez. We started with our 2017 race setup, but we the engine-rev limit we struggled a bit more. The track itself has improved in some areas, where the re-surfacing removed the bumps, but unfortunately the strong winds once again hindered our stability on the rear, both coming out of the last corner and throughout the main straight. Anyway, the engine’s character remains our priority and I’m confident that with the upgrades we have in the pipeline for Phillip Island we’ll manage to make a big step forward.”
American PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda) also joined the paddock at Portimao after missing Jerez, and completed the test just ahead of his countryman and fellow rookie Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda).
Kawasaki will be the most represented manufacturer on the WorldSBK grid in 2018 with six bikes, followed by Ducati, Yamaha and Honda with three apiece. Aprilia and Suzuki are next with two each, and then MV Agusta and BMW with the single entries.
Aussie wildcards prepare for WorldSBK Phillip Island opener
The WorldSBK and WorldSSP teams will now pack their containers before making the long trek to Australia, with the final pre-season test to be held at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 19-20 ahead of the Yamaha Finance-backed season opener for the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship.
In a first for WorldSBK, all three-day ticket holders will also gain a free paddock pass in 2018, bringing the fans closer to the stars. Once in the paddock, you can attend autograph sessions, rider media conferences and enjoy the on-stage entertainment.
A three-day pass costs $120**. Add camping at the circuit campground for up to four nights, with spectacular views over the track and Bass Strait, and you have the perfect location for a summer long weekend away with your mates or family.
Feel like spoiling yourself? Opt for a Bar SBK pass at $260** and gain access to three undercover facilities, or go for a VIP option in the fully catered suites above pit lane. Kids under 15^ are admitted free for world superbikes – and so is your bike.
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