Voltcom Crescent Suzuki successfully concluded its week of pre-season testing with Alex Lowes topping the Portimao timesheets today, following-on from Eugene Laverty’s quickest-time yesterday.
Lowes’ and Laverty’s detailed evaluations after four-days on-board the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, firstly in Almeria, Spain – and for the last two-days at Portimao in Portugal – enabled the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki squad to refine the 2014 Öhlins suspension and newly-developed electronic control strategies, as the pair completed a thorough test schedule.
A full day of testing today saw the team working non-stop to ensure the most-efficient use of time and track: Lowes completed 165 laps over the two days in Portimao (725-kms of flat-out riding) on a track he had never previously ridden, while Laverty completed 133 laps. The distance covered allowed the team numerous chassis-setting evaluations to find the best balance for braking stability, steering and rear grip to further the developments made in Almeria last week.
Laverty’s lap-time of 1’43.4 topped the unofficial day one timesheets, from the four Factory World Superbike teams running on a blustery day-one at Portimao, with his team-mate Lowes taking the top spot overall in the combined two-day timings with a 1’42.5 as Laverty also improved to a 1’42.6.
The Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team will now return to its UK base to further evaluate the data collected and prepare for the opening round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship and the official pre-season test at Phillip Island, Australia in a month’s time.
Alex Lowes: “The test has been really good, I’m still learning a lot about the bike and obviously it’s a new track for me, so it was nice to have the opportunity to learn the track and still be quick! We did a long run today and while the times were good, the most important thing was that it gave me a lot of confidence. We got a lot of information about the bike and it was good for me as well, as I’ve not done a race simulation since the last round of BSB. I still need to improve myself a lot and work on the bike but we shouldn’t be too far away!
“A massive thanks to the team; they’ve been working really hard, late nights and two tests back-to-back. I think everyone is excited, we are all getting on great and we know we need to work hard. We have a big challenge in front of us and it’s nice to do a good job.”
Eugene Laverty: “It’s been a good test in all. This Portugal test was the best yet; even yesterday we got some good laps in the wet to understand the bike and then in the dry our pace was really strong, which shows the work we’ve been doing on the electronics has been important and that our work is reaping the rewards.
“I think we are surprising some people as both me and Alex are right there, but it’s also nice to reward the team because they’ve worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months; especially since Jerez. The work they have done in six weeks, most teams probably wouldn’t complete in six months! They haven’t stopped, so I think it’s nice to see some positive potential being shown. I’m feeling good on the GSX-R and I’m looking forward to Phillip Island.”
Unofficial two-day combined times:
1. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 1’42.5:
2. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 1’42.6:
3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’42.9:
4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1’43.0:
5. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 1’43.1:
6. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 1’43.2:
7. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1’43.5
The Portuguese Portimao track was the setting for the first tests of the season held by Aprilia Racing, the reigning Manufacturer World Champion team, concentrated on three days of testing with newcomer Marco Melandri, working side by side with test rider Alex Hofmann.
For the rider from Ravenna, the natural candidate for a key role in the World Championship that will start on 23 February in Australia, this was the first contact with his Aprilia RSV4 since the winter break. After regaining some familiarity with it, Marco focused on preparing for the first race of the season. Despite difficult weather conditions, with rain on the first two days and an average of low temperatures, the Italian team was able to take advantage of the session to fine tune the bike that is the reigning Manufacturer world champion.
The intermittent rain on the first two days of testing forced the riders to lap in less than optimum conditions. The third and final day, on the other hand, allowed everyone to push hard, with the obvious limit of a track which was cold and not very rubberised.
Over the three days Melandri put in 175 laps with a best time of 1’43.1.
Sylvain Guintoli was absent from the Portimao tests, having just come through the second operation on his right shoulder which he injured last year. The return of the French rider, who is going through physical therapy, is expected for the first race at Phillip Island. The Superbike Test Team was also in the Aprilia garage with test rider Alex Hofmann (150 laps, best 1’45.0).
Marco Melandri: “Considering the difficult weather conditions, the first two days were a bit wasted. The last day was a particular day. We made a lot of progress with the electronics but we had a few problems with the chassis set up. The track improved little by little and the settings had trouble coping. Toward the end of the test we began to figure out which direction to go for my riding style, but it’s a shame that we lost the last half hour (due to oil on the track – editor’s note) where we could have tried to put in a fast lap. I’m disappointed about that but the good thing is that we have a clearer idea now. I hope we can get back onto the track for some more testing before the first round at Phillip Island”.
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager: “During these three days first of all we decided on the 2014 suspension which was one of our goals. Melandri was also positive about the electronics updates, where the chassis set up is concerned there is still work to be done to adapt the RSV4 to the rider’s needs. We’re on the right path but we still need to take that final step to define a base set up that will allow us to take best advantage of the bike-rider package”.