Championship contenders hit Phillip Island en masse for five days of private testing prior to next weekend’s opening round of the Superbike World Championship
The 2009 Superbike World Championship doesn’t officially commence at Phillip Island until February 27, but all the action really hots up this week when the top contenders hit the seaside circuit to round off their preparations for one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons on record.
A number of private test sessions (not open to the public) will be held around the 4.448km circuit over the next six days, starting with Aprilia duo Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano on their Italian V-four machine and culminating with the remaining factory teams this weekend.
Aprilia is one of two new entrants in this year’s superbike title, with the Troy Corser-led BMW the other.
Other teams which will be testing early this week include DFX Ducati with Frenchman Regis Laconi, and Aussie world supersport contenders Mark Aitchison and Anthony West, both on Hondas. The Kawasaki supersport team will also be finalising set-up on its all-new ZX-6R, which has already been extremely fast in the hands of Spaniard Joan Lascorz.
This weekend, the big guns set-up camp for their own crucial testing, and on track will be the Yamaha duo of Ben Spies and Tom Sykes; BMW’s Corser and Ruben Xaus; Ducati’s Nori Haga and Michel Fabrizio; Suzuki Alstare’s Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama; and Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa and Jonathan Rea.
In supersport, Aussie world champion Andrew Pitt will be joined by his Ten Kate Honda teammate Kenan Sofouglu, and the “Sultan of Slide”, Garry McCoy, will also be finalising preparations on his updated Triumph Daytona 675.
The top superbike riders will all face different challenges this weekend, and for Spies it wil be the first time he has ridden around the decorated seaside circuit.
But history suggests the Texan is a fast learner, and once he finds some familiarity with the layout he’s sure to set some fast times on his new YZF-R1.
Neukirchner and Kagayama will also continue getting up to speed with their new Suzuki, while Honda and Ducati are in fine-tuning mode with their already race-winning packages.
BMW, like Aprilia, is starting from scratch in 2009, but that hasn’t stopped Corser impressing in a number of pre-season tests on his powerful in-line four-cylinder machine.
In Portugal three weeks ago, Corser was 11th on the timesheets, less than a second behind the pace-setting privateer Ducati of Shane Byrne.
Times are again expected to be extremely close this weekend and, if conditions are ideal, Troy Bayliss’ best ever superbike lap around of 1:30.7, set in testing in January 2007, could be eclipsed.
The official lap record is held by Corser with a 1:31.826.
Corser is a master at Phillip Island — he has won seven times since 1996 – and if there is anyone who can go beyond the call in front of his home crowd it’s the two-time world champion.
“I am particularly impressed with the power my BMW produces, which you certainly need at a fast and flowing circuit like Phillip Island, which has one of the highest average speeds of any race track in the world,” said Corser. “Also, chassis set-up is critical, as you need a machine that will ‘fight’ all the forces at play – including some ferocious winds that sometimes come off Bass Straight!
“That’s what I’ll be concentrating on this weekend, and we’ll continue to work hard as a team. I’m confident we’ll be really competitive by the time Phillip Island comes around, as it’s going to be a momentous occasion for BMW.”
All tests over the coming five days are closed to the public. If you are a fan and can’t wait to get some big bike action, your chance comes in just ten days when the opening round of the 2009 Superbike World Championship is staged at Australia’s Phillip Island from Friday February 27 to Sunday March 1.
To get your tickets go to http://www.phillipislandcircuit.com.au/superbikes/index.html
or by calling the circuit on 1 300 728 007.