Jonny Rea tops WorldSBK Testing ahead of season opener
Jonathan Rea is warming up nicely for the start of his title world superbike defence at Phillip Island on Friday after putting down the fastest time in final testing at Phillip Island today ahead of this weekend’s season opener at the 4.445km seaside circuit.
The double world champion, who won both WorldSBK races at Phillip Island in 2016, was in ominous touch as he charged around the 4.445km grand prix circuit in a best of 1min30.545secs on his Kawasaki, with the returning Italian star Marco Melandri (Ducati, 1:30.803) the only other rider to join the Northern Irelander in the 1:30s bracket during the morning session.
Melandri better his marker in the second session, closing to withingt 3-hundredths of a second from Rea, 1m30.545 plays 1m30.575. Clearly Melandi is going to be a major threat to the recent Kawasaki dominance of WorldSBK and his Ducati teammate, Chaz Davies, who won the last six WorldSBK races in 2016, was next best on 1m30.893.
Tom Sykes narrowly missed out on the breaking in the 1m30s, the Yorkshireman’s 1m31.044 still good enough for fourth place ahead of Xavi Fores, Leon Camier, Lorenzo Savadori and Alex Lowes.
American Nicky Hayden on the all-new but still underdeveloped Honda Fireblade SP2 was 14th quickest overall, while teammate Stefan Bradl failed to make any progress today and ended up 19th on the combined timesheets.
Meanwhile, it was a dirty morning for Aussie Josh Brookes who blew an engine on his first flying lap, with a replacement being fitted on his Yamaha R1M – the same machine he won the 2015 British superbike title on.
Brookes was back out for the final pre-season hitout at 1340 this afternoon but will be ruing the vital set-up time he requires to reacquaint himself with that machine and achieve the results he is capable of. A 1m32.396 this afternoon, 1.85-seconds off Rea’s benchmark, but only half-a-second outside a top-ten placing, an encouraging start and hopefully the 69 laps he managed to record over the two-days have given them enough data to take some steps in the right direction ahead of Friday’s opening practice session.
“Now we have picked the bike we will use for race weekend and put the package together. I have had such a good off-season; I feel I have done a really good job with my personal condition and I have managed to stay healthy so far. Every winter test we’ve done we have been working step-by-step. We understood at the end of last year, when we made a huge change for Qatar, I could race the bike again. So during the winter tests it was not about re-inventing the wheel. Already the ZX-10RR has given us some more potential. We were already at a high level. This winter was about building the package, building momentum and confidence. Now I feel like I have it so I just hope we can stay safe and bag some big points at the start of the new season.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea
“Jonathan did his lap times on a regular race tyre and we have to be pleased with the result after these two days of testing. It has confirmed all the jobs we have been doing in the wintertime. Before we came here, we felt very strong with the whole package of the bike. We have done long runs, fast laps for one lap and tested many things to create a package that we have confirmed here. In all conditions we feel the bike is working well. We did not do a really long run today but we made 20-something laps, which is race distance, and it was impressive. The drop from the best lap time to the lap time after 20 laps was very small. So we are positive for race weekend.”
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #33) – 1:30.575 (2nd)
“After a difficult first day because of bad weather, we got off a solid start today. In the afternoon the hotter conditions reduced the overall grip but the team has done a great job. We tried new settings, which proved to work very well for me. The thing I’m most happy about is that we managed to finally maximize the grip on new tyres, which had been somewhat a weak spot for us throughout the winter. It’s only a test, but it’s always important to feel good on the bike so I’m hopeful ahead of the racing weekend, which I’ll take step by step.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 1:30.893 (3rd)
“Throughout these tests we’ve been careful, moving step by step without making drastic changes to our base setup but also exploring a little bit given the particular nature of this track, which makes our bike a bit more difficult to turn. We’ve been moving in the right direction and getting progressively more comfortable and closer to the mark, but there’s still room for improvement. We also took different tyres to race distance, and I’m quite happy with our performance as far as that is concerned. We have good ideas about our next steps to take, and we’ll evaluate them on Friday.”
Tom Sykes – 4th – 1m31.044 / Kawasaki
“We had a lot better weather today than yesterday. We lost a bit of time in these tests but it is not the end of the world not to be the fastest rider in the timesheets. The good thing is that we understand where we are and where we need to find a clear improvement. So that leaves me relaxed going into the first race weekend of the year. We can make improvements in every corner so if we can find those our lap times should be nicely improved too. I had a small crash today, such a small crash, but the bike got tied in knots in the gravel and that left the lads in the team with a lot of work to do. We just need to make a good opening race weekend and leave here with more points than we have done in the recent past.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Tom Sykes
“The changeable weather on the first day interrupted our plan but this test was all about preparing ourselves for the race weekend. We finalised our test plan in the previous Jerez test and it was all about preparing for the race in this Australian test. We got some interference due to the weather yesterday and today’s crash, which reduced our track time. We will make a proper plan for Friday’s opening sessions over the next two days. This is the track where we have never been very competitive but we can improve a lot for the weekend, and I am confident we will.”
Lorenzo Savadori – 7th1’31.449
“It was a good day for us; we worked hard and were able to try a lot of different things with the setup. The weather was better and I was able to complete a lot of laps which was really useful. We still need to find more performance for the weekend though. We’ve made a few small improvements today and we need some big forward steps, but the team is working very hard and I am confident. I feel a lot better at this track, and I am looking forward to the weekend as always.”
Alex Lowes – 8th / 1’31.629 / 106 laps
“The team have done a great job today. I feel good on the R1, we have some clear areas to work on but we’ve completed two race simulations and I enjoyed it a lot. There are definitely some things I can still improve but after missing most of yesterday due to the weather, we managed to do a lot of laps today which gives us plenty of information for the team and myself to think about for the coming weekend. Over the whole of winter testing we have done a good job, so we can relax for two days now and look forward to the start of the year.”
Jordi Torres – 9th – 1’31.673
“Today hasn’t gone badly. This morning I started to build confidence and lap more consistently with my BMW. We continued to compare the two bikes with their different configurations and then, with the one that seems to perform better, I made some fast laps. In the afternoon, the track temperature was a lot higher and things were more difficult. We focused on trying to improve feeling in these conditions, considering that it might be similar for the upcoming races.”
Eugene Laverty – 12th – 1’31.881
“Today was better for us in terms of both the weather and the running we did, and we made some good progress in the morning on the setup and other things we tried. The afternoon unfortunately was tough and we had a small crash, and it was hard to get the bike working how I wanted it to. The good thing is that we now have time to look at what we’ve learned in this test, and hopefully we can put it to use and be strong this weekend.”
Michael van der Mark 13th / 1’31.936 / 88 laps
“We changed the bike a lot this morning compared to yesterday but I didn’t feel the big change I was expecting so we struggled a little bit in the first session. I had a big crash in turn eight when I lost the front so after that I went out on the second bike. I set my fastest lap this afternoon on the second machine but I still wasn’t completely happy with the set up, so we are still looking for the improvement I am after. I followed Alex this afternoon and I am clear with what we have to improve so now we have to check through the data to allow me to turn better and provide the confidence for the race weekend. I am sure we will find the solution, but I was hoping to have already made the step by the end of today’s test.”
Markus Reiterberger – 15th – 1’32.071
“We had some positive feelings today. First, we compared the two bikes, in their 2016 and 2017 configurations. I struggled to do a very fast lap in the morning while in the second session, I improved both my feeling and my rhythm with bike 1, the 2017 bike. I was completing a good long run but unfortunately, I made a small mistake and suffered a fast crash. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt but I’m just sorry for the work I’ve caused for the mechanics. I went back out on bike 2, which was useful as I’m now sure that the bike we will use this weekend is bike 1. I know we can make further improvement.”
World Superbike 2017 Phillip Island Test Day Two Times
Rea 1m30.545 / Kawasaki
Melandri 1m30.575 / Ducati
Davies 1m30.893 / Ducati
Sykes 1m31.044 / Kawasaki
Fores 1m31.226 / Ducati
Camier 1m31.293 / MV Agusta
Savadori 1m31.449 / Aprilia
Lowes 1m31.629 / Yamaha
Torres 1m31.673 / BMW
Krummenacher 1m31.783 / Kawasaki
De Angelis 1m31.794 / Kawasaki
Laverty 1m31.881 / Aprilia
Van Der Mark 1m31.926 / Yamaha
Hayden 1m31.952 / Honda
Reiterberger 1m32.071 / BMW
Ramos 1m32.205 / Kawasaki
Brookes 1m32.396 / Yamaha
Russo 1m32.771 / Yamaha
Bradl 1m32.796 / Honda
Jezek 1m32.856 / Kawasaki
Badovini 1m33.139 / Kawasaki
The WorldSBK paddock now takes a two-day break before practice and qualifying starts for the season opening round of the 2017 Superbike World Championship on Friday followed by Superpole and race one at 3:00pm on Saturday. The second 22-lap race will be held on Sunday, also at 3:00pm.
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit hosted the final day of the World Supersport winter testing, with just three days to go until 2017 kicks off on track.
Combined times coming through for both days means it gave riders a good indication of their pace, and riders were able to make the most of the improved track conditions they dealt with on Monday.
PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) has started his new project aboard the Italian machine with a strong two days, ending on the top of the timing sheets. The American set a lap time of 1.33.688 in the Tuesday morning session, which he was unable to improve on his time this afternoon, and was the rider who put in the most laps over the two days.
Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag) didn’t go out in the second session of the day following a crash this morning, which left him with a left shoulder dislocation. Despite this set back, his time was fast enough to keep him in second position; a time of 1.34.188.
Frenchman Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) took third spot overall as he prepares for a new season in which he will be fighting for the title. His lap time of 1.34.272 was also set in the morning practise, and he narrowly missed out on second position by 0.084s. His Japanese team-mate Hikari Okubo secured a top ten finish in the Official Test, 1.3s behind Jacobsen’s time.
It was an GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team lock out for fourth and fifth, with Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo taking the spots respectively. Just 0.019s split the duo, as Mahias’ lap time was a 1.34.461.
Kenan Sofuolgu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) has suffered a blow to his 2017 campaign, and despite putting in 38 laps over the last two days, the Turkish rider is forced to sit out of the opening two rounds of the season due to his injury sustained over the winter. He will fly back home in order to get fully fit for Round three.
British rider Luke Stapleford had a strong test aboard his Profile Racing machine and was able to finish in the top six, as he set a time of 1.34.854. Alex Baldolini (Race Department ATK#25) took eighth spot with a time set in Tuesday morning’s session, a 1.34.925 whilst Nikki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) sat in ninth position, 0.025s behind ninth position.
Don’t miss the season getting underway in three days time, as the WorldSSP riders head out on track for FP1 at 11AM (+11 GMT), for a thrilling opener.
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