WorldSBK Portimao Test
Following the Nilox Portuguese Round which brought the curtain down on the first half of the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship season, the riders were back in action on Monday for no less than seven hours of testing which started at 9am.
Fresh from his Tissot-Superpole on Saturday, it was Davide Giugliano who led the way with a leading lap time of 1’42.346 – three tenths of a second quicker than the best race rubber lap time of the weekend from Jonathan Rea. Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team partner Chaz Davies was sixth quickest, concentrating on further development with the new exhaust. Incidentally, Giugliano continued to feel the affects of flu but was still able to post the fastest lap of the day.
Davide Giugliano – (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team #34) – “We have tested various set-up solutions, something that needed to be done calmly during testing as they have taken us quite far from the way we normally work. At the end of the day I can say that some of these configurations have worked very well. Next up is Misano, another hot track, and so I think it’s also important I was able to make my fastest lap today during the afternoon session with a track temperature of over 50°C. The Pirelli solutions have proved to be very effective. All in all, it’s been a really useful day which has brought very positive results for us.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team #7) – “I have found a bit of a better feel for the front tyre by working with the weight distribution on the bike, but we haven’t really found what we were looking for in terms of getting the bike to turn better, despite having tried a lot of different things. I’ve tested the tyres made available for us by Pirelli and it looks like they have developed some good solutions for future races, especially the hotter ones, so it was good to get a feel for them. I’m still disappointed though because I hoped to find a set-up that would help me when conditions are hotter, but we have nevertheless collected a lot of important information for the next races.”
Kawasaki Racing Team filled spots two and three, with World Champion Jonathan Rea ahead of team-mate Tom Sykes. With Sykes’ issues of Sunday having been diagnosed as a sensor problem in Race 1 and a damaged wheel rim (apparent from around the eighth or ninth lap) in Race 2, Monday featured much work on engine, electronics and suspension geometry; unlike over the race weekend, there was now enough time to carry out back-to-back comparisons on suspensions.
Jonathan Rea: “We got through our whole work plan and if testing today gave you points I think we would have scored 25, because we ticked everything in the box. There was a lot of work this morning for Pirelli, with front and rear tyres to get through. Then we had to evaluate some things to try in the front forks, the rear shock and some brake items as well. We have also tried other things to generate more grip. It has been a good day and I am really happy with the work we have done.”
Tom Sykes: “We went through many variables today trying to get the bike around this circuit a little bit better. We tried too many to think about really and overall the function test was very good. I think the lap times were more convincing than on raceday, even though we had a good package then. I want to thank all the mechanics. My crew chief Marcel had a big list of things to try so they were working overtime again. Overall, I think we improved our feeling a little and we can have a good debrief in the next few days and think about it. We have some hot tracks coming up and the best thing about this test is that we set our best time this afternoon, in hot conditions, on a tyre that was more of a consistent race tyre than one designed for pure performance. I am happy about that and hopefully we can transfer that to Misano.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea, commented: “We had a very tight schedule because before the test I did not expect this amount of work with Pirelli. They brought some new tyres front and rear. Maybe we could have cancelled some of the tyre options but we have to make the effort, as tyres are so important. We had to try them, especially the fronts, because Jonathan works a lot with the front end. It is his style and he needs really good confidence in the front. We made a good test for Pirelli and we also have the information for us. At the same time we followed our test plan. We had something from KHI to test, and from my side also some small items about suspension, just trying to understand for the next step. I am so pleased with the job Johnny did and he put in a lot of laps in one day.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Tom Sykes, commented: “It was very hot today and we made over 80 laps with Tom. We have only one test day over most of the season so we had to make a very efficient plan. Out of the list of things we had coming here we selected the most important ones. We gave those things a good test and the race pace compared to yesterday improved. The track conditions were not better than yesterday so for that point of view I am happy. It is always good to test after a race weekend because you cannot have any better reference than that. For the second part of the season I am sure we have improved our package.”
Many of the riders focused on their own programmes in the morning before moving on to tyre work in the afternoon, following a one-hour break in track activity. Pirelli rolled out a mammoth 13 new compounds (five front and eight rear); with not enough time available to test all of them, riders were required to decide which compounds they were most willing to sample across the course of the day. Conditions fluctuated between bright sunshine and more overcast spells, with track temperatures reaching some 40 degrees Celsius on what is the southernmost tip of Portugal.
Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) was fourth overall, leaving team-mate Jordi Torres to undertake most of the tyre development in order for the British rider to have a lighter workload as he continued to feel the affects of his rib injury, worsened by a high-speed crash in Sunday’s first race. Therefore Haslam focused on chassis work while Torres ran a new rear shock.
The top five was completed by Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes, feeling far more comfortable as he and the team made significant strides with its Magneti Marelli electronics package. Team-mate Randy de Puniet was less fortunate; although his best lap time on a race tyre was half a second quicker than his leading effort on Superpole rubber two days earlier, the Frenchman twice parked up his bike due to technical problems in the morning.
Althea Racing had a busy day for more reasons than one. Nico Terol’s entry to the test was modified at late notice, with it being made official at the end of the day that the former Grand Prix World Champion has now parted company with the squad. A full-time replacement is yet to be announced, while in the meantime the bike was ridden by Althea Superstock 1000 rider Raffaele de Rosa. On the other side of the garage Matteo Baiocco was all smiles, fully confident that advancements have been made with the electrically operated traction control and engine braking systems.
Matteo Baiocco: “We concentrated on fitting our work into the morning’s session as we only had a few electronic updates to test. They proved to be interesting and helped me improve my performance quite a lot – we’ve definitely taken a good step forward. I’m sure that the work carried out here will help us in the next races at Misano and so, all in all, it’s been a positive test. It’s a pity we didn’t have these updates for yesterday’s races, as things would have gone very differently if so, but they’ll be useful as the championship progresses.”
Nico Terol: “I embarked on this challenge with great enthusiasm. I immediately had good feeling with the team and with the bike, right from the first tests, which made me think that I was regaining the right sensations with which to start going fast. But things got more complicated after some crashes and after an injury which put me a step back. I believe that for the good of both parties, the best solution is for me to take a break. The Team is working hard and I cannot repay their trust in this way, even if on my side I really wanted to be able to do well. I can only thank Genesio Bevilacqua and the entire team for these months spent together. Now I need to stop and reflect and find a way to get back to feeling like a strong rider and turn the page after the last very difficult 18 months.”
Genesio Bevilacqua: “I want to thank Nico for this, albeit brief, relationship that we have had because as well as being a rider he has proved to be an extraordinary guy on a human level. We have tried together to find the path that would help him return to a high level and the team never gave up in trying to meet the rider’s needs. It is sad but true to say that we have not met each others needs. I want to wish Nico all the best for the future and hope that this period of uncertainty in his career will soon be behind him, so that he can return to being the great champion that he was and be happy riding a bike. Personally, but also on behalf of the whole Althea team, I wish him all the best.”
Numerous riders had good reason to be pleased. At MV Agusta, Leon Camier overcame early problems to put in a strong run, simultaneously looking into a new rear link and rear swingarm. New electronics strategies pleased both rider and team, with Camier now feeling more confident as he applies the throttle as well as enjoying better engine braking. Further along the pit lane, Team Pedercini analysed new front and rear suspensions; David Salom found two to be particularly to his liking and will continue to trial them at Misano next weekend. Like the aforementioned Baiocco, Majorcan Salom spent the latter part of the day surveying the action trackside as other riders elected to take the chequered flag at 5pm local time (GMT +1).
A total of 19 riders were on-track. This included reigning World Champion Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark, as the Pata Honda World Superbike Team tested a new rear shock linkage and a new swingarm as well as continuing with its electronics development work. There were no-shows for Niccolo Canepa and Santiago Barragan, as the Grillini SBK Team did not test, and also for Leandro Mercado as the Barni Racing Team outfit had no new parts to try.
The WorldSBK field will now rest up before blasting back into action next Friday for opening free practice ahead of the Riviera di Rimini Round at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
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Pirelli test 13 new tyre solutions
Pirelli had brought thirteen new solutions to test for the riders, five front and eight rear. In particular, the teams most involved are those indicated by each motorcycle manufacturer participant in the championship as its tyre development team, which are: Kawasaki Racing Team, Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team, Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils, PATA Honda World Superbike Team, BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team, MV Agusta Reparto Corse and VOLTCOM Crescent Suzuki.
As regards the front, with these five new solutions Pirelli has concentrated its efforts on improving the features of the two standard compounds, the SC1 and the SC2. Specifically, the work that the tyre company is doing on the SC1 is to try to further improve stability by limiting any signs of movement with hot temperatures, while development solutions that involve more closely the SC2 go in the direction of increasing the grip.
The approach used for the eight solutions designed for the rear was different. Pirelli engineers have worked particularly with the aim of improving the performance offered at high temperatures by the solutions currently in use in the Championship, on the other side trying to improve the grip offered by the SC1 T1392 in order to extend the spectrum of use of the medium hardness rear compounds.
“For these tests we took a rather important quantity of solutions,” said the Motorcycle Racing Activities Director of Pirelli Giorgio Barbier, “though we are aware that not all riders can try them all because some of the riders have to work on the development of the bike for the championship. The test days are still very important for us because they provide us with data with respect to the development work we are doing. The starting point is already very good, because we have a solid racing tyre range and therefore appeal to both professional and amateurs riders all over the world. Of course we still want to improve our tyres to make them year after year yet more efficient working on those aspects of improvement of each standard solution. That’s why at the front we focused in developing solutions that enhance the stability of the SC1, already high perfoming in terms of grip, and others that increase the grip offered by the SC2, which instead is more stable and offers more support to the front. For the rear the development activity has focused mainly on improving the performance in conditions of high temperatures that are typically found on circuits like Phillip Island and on giving the SC1 greater grip. The tests are proceeding very well and some new tyres tested today will be definitely made available to riders in the coming rounds, in some cases as early as that of Misano Adriatico that awaits us in less than two weeks”.