Final European shakedown before WSBK hits Australia

Images by 2snap/GeeBee

Portimao hosted the final two-day European pre-season test ahead of the 2019 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship season getting underway in Australia over the weekend of February 22-24 at Phillip Island.

The new race format being introduced for 2019, that adds a 10-lap Sunday morning sprint race to the weekend schedule, saw riders get to test a new Pirelli SCX rear tyre at Portimao this week.

Some riders also slotted in a qualifying tyre for their outright time attack style lap and on Q rubber Jonathan Rea set a 1m40.885 to street the field. Rea also fell on his last lap of the day but was uninjured in the tumble.

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Leon Haslam SnapGeeBee
Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea

“It has been a super-positive test. We came from the Jerez and I was still understanding the bike and the asphalt there. It made it difficult to understand the work we had done over the winter. But coming here we had quite a neutral platform to work with and a lot of data. Although the temperatures did not get into a perfect operating window it gave us a consistent effort over two days. We confirmed the chassis items we tested at Jerez, and electronically we worked a bit better. We started to work on our race performance. I was really happy with how I felt with a lot of laps on the tyre compared to last this time last year. I got to try a qualifier at the end of the day and that felt quite good and I was really fast with it. This test ticked every box, just a couple of little items we could have re-checked and gone over. But the priorities were done and we got to try some new Pirelli tyres as well.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Jonathan Rea SnapGeeBee
Jonathan Rea

Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea

“I am really happy because we have been improving since yesterday morning. Here we confirmed some items that were on the list, mainly with the balance of the chassis. The new engine has a small difference in the character on corner entry or corner exit, and the revs are different, which also changes the character a bit. This also affects the chassis and we tried to put it all together. Honestly speaking we made a step forward and Johnny was flying. On the race tyres we made a lot of laps and after many laps it was we were still doing very strong times. The tyre wear was good and overall everything was very good.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Jonathan Rea SnapGeeBee
Jonathan Rea and Crew Chief Pere Riba

Haslam’s best lap of the test was also set on a qualifying tyre but the Briton was halted on his final attempt for a time by a red flag incident on track. Haslam’s 1m42.144 best lap on Q rubber only a tenth quicker than he had managed on race tyres.

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Leon Haslam SnapGeeBee
Leon Haslam

Leon Haslam

“A good test for us and we made a step with the lap time. I made a 1’42.2 with a race tyre, which I was really happy with. I did not get any benefit from using the soft tyre mainly because with the first chance to go faster there was a red flag and for the second one I got rained on. I never really got a chance to go for one lap again. That was a little bit frustrating but on the race tyre times I was really happy. I made some good steps and tried a few things, including a different front tyre for the first time, which I felt was a bit better. We only had one of them so I could not put it toward an even better lap time. But I was consistently in the 1’42s, so I am pretty happy with things.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Leon Haslam SnapGeeBee
Leon Haslam

Taking the fight to Rea and the green machines, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) continued his recent impressive pace and he closed the test second fastest.

Alex Lowes

“It’s been a really positive test for me here in Portimão, a track at which I’ve struggled a little previously on the Yamaha. During this test we’ve found some strong, consistent pace and my fastest lap came on the sprint race tyre as I ran into traffic on the qualifier, so I know there’s more to come. But it’s not the one-off fast lap time that’s important. What’s made me happy is the fact that I posted a lot of fast and consistent laps on every run, we managed to complete the whole test program and we’re now in a good position ahead of the test and race in Phillip Island. We’ve had a really strong winter, put the hard work in, made no mistakes and, hopefully, we can reap the reward with a strong start to the season in Phillip Island next month.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Alex Lowes SnapGeeBee
Alex Lowes

Together with his teammate Michael van der Mark, who finished fifth, the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team riders worked on evaluating new parts.

Michael van der Mark

“It’s been quite a difficult test for me here in Portimão. We struggled to find the right feeling with the bike on the first day, despite trying many things in the search for improvement. On the second day we started again, making some big changes on the bike and, immediately, I felt so much more comfortable. It was also difficult with the weather today, as it was quite cold with a lot of wind. We worked really hard to try many things, but there are still a couple of areas where I am missing a bit, so there is still some work to do. This is where we need to focus our efforts ahead of the next test in Phillip Island, an amazing track where I really enjoy riding. I’m confident we can make another step forward there and that we’ll be ready for the first race of the season.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Michael VanDerMark SnapGeeBee
Michael van der Mark

In the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati garage Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista were able to make consistent progress working on the base setup of the all-new Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Testing different tyres and many aspects of his new bike, Alvaro Bautista set a fastest lap time of 1’41.934, taking the third spot of the timesheets. This was promising for both Bautista and the new V4R, as the Spaniard has little experience at Portimao compared to most of his competitors.

Álvaro Bautista

“For me these days testing at Portimão have been positive. Yesterday was a bit more difficult than today because it was my first time ever here at Portimão, a very difficult circuit to learn and full of ups and downs, so I struggled a bit, but today I felt a lot better on the bike and managed to improve. It’s the last time we test the V4 R before leaving for Australia, so I wanted to do as many laps as possible to get to know the bike better. We are confident because we’ve found a good base even though we know there’s still a lot of work to do.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Alvaro Bautista SnapGeeBee
Álvaro Bautista

Team-mate Chaz Davies was still struggling with back pain from a crash earlier in the month but the Welshman managed 42 laps on the V4 R on Monday.

Chaz Davies

“It’s been a couple of testing days in more ways than one! Physically I’m not really recovered from the twinge in the back I picked up in the Jerez test, so it hasn’t been the most comfortable time for me. On the flip side I’m very happy to have finished the test because I didn’t think it was going to be possible, but I did some good physio between the tests that allowed me to lap. Portimão is really important because it’s another track where we need to find a good base set-up for the V4 R, while I try and get fully acquainted with the bike. We’re not there yet and we’ll keep on working but I’m confident and looking forward to getting to Phillip Island for the opening round.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Chaz Davies SnapGeeBee
Chaz Davies

BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team rider Tom Sykes was sixth quickest on the all new BMW S 1000 RR.  The British rider somewhat surprised by how close they were considering they are still in their development phase.

Tom Sykes

“I just want to say a big thank you to the whole BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team. At these tests, we’ve continued and progressed in a really positive way, making a big step in the development of the BMW S 1000 RR. We have been working on the balance of the bike, trying out different parameters to see what feedback we get, and also testing new components for the brakes, suspension and electronics. So in general, a lot has been covered and it’s another step closer to the WorldSBK opener in Phillip Island next month.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Tom Sykes SnapGeeBee
Tom Sykes

Team-mate Markus Reiterberger worked on the geometry of the bike and tyre testing to finish tenth overall.

Markus Reiterberger

“I am quite happy with the way the test went. We tested a lot on the brakes, suspension and the electronics and made good progress with that. We also worked on my seat position and made a change on my rear-shock and on Sunday at Portimão I was feeling very positive and my lap time improved from session to session. Monday unfortunately I did not have the same feeling, but we collected a lot of data from the test to work with. I have a great team around me so I am confident I will get a good feeling on the bike in Phillip Island.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Markus Reiterberger SnapGeeBee
BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team – Markus Reiterberger

Continuing to adapt to the WorldSBK bike, 2018 WorldSSP World Champion Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) set the seventh fastest lap time.

Sandro Cortese

“Overall this was a very productive test. Portimão is a new track for me with the Yamaha YZF-R1 and we started more or less from zero here. We came with the base set up from Jerez, where we were quite happy, but we had to adapt the bike a lot for Portimão, which is a very special circuit with the changes in elevation. So the first job was to learn the circuit on this bike and only then could we start work on refining the set up. Over the two days we made some big improvements and, day by day, I learnt more about the riding style that these bikes require. It’s a learning process but it is progressing well and we ended with a relatively good feeling. I know what I need to work on over the next two weeks and the team have a clear direction in which to work also ahead of the third and final test in Phillip Island.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Sandro Cortese SnapGeeBee
Sandro Cortese

Teammate Marco Melandri was eighth overall and not happy with his progress.

Marco Melandri

“This was a very difficult test for me. I came here expecting a little bit more, but it looks like we’re going around the real problem, unable to find a solution. For me it’s very difficult at the moment to brake how I want; the bike doesn’t respond well to my riding style under braking and on entry to the corner. We tried everything we could here in Portimão, but it looks like it’s not enough. Now we need to try some different options in Phillip Island, go a different way with the set up, in order to find a solution ahead of the first race of the season.”

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Marco Melandri SnapGeeBee
Marco Melandri

Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) had a strong pace on both days as he finished in ninth position. The Turkish rider worked on improving his feeling on board the Kawasaki ZX-10RR that will only be updated into the 2019 version at Phillip Island. Working also alongside a new crew chief, it was a positive two-day test for the young rider and his team.

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Toprak Razgatlioglu SnapGeeBee
Toprak Razgatlioglu

Independent team riders Michael Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) and Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), both worked on the development of their Ducati Panigale V4 R. The Italian rider closed in twelfth position, while Laverty was thirteenth.

WSBK Test Jan Portimao Michael Rinaldi SnapGeeBee
Michael Rinaldi

Developing the new Honda CBR1000RR, 2019 WorldSBK rookie Alessandro Delbianco finished fourteenth after two days trying to get acquainted with the WorldSBK machine. The official Honda backed squad were again missing in action…

Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha) set the fastest lap time among the WorldSSP riders who were also out testing in Portugal. The Frenchman closed 0.573 secs ahead of the MV Agusta F3 675 of Italian rider Raffaele De Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) and 0.879 ahead of Frenchman Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).

The next track sessions for most competitors will be during the official organisers’ tests at Phillip Island in Australia ,on Monday the 18th and Tuesday the 19th of February, shortly before the first round of the championship at Phillip Island on the weekend of February 22-24.

WorldSBK Portimao Test Day Two Unofficial Times
  1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing WorldSBK Team) 1’40.855
  2. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 1’41.814 +0.959
  3. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’41.934 +1.079
  4. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing WorldSBK Team) 1’42.144 +1.289
  5. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 1’42.191 +1.336
  6. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’42.246 +1.391
  7. Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) 1’42.469 +1.614
  8. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) 1’42.507 +1.652
  9. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) 1’42.537 +1.682
  10. Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’43.146 +2.291
  11. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’43.361 +2.506
  12. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) 1’43.834 +2.979
  13. Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) 1’43.950 +3.095
  14. Alessandro Delbianco (Althea MIE Racing Team) 1’44.885 +4.030
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