Bayliss is already talking about powder in Qatar !
The first confrontation of the stars of the World Superbike 2008 in Qatar allowed the pilots present to discover their new machines, new tires and for some, a whole new category … Results and analyzes.
At the same time as the last MotoGP tests in Jerez, the first confrontation of the stars of the World Superbike took place in Losail: on the magnificent Qatari track, the fight was bitter between the riders present who discovered their new machines, new tires and for some , a new category !
Specificity of the SBK World Cup: only official teams are invited to the "Pirelli Tests". Suddenly, from Wednesday to last Friday, only a dozen Superbike riders and six Mondial Supersport riders were able to evolve on the Losail track, near Doha..
This rule is not always unanimous in the paddocks, because it deprives many teams of important driving sessions … Thus, Max Biaggi and his team will have to wait until the beginning of December to discover the new Ducati. But the Roman is not bored for all that: taking advantage of this forced rest, he takes part in promotional operations and has just attended a 49 km marathon organized by Stephanie de Monaco, the profits of which will be donated to disabled children..
Asked about his new team, Max does not seem to regret the loss of his factory handlebars and even displays an optimism worthy of his debut: "I am very happy to be racing with Ducati in Marc Borciani’s team. It’s like in the first years of my career, when I raced with Aprilia: it’s great to be part of a team that speaks your language! I am convinced that if there are any problems we will solve them very quickly. I haven’t seen or tried the 1198s yet, but I’m sure they will go very quickly because at Ducati, they know how to make motorcycles !"
German driver Max Neukirchner, new teammate of Kagayama and Fonsi Nieto at Suzuki Alstare, did not make the trip either. The three machines are not ready, Max will have to be satisfied with his good impressions acquired in private tests in Valence at the beginning of the month. Thus, in racing tires and with a 2007 model, the young German allowed himself to beat Biaggi’s reference time. !
Ditto in the tricolor clan: Loïc Napoleone (Grillini), Yohann Tiberio (Alto Evolution), David Checa and Sebastien Gimbert (GMT 94) will all have to wait a little longer before making us vibrate…
Finally, the 2008 ZX-10R is not yet ready, we will also regret the absence of the Kawasaki PSG-1 team which has just completed its composition for the coming season. Because if we already knew that Ayrton Badovini would team up with Vittorio Iannuzo in the Perdercini satellite team (with ZX-10R 2007), the announcement of Regis Laconi’s teammate was long overdue. !
Finally, the one who will ride the second ZX-10R latest model will be Makoto Tamada, ex-MotoGP rider and winner of two Grand Prix in 2004! A number of victories he is already beating in the Superbike category, although he has only participated in six races at Sugo as a Wild Card…
In 2000, the young driver did not shine too much on the RC45 (7th then retirement) but the following year, on VTR SP this time, Makoto had come to shake up all the forecasts – as well as Corser, Bostrom, Hodgson , etc -, managing to remove both sleeves! In 2002 on SP2, the Japanese had missed by 15 hundredths a new double against a very fit Edwards … Would Tamada be the good surprise 2008 ?
Ducatis are moving step by step…
The question burns everyone’s lips: will Ducati’s leaders dare to unveil the full potential of their twin-cylinder, which is 200 cc more than the competition? As Site readers already know (read), the organizer and the manufacturers have agreed on specific regulations concerning the equivalence between 2 and 4-cylinders: Ducatis are subject to a restriction on level of the air intake and must weigh heavier than a 4-cylinder (168 kg against 162).
And by chance if the Ducatis were in the lead from the first tests, the regulations provide that the Bologna brand would further restrict its machines (with a weight of up to 171 kg and an intake diameter of 46 mm instead. of the initial 50). A particularly questionable provision for the pilots, who thus see their performance suspended at the goodwill of the organizers ….
In fact, Troy Bayliss and his new teammate started the practice rather gently: ranked third, one second behind the best time achieved by Troy Corser on the first day, Bayliss admitted that "if it’s good to get back on track after so many weeks", the wind and the sand on the track did not make it easy for him. Immediately faster on the second and especially on the third day, the Australian set a new reference time of 1’58.1, which is 3 tenths faster. than the pole achieved by Troy Corser this year and a second faster than the fastest lap in the race !
A performance all the more remarkable given that the second fastest “Kangaroo” on the Australian continent (after Casey Stoner, of course!) Ensures that he has achieved this time in racing tires! "We have made great progress", explains Troy:"the last couple of days we’ve tried a lot of things and seen where to develop the bike. Sometimes it was a little frustrating, because I would have liked to have driven faster like the others in front! But after today’s lunch break, we found a lot of solutions and that made us very happy. Now i can relax !"
The n ° 21 even drives home the point by declaring that he was not able to give his maximum to chase the stopwatch, because he was not yet very comfortable with the back of his machine! Here is the competition prevented…
However, "Baylisstic" only did a ten-lap run with the same set of tires in similar times: we remember that last year, the Ducatis suffered excessive tire wear during the race….
As for his teammate, if he finishes one second stack behind the best time, he has gained 2.5 seconds between Wednesday and Friday: "I really like the bike and immediately felt a good feeling with it. I made progress every time I took the trail this morning which is a pretty good sign !", rejoiced Michel Fabrizio on the first day … before falling, fortunately without consequences !
Very happy with his status as a factory driver, the Italian left the track a little disappointed not to have been able to improve his time due to a technical problem but delighted with the performance of the 1198, even if the team has "still a long way to go"to make it even better. Davide Tardozzi, responsible for the Superbike project at Ducati Corse, even thinks"that today it is Troy who made all the difference”: A way to reassure other manufacturers about the competitiveness of the Bologna beauty ?
Haga and Corser polish their weapons…
Troy Corser was the hero of the first two days of testing: despite a violent fall on the second day, he was faster than Haga (ranked second) by 6 tenths! And on the evening of the second day, the Australian displayed an impressive serenity: "there are no big differences between the 2007 motorcycle and the 2008 motorcycle, but the chassis does not offer the same feeling. It’s a bit more rigid and I have to adapt to it. We have some interesting things to try and I think if I have good feelings and the track conditions allow it, I can go down in 1’57", says the" Croco ".
Unfortunately for the Yamaha rider, another fall on the morning of the last day, following a choice of too hard front tire, forced him to end his tests … Worse: he saw Troy Bayliss leave with the best time! "Everything was going well for me until I suddenly lost the front to the first left … The gravel is so hard here that it feels like crushing your body! We did about 85% of the scheduled tests, but we have already done a good job on the bike. We were quick from the start, so I can say we are happy with these tries.", concludes Troy who will leave Qatar with the third final time and the right thumb damaged…
Second fastest driver at the end of these three days: Noriyuki Haga! Rather discreet during these tests, the vice-world champion explained that he had worked a lot on the damping of his machine and on his tires..
The Japanese pilot was thus able to test solutions to combat the significant abrasion of the runway, which is often swept by sand: "most of the bike hasn’t changed from the 2007 machine, but the biggest evolution comes from the new swingarm. We have more traction, but we are still in doubt as to how long the tire will last in a race … We have tried a few larger tires, but they don’t have as much grip out of the corners. It looks like the 190 is better for us. I think all the things we have improved here are going to make us better from the next tests at Phillip Island", explains" Nitro-Nori ".
Honda Ten Kate: when experience takes precedence over passion !
Fourth in the standings less than a second from the Bayliss record, we find the veteran of MotoGP: the Spanish Carlos Checa! Forced to share his bike on Friday with the defector of the English Superbike Ryuichi Kionari, "El Toro" Checa remembered to everyone !
Immediately competitive, Carlos fulfilled the hopes Honda had placed in him following his fine performance at the Suzuka 8 Hours: "I was discovering the team, the bike and the tires for the first time, but yet I was immediately quick: in less than two days, I managed to equalize the fastest lap in the race of Max Biaggi! I have a good feeling with the bike, but a little less with the tires which have a totally different grip than those used in MotoGP. I will have to adapt to these details in the next tests, but for now I am very happy with this first contact with the team and my choice to race in Superbike. I can’t wait to try out the new bike that will arrive for January testing at Phillip Island.", summarizes the shock rookie of the Ten Kate team.
A team that says it is satisfied with the performance of its three pilots, even if the young Supersport world champion Kenan Sofuoglu had to cut his tests short, following a violent fall on the second day which caused serious damage to his machine. As for the two-time English Superbike champion, it was through two falls that he learned about the category, before setting a final time 3.6 seconds behind the leader..
Suzuki in ambush…
For his part, Francis Batta can be satisfied with his new Spanish recruit: not content to bring in his suitcases a significant budget and the protective follow-up of the Spanish Federation, Fonsi Nieto has shown himself to his advantage during these three days..
Still in the leading group, Fonsi finished in fifth place, 1 second behind the leader, with a machine at the end of 2007: "One thing that made me very happy was overtaking Haga in the straight line! This is probably the first time in three years that I have been able to do this and it made me very happy! The team is very close-knit and I look forward to working with them. I am satisfied because I have improved from day to day. These tests helped me get to know the bike better and I didn’t think particularly about the lap times. The feeling is already very good, I just need to improve the general balance and find more confidence to push the bike to the limits", confides Yukio Kagayama’s teammate, who is in eighth position 2.8 seconds from the best time and 1.8 seconds from Nieto !
Recovering, Yukio Kagayama admitted not having pushed the bike to the limits so as not to risk a fall: this is why, even if he remains a little frustrated with his times, he preferred to focus on the new exhaust system. and the new Pirelli gums.
Only six Supersport riders made the trip to Qatar and the two Yamaha officials, Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret, took the best lap times..
In Supersport, the Yamaha attack hard and the Triumph surprise !
The first with a superb 2’01.9 (or 1 tenth slower than Kiyonari with his 1000 CBR!), While his new French teammate made his mark on his new 2008 R6 with a promising 2’02.5.
Third time, Andrew Pitt found himself the only Ten Kate driver on track following the hospitalization of his teammate Jonathan Rea: knee operated after his English SBK season, the young runner-up then suffered from a serious infection. His return is hoped for for the January debut tests, but the young Englishman is already leaving with a little delay…
Injured too, young Tommy Hill of the Honda Hannspree Althea team: Nannelli’s teammate broke his right hip during private practice in Spain this month … a blow for Hill who was only making contact with his machine and his team and who will now have to draw on his resources to line up for the first race in Qatar, on February 23 … Fortunately for him, only Honda Ten Kate is participating in the Pirelli tests !
Finally, in fifth and sixth positions, we find the Carrachi team that Site readers know well: entered with 675 Triumphs, the Italian structure recently had our French 600 champion Kenny Foray roll for a possible start this year …
Contacted by Site, Kenny tells us that he achieved the best time of these first tests and confirms the arrival of the Australian Garry McCoy within the structure. As for the second driver, nothing is yet defined … Even if it is Paul Young (English Supersport driver) who carried out these tests in Qatar, the choice of the team manager has not yet been decided. Response expected at the end of the week: fingers crossed !
Still, the 35-year-old "King of the Slides" (remember Garry’s magnificent entrances and exits of curves during his seven seasons in the premier class!) Has shown great potential: despite a machine almost stock, the Australian climbed 0.5 seconds behind Pitt and his ultra-sharp Honda Ten Kate !
Paul Young signs his best time in 2’06.5 min, 4.6 seconds off Parkes’ fastest lap.
As in Superbike, the Kawasaki Boys have not made the trip: thus Katsuaki Fujiwara and Chris Walker, recently confirmed at Gil Motor Sport, will have to be satisfied with private tests in Spain..
A somewhat special teammate since in an independent structure, Arnaud Vincent is making his comeback in world competition after a year in French Supersport. And this within Team Gil Moto Sport, but with 100% preparation ensured by an engine specialist from Aix-en-Provence: "Solution F has been working on the engine for almost 2 months and the bike should be ready by mid-December", explains Arnaud on his official website."Therefore, we will make the first taxi when the weather conditions allow it. This is a very attractive project to which I am delighted to contribute".
Between the newbies with long teeth and the experience of the old guys, this new world Superbike season looks very promising! It now remains to discover the whole set together and the room for improvement of machines, tires and especially Ducati…
While waiting for the verdict of the first race in February, Site will naturally keep you informed of the results of the next Pirelli tests at Phillip Island on January 8, 9 and 10 … !
SBK Losail test results:
|1||Bayliss T.||Ducati Xerox||2 ‘00.6||1 ‘59.5||1 ‘58.1|
|2||Haga N.||Yamaha Motor Italia||2 ‘00.1||1 ‘59.2||1 ‘58.4|
|3||Corser T.||Yamaha Motor Italia||1 ‘59.6||1 ‘58.6||1 ‘58.6|
|4||Checa C.||Honda Ten Kate||–||1 ‘59.5||1 ‘59.0|
|5||Nieto F.||Suzuki alstare||2 ‘01.0||1 ‘59.6||1 ‘59.1|
|6||Fabrizio M.||Ducati Xerox||2 ‘01.6||2 ‘00.1||1 ‘59.1|
|7||Sofuoglu K.||Honda Ten Kate||2 ‘02.2||2 ‘00.3||2 ‘00.3|
|8||Kagayama Y.||Suzuki alstare||2 ‘01.9||2 ‘00.9||2 ‘00.9|
|9||Kiyonari Y.||Honda Ten Kate||–||–||2 ‘01.8|
Best lap in the race: Max Biaggi – Suzuki – 1 ‘59,194 (2007)
Best time: Troy Corser – Yamaha – 1 ‘58,402 (pole 2007)
Alexandre BARDIN – Photos DR
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