Ducatis in Olympic form !
The riders of the World Superbike have completed their last winter tests … Or "summer" should we say, since they were riding on the other side of the globe at Phillip Island, a track they will find again this weekend for launch the 2010 season… Balance sheet.
The dress rehearsals for the 2010 World Superbike Championship took place over the last two days on the superb Australian track of Phillip Island. And only three riders were missing: Luca Scassa, Makoto Tamada and Broc Parkes, the latter being replaced by Joshua Brookes..
Twenty-four riders were therefore able to take advantage of generally pleasant conditions – it’s the end of summer in Australia … – to polish their mounts and prepare as well as possible for the first round of the World Superbike which will be held this Sunday on the same track at the end of the world.
The opportunity for them – and for us – to establish a semblance of hierarchy, even if we know that the winter tests and their times are not words of the gospel…
What is striking at the sight of the final times (see the times of the two days at the end of the article) is the excellent health of the Ducatis since five Italians are classified in the first six places! It is also an Italian couple who lead the dance: on his factory 1098R, Michel Fabrizio posted the best time of the two days (1 ‘31.650).
The good time of our national Regis Laconi achieved during qualifying in 2009 is still a long way off (1 ‘31.050, read) but it doesn’t matter: the driver at n ° 84 has undeniably marked the spirits !
Fabrizio claims to have found a good race pace and therefore hopes that a downpour – like the one that poured out yesterday morning, depriving the drivers of precious taxiing time – will not come to ruin his excellent preparation..
"There are several quick guys here", also notes the transalpine,"the event this weekend will therefore be tough, like the whole championship"."It’s a tough challenge but I’m ready to take it", he finally launches from the top of the time table. Forza Michel !
Behind him, posted just a few hundredths away, Shane Byrne and Jakub Smrz prove that all the Ducatis on the field, and not just the official Xeroxes, can set excellent times. Hopefully the two pilots, used to bursts in practice, will be able to confirm during the two races on Sunday..
Carlos Checa is a little further (3 tenths behind) but still manages to drop below 92 seconds at the controls of his private Ducati. "Shakey" Byrne’s teammate is also delighted to be in such a high place and has high expectations for the opening round…
"We used two types of rubber, but for this weekend’s race we will also use others, tested by the official drivers"El Torro slips n ° 7. Fourth fastest time therefore, Carlos is ahead of his former teammate who stayed at Honda Ten Kate: Jonathan Rea !
Relegated to just over half a second, the young Irishman "who goes up" – but how far ?! – admits without false modesty that he still has work to do: "the biggest problem came from me, I had to familiarize myself with the circuit again: it comes but it took me the two days (and 169 laps, a record over these two days that he shares with Leon Camier, Editor’s note! ) and I still have to work on the last sector".
The big boss of the team, Ronald Ten Kate, ensures for his part that his Fireblades do not devour the Pirelli tires excessively, allowing Johnny – and his new teammate Max Neukirchner – to perform good series on "race" rubber..
"We are not yet getting the most out of soft gums "", admits the Batavian, however … Will the No. 65 and 76 Honda manage to qualify properly on Saturday or will they have to make their way through the peloton – what a pity …! – to grab a podium? Suspense.
Winner of the very first round last year – and 2nd of the second – Noriyuki Haga is 5th in these last winter tests. Uncomfortable on the second day on a motorcycle that he knows on the tip of his gloves, the Nitro Nori rider did not make sparks…
"That said, times are still pretty quick", remarks the" reigning "vice-world champion. The n ° 41, however, seems to be worried about the behavior of the tires:"a rise of one or two degrees can make the difference"…
Are the Pirelli really that sensitive to temperature fluctuations? Blow of bluff or not from the Japanese, that is the real question … For once, the answer will not be long: just wait for Sunday !
Just like Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam is standing in the starting blocks, ready to pounce! Satisfied with the job done by his new team, the Suzuki Alstare rider is not quite satisfied with his lap times. And yet, the little English is only 3 hundredths from Haga !
"We spent a lot of time testing the race tires to be in a good position this weekend.", is justified the n ° 91 half-angel half-demon,"but that meant not really spinning after a quick spin".
In the end, Haslam is not overly worried about the performance of these little comrades who emerge above him on the timesheet: "because I know that on race day things will be different "", he threatens! A real killer this Leon…
Less swift than their neighbors in Bologna, the Aprilia are in ambush, just a second from Fabrizio. Naturally, Max Biaggi regrets not being where he should be: in the lead !
It is specifically on the phases of deceleration and setting on the angle that the RSV4 Factory attracts the wrath of the Roman Emperor. And to make matters worse, "even the new tires did not bring us any profit", observes Massimiliano !
The Italian therefore expects to compete in particularly difficult races on Sunday … Already last year, after securing a superb 2nd place on the starting grid on Saturday, the n ° 3 was unable to keep pace with the leading men the next day.
New to the category – although "sacred" champion of British SBK last year – Leon Camier is naturally less critical of his mount….
"There is still work to be done before the race, partly on the bike", confirms the Englishman, before recognizing that his performance"depends a lot on me, because I do not know the track well yet, that I do not perform it as well as I could".
On the handlebars of his factory Aprilia, the n ° 2 covered 169 laps on Sunday and Monday, grabbing more than a second between the two days on his best time. Is there still significant room for improvement? Could Leon be the "Ben Spies" of 2010? He is in any case for the moment the best rookie … To be watched closely.
Just behind Max Neukirchner and his new Honda is the first of the four BMWs entered this year in the World Championship. This is the n ° 111, that of Ruben Xaus therefore, which is one tenth ahead of the n ° 11 piloted by one of the specialists of Phillip Island: Troy Corser !
The two teammates are particularly satisfied with their tests: while the Spaniard praises the merits of a BMW easier to drive, the Australian makes the apology – fully justified – of the Phillip Island layout.
More than a second behind the three leading Ducatis, the official Behemians are outside the Top 10 after their winter tests. Will they do better in the race? As for the private S 1000 RRs of the Reitwagen team – Pitt is 19th, Resch 21st -, will they manage to score their first points? ?
Sandwiched between Xaus and Corser, James Toseland and his new Yamaha grab a disappointing 12th place. A position that probably does not suit the double world champion – titled on Ducati then on Honda – and his R1 which had a taste for pole positions and victories last year. !
"I still have jerk problems (the famous "chattering", Editor’s note), just like Cal", briefly summarizes the number 52 of the unique Yamaha team."Guys are going to study the data and see what they can do for us over the next few days."…
Lost in 17th position, his teammate Cal Crutchlow is certain that the work of the Blues team, provided it is carried out "in the right direction"It goes – almost – without saying, will allow them to move forward. Casually, these last tests of Phillip Island put a strange pressure on the helmet of Toseland and Crutchlow (reigning world champion of Supersport on R6 the last) .Will it be positive or negative ?
Fifteenth just behind Lorenzo Lanzi – last Ducati rider on the list – Sylvain Guintoli failed to get into the rhythm. "It happens to me sometimes when the tests take a long time, like today when the two sessions lasted two and a half hours each.", testified yesterday the French while descending from his Gex.
Focused on racing tires more than on the quest for the ultimate stopwatch – but this is what others have also claimed – our only representative in the World Superbike has unfortunately gone wrong in the overhanging hairpin succeeding Lukey Heights.
"I lost the front by pushing a little too much on a tire that I didn’t really like … and that I like even less now !", remarks the sympathetic Frenchie. Author of a time of 1 ‘32.869, Syl’ still allows himself to be ahead – by a thousandth, phew – a serious customer: Chris Vermeulen.
Certainly, this is not the Honda rider of the years 2004 – 2005, collector of podiums and future successor to Mick Doohan in Grand Prix … The colt of the late Barry Sheene comes back to us from four years of hard work on the MotoGP Suzuki and is about to do its best on a Kawasaki ZX-10R, also struggling in recent seasons.
Nevertheless, it would take more to undermine the motivation, the optimism and the joviality of n ° 77: "we made progress in each session and it was good to drive on a track that I really knew", notes Chris, 16th of these tests.
The Australian and his cousin from England Tom Sykes will have to spit heavily in the gloves to reach the Top 10 on Sunday … Last year, Makoto Tamada and Broc Parkes had even failed beyond the 16th place in the race.
"We tried a lot of things and came back to what worked best", says Sykes, thanking the patience of his team!"It was crucial to do this as we have a better idea of the direction to take to tune the machine this weekend.".
The drivers of Team Kawa ‘Pedercini bring up the rear of the standings: Matteo Baiocco and Roger Lee Hayden – Nicky’s brother, absolutely – will also have to show self-sacrifice and not try to skip the stages. The sanction of the Ninja would be immediate…
The appointment is therefore made this weekend at Phillip Island for the opening of the 2010 Mondial Superbike season and from Monday on Site, for a full report of the races. !
Phillip Island test times
Phillip Island Records
- Best time: Laconi R. – Ducati 1098R: 1 ‘31.050 (2009)
- Best Pole: Spies B. – Yamaha R1: 1 ‘31.069 (2009)
- Best lap in the race: Corser T. – Yamaha R1: 1 ‘31.826 (2007)
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