This just in from WSBK:
After three weeks of rest the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship riders were back in action on Monday at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the final pre-season test before the season premiere. Amidst chilly temperatures and winds, Ducati’s debutant Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) clocked in the fastest time of the day, over four tenths of a second faster than Alex Lowes Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).
The Spaniard’s best lap of 1’30.743 could be interpreted as an early warning shot to the 17 other men on the grid. Race performance remains an unknown, but over one lap the 34-year-old is as fast as they come – and this was just his seventh day onboard the Superbike, with much of the focus for Bautista and his crew still centred around adapting to the softer WorldSBK tyres.
It was far from a flawless opener for the Aruba.it garage however, as Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) lingered at the bottom end of the timesheets for both sessions. Still searching for an ideal base setup, the Welshman found some technical issues early on and was unable to match his teammate’s pace. Much work left to be done on day two for Davies who nonetheless, it’s worth noting, usually excels in race conditions.
The other two Panigale V4 Rs on the 2019 grid also continued developing and discovering the new red beast. Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) focused on base setup as well as improving the feeling on the rear of the bike, while Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), making his Phillip Island debut, fixed his attention on their new Showa suspensions.
Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) were the two first men out on track in the morning and showed similar pace, finishing the day in third and fifth respectively. The Englishman, fully adapted now to the WorldSBK-spec ZX-10RR, chose to test his tyre selection for Australia, while the four-time world champion overcame a crash at turn 10 to be the best Kawasaki on the day, while also trying out the new Pirellis.
Turkish Puccetti’s Toprak Razgatlioglu also appeared to be making ground with the 2019 ZX-10RR, as he set the tenth fastest lap on his first day with the new engine, rising above his fellow Kawasaki privateers.
A clear frontrunner for the title of ‘Mr Consistency’ during winter testing, Alex Lowes again finished inside the top two here at Phillip Island, 0.403s behind Bautista. Both the Englishman and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) – seventh on Monday – set out to confirm the good results from both January tests, the YZF R1 looking already like an incredibly competitive package.
The other two Yamahas on the grid also excelled on day one, as the Japanese manufacturer managed to place all four bikes inside the top eight. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), sixth, tried out some new solutions before entering the finetuning stage tomorrow, while Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) – eighth – rode his first laps on a Superbike at Phillip Island.
This was also a fruitful day for the two BMW bikes, fitted with a new chassis and swingarm link for the first time. Both riders continued to build confidence onboard the S1000 RR, with a stunning Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in fourth position having the edge over Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), ninth fastest. The Yorkshireman was in fact second fastest in the second session – a sign that the BMW might be ready to fight for podiums right from the get-go.
After several months of swirling rumours and working outside the spotlight, Monday was also the day we finally got to see the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team in action. The first signs would seem promising, as Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) edged close to the top ten with a bike still in an early development stage.
Will Bautista again outpace Rea and the rest tomorrow?
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team heads the timesheets on the first day of official tests at Phillip Island: Bautista on top, while Davies lies in thirteenth
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team was out on track today at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia for the first day of official tests that mark the start of the 2019 Superbike World Championship season.
Today was characterized by a convincing performance by the team’s new signing, Álvaro Bautista from Spain, who powered his Panigale V4 R to an impressive fastest morning lap of 1’30.743, a time that was even quicker than Marco Melandri’s race record. Bautista, who completed a total of 61 laps in the four hours of track time available today, showed that he is rapidly getting to grips with his new bike, and he remained at the top of the timesheets almost all day.
Team-mate Chaz Davies had to overcome a few more difficulties and he could only end the day in thirteenth place. Faced with a technical problem in the first session, he was only able to notch up 21 laps. In the afternoon, the track conditions worsened due to the strong winds and Chaz, who added another 35 laps to his total, focussed on building up his confidence with the V4 R, the Welshman recording his best lap of the day in 1’32.783.
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will be back on track tomorrow at 09.10 local time (CET +10) for the second and final day of testing before the opening round of the championship itself, which will be held from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 February at the same circuit.
Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #19) – 1’30.743 – 1st
“Today was a very positive day and I felt good on the bike right away. We mainly focussed on chassis set-up work by testing various solutions that I hadn’t tried out until now. I’m pleased because we were able to improve the turning of the bike, which gave me a lot more confidence going into the corner. In addition, we tried the different tyre solutions that Pirelli brought along for the weekend. Now we have to have a good look at the data and try and make another step forward, but all in all I’m very happy.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 1’32.706 – 13th
“Today was quite a tough day for me, because for the moment the priority is to improve my confidence with the bike by making small steps forward with the set-up. Lap times aside, my confidence grew throughout the day however. We’re making changes, but there’s still a lot of work to do to improve the feeling on the bike. I’ve not done a lot on the new bike this winter because of my back twinge, and I haven’t been in a condition to really get to know the bike, but as long as I can get more comfortable for the race, I’ll be happy.”
Phillip Island Test
The Moriwaki Althea Honda Team commences final pre-season test at Phillip Island
The final 2019 World Superbike pre-season test, which is taking place over two days, is underway at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia. The WSBK riders had two 2-hour sessions, which ran from 11.10-13.10 and 15.40 to 17.40, in which to start the all-important bike set-up work.
Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari, who shared the track with their rivals for the first time this year, were able to take advantage of the stable weather conditions and work on their CBR1000RR SP2 machines without interruption.
Leon set his fastest lap during the morning’s stint in 1’32.459 (lap 31/33), while in the second practice session he closed with a best of 1’32.885 (lap 26/28), rounding out the day in eleventh position in the combined classification. Ryuichi, fourteenth in the morning with a 1’33.171 (37/37), was able to improve on his performance in the afternoon, recording a personal best of 1’32.962 which saw him close day one in sixteenth position overall.
Testing will conclude tomorrow with two further free-practice sessions running from 09.10 to 11.10 and 13.40 to 15.40 local time.
Leon Camier 2
11th (Combined) 1’32.459 (morning session)
“There are a few aspects of bike setup that we need to improve, but we were already aware of this and know where we need to work. I definitely think we have chance to make progress here, though maybe not that definitive step we are looking for. We need to bear in mind that it is all new for us and we have no references for this bike at this track. We’ve taken some good steps today in terms of the electronics, but we have room for improvement in this area too. We will now analyse the data we collected during today’s sessions and then see what we can do tomorrow”.
Ryuichi Kiyonari 23
16th (combined) 1’32.962 (afternoon session)
“We only had four hours available today, so that definitely makes it a little more challenging to get used to the track than when you have a full day, as we did during our previous test. So this morning I mainly concentrated on getting to grips with the track before starting to work on setup. I’m pleased I was able to improve on my performance in the afternoon, even if it wasn’t by much, and tomorrow I’ll try and push harder to close the gap even further.”