Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.
Ruben Xaus will start his 200th World Superbike race at Phillip Island, making him the third rider in this season’s field to start such a large number of races. He will join the ranks of Carl Fogarty, Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, Aaron Slight, and Frankie Chili in numbers of starts by racing at the season opener later this month. Xaus began his WSBK career with two wildcard entries in 1998, after a rookie Supersport season in 1997.
He returned to World Supersport for 1999 and 2000, but began his full-time career as a World Superbike rider in 2001. He left WSBK for the 2004 and 2005 seasons to go racing in MotoGP, with a career high of third at Qatar in 2004 on a satellite Ducati. Xaus was named MotoGP Rookie of the Year for 2004 and moved to a satellite Yamaha for 2005, where he did not have the same luck.
The name “Castrol Honda” in motorcycle racing is something that spans several decades, and for this writer conjures up the days when v-twins ruled World Superbikes. The battle in 2002 between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss is a season talked about when referencing “the glory years of World Superbike”, and I can still remember watching The Showdown at Imola, the final race of 2002 season, when Colin Edwards clinched the World Championship (did you just get goose bumps too?)…in fact it’s that race that got me hooked on motorcycles in the first place.
Taking that legacy into 2011, the newly reformed Castrol Honda team, campainged by Ten Kate Racing with factory Honda support, has quite a legacy to live up to…and the team knows it. Talking about what it means to wear the green, white, and red livery, Castrol Honda team members talk about the name’s past, and what they plan to accomplish this season while wearing the oil company’s banner. Check out their video after the jump.
Ten Kate Honda officially became Castrol Honda at the 2011 launch of the team in the UK today. Though Jonathan Rea and Ruben Xaus were confirmed as riders in November 2010, the return of a Castrol Honda team to World Superbike was kept pretty well under wraps until today’s launch. Naturally the livery is very different from last season, with the previous yellow-green color of previous sponsor Hannspree completely removed in favor of a Castrol green, red, and white and a bit of Honda’s wing logo.
“When our world championship racing adventure was first beginning, many years ago now, Castrol Honda was the one team in the paddock which everyone looked up to, whose professional and performance standards we all wanted to achieve. It is an honour for us now to be racing under this famous and historically successful banner and we are privileged to be following in the footsteps of the team we admired so much in the past,” said team manager Ronald ten Kate. The factory Honda team sponsored by Castrol won three superbike championships: John Kocinski, 1997, and Colin Edwards, 2000 and 2002.