Carlos Checa has removed any lingering doubts about the competitiveness of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, after controlling the second and final day of testing for the World Superbike class at Phillip Island, and ending the test as fastest overall. The Spaniard started the day fast, and ended the day fast, maintaining a strong pace throughout.
Checa was fastest in both wet – or rather, damp – conditions and in the dry. The second day of testing started out with a damp track, a number of riders choosing to stay in the pits instead of risking uncertain conditions on the newly resurfaced track, but the track soon dried out, and conditions improved greatly in the afternoon.
Leon Camier has carried his strong form from last week’s private test at Phillip Island into the official test which started at the circuit on Monday. The FIXI Crescent Suzuki man used a race tire to lap half a second under Max Biaggi’s race lap record, then going on to post a strong race simulation.
The improvements the Crescent Suzuki squad have made, in conjunction with the Japanese Yoshimura company, are clearly paying off, the Suzuki lapping a second quicker than it did at the test last year.
Camier ended the session ahead of Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam, the Ten Kate team well on their way to mastering the new HRC electronics, with still some potential left to come. Haslam was within two tenths of Camier, and just a few thousandths behind Michel Fabrizio, the Italian impressing on the Red Devils Roma Aprilia.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.
They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.
Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.
Fresh from Italy, we get our first glimpse of the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK race bike in its new livery. While the uniforms may look the same, the men wearing them have changed to some extent, and in many ways so has the Italian brand’s racing strategy.
Building its previous team around Max Biaggi, the previous incarnation of Aprilia Racing catered to every whim of The Roman Emperor — read into that as you will. But now with Biaggi’s retirement from motorcycle racing, Aprilia is forced to replace tried-and-true talent with two up-and-coming stars.
Out from behind Max’s shadow, Eugene Laverty is expected to impress this year, having shown himself a formidable rider on the RSV4 Factory last season with his sixth-place Championship finish. Seventh in the Championship himself, Sylvain Guintoli will join the Irishmen, after coming off a tumultuous season with Liberty Racing. With three race wins and six podiums, Guintoli made a definite impression, especially when he was on the slower Ducati.
With both of Aprilia Racing’s WSBK riders starting to come into their own, the Italian brand is showing a lot of growth potential in the premier production-motorcycle racing series. Time will tell on the results, but we expect a bevy of podiums from the Aprilia riders this year, and maybe a win or two. Mas photos after the jump.
Not withstanding the drama of Liberty Racing and Sylvain Guintoli’s slightly absurd dustup and parting of ways, along with the news the BMW Motorrad would fold its factory team into the BMW Italia effort, it’s been business as usual at Brno for World Superbike this week. The same could not be said for Saturday’s Superpole event though, which suffered from fluids being dumped on the track, and then a bout of rain caused the qualifying to go to a wet format. With teams having to adapt to the changing format, the grid for Sunday is certainly an interesting one.
With Race 1 of World Superbike racing at Aragon proving to be a close-fought battle for the top podium spot, the anticipation for Race 2 at the Spanish track was high. Equally rising were the temperatures and wind speeds, which created a new challenge for WSBK teams to deal with in the second race. And though the usual suspects were up at the front of the pack, some newcomers joined them as well, treating World Superbike fans to some very close racing. Race results after the jump.
After seeing Race 1 cancelled for safety concerns, i.e. not having a rain tire that could run in the wet conditions at Monza, World Superbike tried again to put on a show for the Italian fans. Giving riders two warm-up laps to sight the fabled Italian circuit, the race distance was also reduced by a lap to 17 laps total.
With the riders coming in from their two sighting laps, the hands from a majority of the racers went up on the grid, signaling that they did not want to start the race. Race Direction obliged, and delayed the start because of the conditions. Regrouping and going out on another warm-up lap, Monza continued to be problematic and claimed two victims, as BMW Italia rider Michel Fabrizio and pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli both suffered from malfunctions on the lap, and had to scratch their starts.
If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.