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.