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.
The second day of the private test for the World Superbike teams at Phillip Island went very much as the first day did: with fast times, and a lot of crashes. The new surface was to blame for both: Leon Camier got half a second under the race lap record, but the on/off grip levels of the track saw him, and almost every one else, flung off their bikes at one point or another.
Camier ended the day fastest, the engine updates on his FIXI Crescent Suzuki improving the machine considerably, along with electronic updates for the bike. Sylvain Guintoli – the man Suzuki originally signed alongside Camier, but who jumped ship for the factory Aprilia ride – was 2nd, a tenth off the pace of Camier, proving that the Aprilia RSV4 still a potent weapon.
Johnny Rea put the Pata Honda into 3rd, with work continuing on ironing out the wrinkles with the HRC electronics, with both Rea and Haslam pleased with the progress made, though still aware of the task ahead. Marco Melandri was the fastest BMW man, though the Italian was wary of pushing too hard for fear of crashing, and adding further damage to his painful shoulder. Melandri did put in a long run on used tires, running a consistent string of laps around the 1’32 mark, a solid race pace.
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.
We must be getting close to the 2013 World Superbike season-opener at Phillip Island, because a bevy of teams are debuting their 2013 bikes and riders for the media this week. Returning for the 2013 season, Paul Denning’s Fixi Crescent Suzuki team is ready to race its venerable stead against the other factory teams. For Fixi Crescent though, the battle will be tough-fought, with little support coming in from Suzuki Motor Co., and also with the news that Yoshimura will not be building the team’s GSX-R1000 race engines.
Instead, riders Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel will ride machines whose engines have been built in-house by the Crescent Racing crew, while Yoshimura continues its R&D with the GSX-R1000 and does long-term development for the team. Taking a private test at Phillip Island February 14-15th, and then having the official WSBK test at the same venue later that week on February 18th and 19th, Fixi Crescent Suzuki’s mettle will finally be tested with World Superbike’s first race on Sunday, February 24th.
I have heard only good things about Motorland Aragon, and the Spanish track is on the short-list of circuits I would like to visit in the coming year. Until I can make that trip though, this video, courtesy of FIXI Crescent Suzuki, might be the closest I can get to riding the venue.
Riding on-board with Leon Camier, this two-minute clip is for the purists. There is no K-pop audio track, no dubsteb distraction, and certainly no symphonic overtures. Just a Brit banging his wrist on a Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R1000 WSBK race bike. The concerto is after the jump.
John Hopkins continues his stepping-stone return to MotoGP, and accordingly will compete in the 2012 World Superbike Championship with Paul Denning’s Crescent Fixi Suzuki team (note the newly announced title sponsor). Campaigning on the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000, Hopper will have a steep nine-fingered challenge this season, as Suzuki has pulled its official race support out of WSBK. As such, Yoshimura has been tapped by Crescent Suzuki to help develop the GSX-R’s motor, while the team will continue to employ its lessons learned from both the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP paddocks.
Showing briefly the bikes that John Hopkins and Leon Camier will campaign in World Superbike this season, Crescent Fixi Suzuki is already on the road and headed to Phillip Island for the WSBK pre-season test that is scheduled for February 26th. For those that don’t know (and there is no reason you should), co-title sponsor Fixi is not an urban-oriented bicycle company, but instead provides foreign exchange solutions to Tier 1 investors — whatever those are.
With the news that Crescent Suzuki would make a move from the British Superbike Championship, and enter into the World Superbike Championship, all eyes have been on whom the British team would field as riders. Anglo-American John Hopkins was heavily favored to be the still-unannounced teammate to Leon Camier on the squad, provided the former-MotoGP racer didn’t find his way back into the premier class. With Suzuki withdrawing from MotoGP last week and effectively ending Hopper’s 2012 MotoGP bid, Crescent Suzuki has now confirmed that Hopkins will make his return to World Superbike racing with the all-British team.
The World Superbike team roster will grow a little bit next year, as Crescent Suzuki, formerly of British Superbike fame, will join the premier production motorcycle racing series. While there was considerable chatter over whom would ride for Crescent Suzuki, the British team has confirmed that Leon Camier will race on the company’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 race bike. Leaving some room for more paddock speculation, Crescent Suzuki says it will announce Camier’s teammate at a later date, an announcement that surely is influenced by whether or not John Hopkins makes a move to the MotoGP Championship for the 2012 season.