Rainy conditions abound in Assen for the Dutch round of World Superbikes, and the wet weather has already claimed its first victim: Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam. Catching his foot in the wheel during a crash in FP1, Haslam fractured both his tibia and fibula on his left leg during the off, and has been unfortunately ruled out of the Sunday’s race.
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’re not sure who is behind the liveries for Honda Europe’s racing department, but they do a damn fine job of creating simple, understated, and gorgeous race graphics. Channeling some more of that Honda RC30 goodness, HRC is also the second team to adopt the faux-headlights that World Superbike will mandate for bikes in the 2013 season.
While the graphics might be different for 2013, the machine certainly isn’t. Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will have their work cutout for them next season, especially since we hear that the WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR is a bit of handful, as Hiroshi Aoyama can attest to (his bike is pictured above).
With Rea said to have opted to stay in WSBK, instead of a move into MotoGP, the Ulsterman has really been the only rider that can decipher the CBR’s code, and after seeing his performance at Misano and Aragon, we think that’s more of testament to Rea’s skill, than a fluke match between man and machine.
Hopefully things will get better in 2014, when Honda’s V4-powered homologation special hits the streets.
World Superbike’s next stop is Silverstone, and BMW Motorrad’s resident Brit was willing enough to bear all to help promote WSBK’s stop at his home round. Stripping his leathers down to his waist, Leon Haslam got his torso and arms painted by by double World Body Painting Champion Carolyn Roper. Taking three hours to complete the effect, Roper’s work is pretty phenomenal, as was Leon’s patience.
“It was frustrating having to stand in one place for three hours and not see what was going on, but I couldn’t believe it when Carolyn had finished applying the paint and I was finally allowed to look in the mirror,” said Haslam. “The body paint was unbelievably realistic and the attention to detail, right down to the sponsors’ badges, was incredible. Carolyn is amazingly talented.”
Check after the jump for the superb photos by the UK’s renowned photographer Gary Prior, along with a time-lapse video of the whole process. Don’t worry ladies, we have embedded the full-resolution photos in the post, while the “smaller” 2000px photos are in the gallery.
In an effort to reduce costs and focus resources, BMW Motorrad announced today that it would be consolidating its World Superbike racing program for the 2013 Championship. Folding the factory BMW Motorrad team into the current BMW Italia squad, the Italain arm of the German company will run the WSBK program, developing the chassis, finding sponsors, and handling all race-related items, while Munich will develop the WSBK-spec BMW S1000RR’s powertrain and electronics package.
As often happens when a major manufacturer decides to take a major leap by participating in a World Championship series the media goes crazy, which is exactly what happened when BMW Motorrad decided to descend on the tracks of the WSBK Championship. At the time, there were those who said that the BMW bike would have never been able to win a race, but the majority of the voices in and out of the paddock were pretty united in the concept that “if BMW decides it wants to win, sooner or later it will reach its objective,” something that as we have seen that happened in relatively little time.
After three seasons of “apprenticeship” that were necessary to get all the cogs working smoothly and to acquire the necessary experience on the track, BMW has finally reached the necessary competitive edge to reach the front of the pack, and from the beginning of the 2012 season the S1000RR has established itself as a contender at the top of the leaderboards. BMW Motorrad for the third year in a row, has given its most accredited journalists the possibility to try its racebikes mid-season, and we were clearly not going to let this opportunity slip by us.
The first time we were given this opportunity, it was BMW Motorrad Italy who gave us the handlebars of the S1000RR Superstock bike with which Andrea Badovini dominated the FIM Superstock Cup, and the success of this journalist test was so great that BMW Motorrad proper (the Germans) decided to open up the test to the official team bikes. In the meantime the Italian BMW team had debuted in WSBK, and so in 2011 we had the incredible opportunity to try all three types of racebikes.
So here we are in 2012, with the S1000RR which won its first victories in the WSBK Championship. More competitive and intriguing than ever and as has become a tradition, we are again ready to try the newest racing bikes with the famous BMW propeller on their tanks. The location may be different, as we now find ourselves in Misano Adriatico (which should make the Monza track haters among us quite happy), but everything else remains basically the same.
For the format, there are now four bikes to try. The warm-up laps to learn the track will be done on a stock S1000RR street bike, followed by a ride on the Superstock bike belonging to Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni. Following these we get some laps aboard the BMW Motorrad factory bikes of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, and the day on the BMW Motorrad Italia machines that are campaigned by Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio.
With Saturday’s Superpole qualifying mixing up the field for Sunday’s races, with three of the Top 5 contenders were relegated to the back of the starting grid, World Superbike’s stop at Misano proved to be a pivotal moment in the Championship.
Italian fans waited to see if Tom Sykes could finally capitalize on one of this many pole positions this year, though attention was also divided among Max Biagg, Carlos Checa, and Marco Melandri whom were outside the top eight spots at the start both races. Showing some truly phenonomenal racing, the results of Race 2 at Misano are sure to have a lasting effect on the 2012 points totals.