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.
If I had to forecast the results of the 2013 World Superbike Championship this very day, without seeing the teams grid up for their first race at Phillip Island, my money would be on the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team. The consolidation of the factory BMW Motorrad team and BMW Motorrad Italia team into one unit, the German brand has compiled all its racing resources into one stout package.
Retaining the formidable services of Marco Melandri, who was in the hunt for the 2012 WSBK title to the very end of the season despite injuries, BMW Motorrad’s number-two rider, Chaz Davies, is no slouch either. With both BMW-men showing the prowess of the WSBK-spec S1000RR earlier this year at Jerez, it was Melandri who topped the time sheets on the test’s dry second day. Sending a clear message of things to come this season.
While I still expect to see strong competition from Tom Sykes and the factory Kawasaki team, and I also don’t think you can count out the Aprilia riders or even Ducati’s Carlos Checa, there is however a tremendous amount of expectation, preparation, and money behind BMW’s World Superbike entry. This year I think we will finally see the team’s hard work payoff in the championship points.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the upcoming changes that will “dumb down” World Superbike racing. With Dorna pushing an agenda that brings the premier production-bike class into something that races bikes that are actually similar to the bikes on the showroom floor, there is a vocal portion of fans and enthusiasts that will hate to see the current spec of machinery go away.
While we may think that making World Superbike more affordable and closer in specification to the current Superstock rules is a positive step for the series, we will certainly miss the bike porn that comes from all the fine WSBK machines.
A motorcycle dripping in sex, one can spend hours drooling over photos like these of the factory BMW S1000RR in WSBK-spec. So a hat-tip to the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK team, for providing this week’s bathroom reading. There are a couple photos of Marco and Chaz in there as well, for the ladies.
Marco Melandri has been given a suspended jail term of one year and seven months for tax evasion by a court in his home town of Ravenna. Melandri was found guilty of trying to evade taxes during the period he lived in Derby, in the UK, the court finding that Melandri’s residence for tax purposes should have been in Ravenna, Italy, Melandri’s home town.
Melandri was a resident in the UK to take advantage of the British non-domiciled resident status, which allows wealthy non-UK citizens with large incomes from sources outside the UK to avoid paying tax on that income. Melandri was one of several riders who had elected to have their residence in Britain for precisely that reason.
When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 – now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor – he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit.
Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. “I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!” Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1’29s (just, his fastest lap being 1’29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1’30s.
We don’t usually do the whole “girl on a motorcycle” pin-up thing here at A&R, but we’ll make an exception for Manuela Raffaeta. Thanks to a certain Italian TV director’s not-so-secret love affair, Manuela rivals Marco Melandri, her boyfriend, for airtime on the WSBK live feed on just about any WSBK weekend. We can understand World Superbike’s obsession with this boxum beauty, as Manuela is not only quite the looker, but she is also a total sweetheart when you talk to her in person.
With her man on a tear in the WSBK Championship with the BMW S1000RR, along with her newfound TV fame, Manuela has also picked up some modeling work with BMW Motorrad, posing this week at the BMW Museum. Classic BMW bikes, modern Italian beauty — what’s not to like? Photos of Manuela standing next Steve McLaughlin’s BMW R90S, after the jump.