Jonathan Rea leads the field after an incident-packed second day of testing for the World Superbike class at Phillip Island. Warmer weather and intense testing saw several riders take some serious tumbles, with a couple of riders suffering significant injury.
Fabio Menghi fell and fractured a hip in the morning, while Josh Hook crashed in the afternoon and dislocated his shoulder, and fracturing his greater tubercle (top of the bone in the upper arm). The crashes and subsequent clean-up meant that much of the afternoon session was lost, as marshals tried to clear the track.
The second day of testing did throw up the intriguing prospect of a nicely mixed field. Rea topped the morning session on the Kawasaki, while Sylvain Guintoli was quickest in the afternoon, on the Pata Yamaha. The top four overall times were set on four different bikes, less than a quarter of a second separating them.
With the World Superbike season almost upon us, the WSBK grid is at Phillip Island for two days of testing, ahead of the first event of the year which starts this weekend.
Rain disrupted practice for WSBK, just as it had for MotoGP last week, though the consequences were less severe. The rain and track conditions saw a few people fall – some, such as Karel Abraham, quite hard – but everyone will be fit to start testing again tomorrow.
With the start of the season so close, most of the work being done was on set up for the weekend, and it was once again the Kawasakis who came out on top, especially during the afternoon session.
Tom Sykes ended up on top of the timesheets, much to the delight of the Kawasaki man, who has historically not fared well at the circuit.
“Go to Phillip Island to test,” they said. “It will be summer, conditions will be perfect.” What they didn’t say was that this was summer in Phillip Island, a season which can include all four of the other seasons of the year.
Sure, it was warmer than in October, but rain kept blowing in off the Bass Strait, drenching the track, then the winds drying the track out, before another shower drenched the track.
“Honestly, it was a waste of a day for everyone,” was Cal Crutchlow’s assessment of the day. “The last two corners were dry at the end but the first four corners were soaking wet and the rest were somewhere in between.”
Dani Pedrosa was in broad agreement. “I think it’s quite rare to have full wet conditions in this track, because it dries up so quick. We had most of the day, half the track dry, half the track wet, and spraying all the time, and drying again all the time.”
Going by the number of laps posted by each rider – between twenty and thirty, where eighty or ninety might be more normal – the first day of the second MotoGP test at Phillip Island could indeed be regarded as wasted.
Phillip Island is arguably the greatest race track for motorcycles in the world. It is a circuit where every racer wants to race, where every trackday rider wants to cut some laps, where every race fan wants to visit. There are a million reasons to visit Phillip Island, all of them good.
Testing in preparation for a MotoGP season is not one of them, however. Phillip Island has a long history of riders winning based on bravery and ability, rather than equipment.
In October, Maverick Viñales finished in sixth on the massively underpowered Suzuki GSX-RR, just a second behind Dani Pedrosa, who had won a week previously at Motegi and would win a week later at Sepang.
Between the two of them, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have won twelve of the last fourteen races on a variety of Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis.
Testing at Phillip Island does not teach you as much about the motorcycle underneath the rider as it does about the rider on top of the motorcycle, and the testicular fortitude they are able to display at the circuit.
Viñales described testing at the track as being about checking to see if he had “the cojones” around the circuit. With a new, more powerful GSX-RR at his disposal, there was one useful aspect of testing at the Island: “I need to use more cojones if I have more power,” he quipped.
The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast comes from the World Superbike paddock, as myself and Steve English attended the WSBK test in Jerez, Spain a couple week ago.
Getting a chance to talk to most of the top teams, Steve and I go through what we can expect to see this season, and how things are shaping up for the boys in the World Superbike.
We hope to be bringing you a number of episodes that will cover the World Superbike Championship throughout the year, so there is something to look forward to in that regard.
The WSBK season starts officially in the last week of February, and we plan on being there starting Race 1.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
With Ducati refining the already competitive GP15 into the Desmo16, and Suzuki bringing a seamless gearbox and new, more powerful engine for the GSX-RR, the battle among the manufacturers in MotoGP is getting closer.
The one exception so far has been Aprilia, who soldiered on through 2015 with an uprated version of the ART machine, which was still based on the RSV4 production bike, while they worked on a brand new prototype.
That prototype has at last made its debut at the track. On Wednesday, Aprilia test rider Mike Di Meglio took the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP out for its first official spin (see the unblurred photo on GPone).
The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider has raised more questions than it answered. Fans and media alike are in a state of confusion about his intentions, especially given the times he was setting on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15.
What was he doing? Will he race again? When will he test again? To try to put this test and Stoner’s role into perspective, here is what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t.