Well, it’s that time of the year. A rather warm goodbye to winter for motor racing fans – with the season opener of the World Superbikes season at Phillip Island, Australia.
Being exposed to the spectacular Bass Straits, the reality is the weather changes so often at Phillip Island that you can have all four seasons in a day.
This did indeed prove to be the case on Friday and Saturday, and it resulted in some pretty special light – which every photographer is on the lookout for. Cloudy skies, spots of sun, and micro-climate.
The green machines with Rea and Sykes seem to have picked up pretty much from where they left off last year. Chaz Davies, who had a terrific second half to 2015 was brimming with confidence – and it showed in his times.
And for American fans, there was of course the welcomed sight of Nicky Hayden’s #69 to look forward to. Welcome to the season opener of World Superbikes 2016 from Phillip Island – where questions outnumber answers.
If you are an American who was hoping to see motorcycle racing on basic cable, we have bad news for you all three major series – MotoGP, World Superbike, and MotoAmerica – will air exclusively on the premium TV network beIN Sports this year.
The deal with beIN Sports mimics similar deals we have seen Dorna cut elsewhere abroad, where the media rights holder of both MotoGP and World Superbike favors deals with premium television companies over basic broadcast stations.
These deals usually mean more money for Dorna, though come with the downside of fewer viewers for the sport of motorcycle racing.
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.
The 2016 World Superbike season is rapidly approaching, and Yamaha Racing wants to remind you all that it has entered back into the premier production racing championship.
As such, the Pata Yamaha squad stayed over an extra day at the Jerez Test earlier this month, producing a little preview video of the WSBK season to come.
Asphalt & Rubber was lucky enough to be on-location with the Pata Yamaha team during the filming of this video, which is only an interesting piece of information in that we finally get to see the finished product from the work we witnessed first-hand.
Time will tell if the Yamaha YZF-R1 can be competitive in WSBK, right out of the gate. It certainly looks the business in person, with riders Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes working well with the Crescent Racing squad.
Let the countdown begin for the WSBK season-opener at Phillip Island, on February 28th. It should be a good season.
The start of the 2016 World Superbike Championship is rapidly approaching, and while good money favors the Kawasaki Racing Team, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Team is looking very strong this year, and is poised well to impress at the series-opener in Australia.
Three years now on the same platform, Chaz Davies looks especially strong this year, and should certainly be in the podium hunt on any race weekend. We wouldn’t count him out of winning the Championship outright either. Listen to the latest Paddock Pass Podcast for our further thoughts on this.
“Last year was full of satisfaction. To be the first rider to win a race with the Panigale R meant a lot, not only for me but also all of Ducati and the many Ducatisti all over the world. We improved all the time and gradually achieved a package that was competitive at all circuits.”
“This was exactly the same during the winter tests, where with the latest evolutions in suspension and electronics, we could focus on performance over the distance. I am optimistic and can’t wait to start the championship,” Davies concluded.
Both Davies and teammate Davide Giugliano look very comfortable on the Ducati Panigale R, which will start the season this year with the GP-styled Akrapovic exhaust that debuted last year.
“After a difficult season, we are now looking ahead with optimism. Many things have changed, both on the bike and in my team, and I’d like to thank Ducati for this opportunity.”
“I’m starting to work well with Aligi and Paolo, my new crew chief and electronics technician. In the last test I was once again as quick as the top guys. I’m optimistic and can’t wait to go to Australia,” added Davide Giugliano.
Any high-level race bike is sex on wheels, but there is something about Ducati’s World Superbike effort that seems to produce machines that are extra-worthy of our saliva. The official team debut photos are after the jump, for that very purpose. Enjoy!