One of the bikes we are most looking forward to seeing debut this new bike season is the Ducati Panigale V4 R. This weekend, we got part of that hope fulfilled, as the race version of the Panigale V4 R debut at the British Superbike round at Brands Hatch.
On the machine was Ducati MotoGP test rider, Michele Pirro, who undoubtedly has been helping hone the superbike for its true racing debut next season, in the World Superbike Championship.
Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes are two riders who have proved that short circuit riders can still make the switch to the roads.
Twenty years ago the, top British short circuit riders were all racing on the roads. Whether you were an up and coming John McGuinness, or an established star like Michael Rutter, it was expected that you would join the list of short circuit racers that raced on the roads.
The practice was as old as factory contracts, and it was expected that if you wanted to have the best bikes in the British championships, you would race at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT.
That practice has slowly faded out, but in recent years the move has been made by some short circuit riders to return to the roads.
Josh Brookes and Peter Hickman have both shown exactly what short circuit riders can do on the roads, and with Hickman having won a series of international races, and Glenn Irwin's recent North West 200 victory, it's clear there are still some short circuit riders keen to test their nerves.
Above: Glen Irwin is a man fast on the roads and on the short circuits. He won the feature race at last year’s North West 200 and backed that up with a win in Macau. As I write this, he’s just won a race at the North West 200 on his Ducati.
If MotoGP contracts were handed out based solely on the character of a race track, then Oulton Park in England would be at the top of the list.
The city is set in the idyllic Cheshire countryside, only 30 miles from the Beatles hometown of Liverpool, and 13 miles from the historic city of Chester. The track is fast, techinical, with natural elevation changes and spectacular scenery.
There are few finer places to watch motorcycle racing when the sun is shining than at Oulton Park. The natural banking around the track offers great unobstructed views.
If you’re a keen photographer the circuit offers fantastic opportunities with very few fences getting in the way.
Our second installment (be sure to read the first and third installments as well) in a three-part look at the rule changes made to the World Superbike Championship for the 2018 season, today we get the perspective of Scott Smart, the FIM Superbike Technical Director, who rewrote the WorldSBK rulebook.
Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet.
The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes.
“There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart.
“With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”
Four years ago, Peter Hickman was a mid-pack British Superbike rider whose career was looking for a spark. He found that spark at the Isle of Man TT. Fast-forward to current time, and Peter Hickman has already established his road racing credentials prior to this year's Isle of Man TT.
With victories at the Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix, Hickman had shown that he has the speed, but five podiums at this year's TT has cemented his reputation as a front-runner on the roads.
Success hasn't come easy to the three-time British Superbike race-winner though, and after claiming a second place finish in this year's Senior TT race, he made it clear how much this TT had meant to him.
Sylvain Guintoli is to replace Alex Rins at Suzuki from the next race at Le Mans onwards, until Rins is fit to return. To help him prepare for his return to MotoGP, Guintoli will test the Suzuki GSX-RR on Monday, at the official Jerez test.
Choosing the Frenchman to replace Rins at Le Mans is an obvious choice. Guintoli has previous experience in MotoGP, having ridden a Yamaha and Ducati in 2007 and 2008.
The second and final day of testing at Jerez is complete for the World Superbike series, and though the names at the top are familiar, the order is a little less clear cut than it was yesterday.
Jonathan Rea is still fastest, the reigning world champion a tenth quicker than anyone else on track, and one of only two riders to drop into the 1’39s.
But behind the Kawasaki rider is not his teammate Tom Sykes, but Milwaukee Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori. The Italian posted an impressive time in the afternoon, jumping to finish between the two Kawasakis.
Tom Sykes ended the day in third, four tenths behind teammate Rea. Both Kawasaki men fell during the day, not the only riders to crash, as Althea BMW riders Jordi Torres (WSBK) and Marco Faccani (STK1000) also fell, the two BMW men injuring their shoulders in the fall.
The 2017 season is now officially underway, as bikes roll back out for testing. First up are the denizens of the World Superbike series, with most of the major teams getting underway at a sunny, but not especially warm, Jerez de la Frontera circuit.
A good selection of teams are present, including the Kawaski, Honda, Yamaha, Ducati factory teams, the Milwaukee Aprilia squad – now resplendent in their official 2017 colors – the Althea BSB team, and Puccetti Kawasaki.
The WorldSBK riders are joined by the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team from BSB, as well as a selection of World Supersport and Superstock 1000 riders.
Reigning champion Jonathan Rea topped the timesheets, starting the new season where he left off the previous one. Rea was a quarter of a second faster than his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, and six tenths quicker than Chaz Davies on the Aruba.it Ducati.