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Lorenzo Savadori

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With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks.

Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.

The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test.

The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations – new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.

All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November.

It looks set to be a quiet year on the rider market for World Superbike, with the leading seats already filled for 2018, but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies, and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year, but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer.

Prior to winning two races before the summer break, the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha, but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.

For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo, and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad.

The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year, and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.

Eugene Laverty was second on the timesheets for both days in Portimao, and afterwards the Irishman declared that he was happy, confident, and aiming for wins from the opening round of the WorldSBK season.

“I feel a lot more confidence ahead of Phillip Island after this test,” said Laverty. “We’ve had six days on the bike now. The November test was just to get used to the Pirelli tyres again, and by the end of that test I was feeling ok with them.”

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.

Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But, who was the best rider of 2016? This is the our Top 10 riders of the 2016 World Superbike season. It’s always easy to go with the champion for any Top 10 list, and while Chaz Davies would also have been a very deserving candidate, ultimately Rea’s title defense was superb. The Kawasaki rider was clearly not as comfortable with the 2016 bike as its predecessor, but Rea won nine races and was in constant control of the title fight. He did this by winning fewer races than Davies, leading fewer laps than Davies or Sykes, and having fewer pole positions.

The Jerez Test was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori, but while the bike was similar, it was new surroundings for both riders.

With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017, the opening day of the Jerez test was the team’s first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience on the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike, and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day.

For SMR however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RRs during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss, Shaun Muir, it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

The second day of the Jerez test dawned in similar circumstances to yesterday. With dense fog and cool temperatures, it looked as though there would be sparse action on track, but almost immediately Ondrej Jezek rolled down pitlane.

With the Grillini team only running for half of the allotted time, Jezek was keen to get out and gain some experience on a World Superbike machine.

While the Czech was spinning laps, the majority of the field was biding their time for the conditions to improve. While yesterday the KRT riders stayed in the pits all day they did get some wet weather running today.

Come to Spain they said, the weather will be great they said…There are typically only a handful of valuable winter testing venues. Jerez in the south of Spain is one of the most popular.

Usually the winter sun provides almost perfect conditions for World Superbike teams to undertake their off-season programs. The weather was not co-operating today, and there was limited mileage for all of the runners.

The test did however offer the first glimpses of the Milwaukee Aprilia. Their partnership has been one of the biggest off-season talking points, and while Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty were unable to complete a lot of miles, they were at least able to start their tenure with the team.

Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But, it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through. One of the key factors in the choice, for both Laverty and Milwaukee SMR, was to have strong factory support from Aprilia for the 2017 season. The Aprilia RSV4 RF is still widely viewed as the best package on the WorldSBK grid inside the paddock, subject to the condition that the team running the bike has support from the Noale factory.