Jonathan Rea has topped the final World Superbike test of the 2017 preseason, a few days before the season kicks off in earnest at Phillip Island.
The reigning champion was fastest in the morning session, though he had to cede top spot to Marco Melandri in the afternoon. But the Kawasaki man had gone fast enough in the morning to just edge the Ducati of Melandri, and end the test as fastest overall.
Chaz Davies was third fastest, three tenths off the time of his Ducati teammate Melandri, but still ahead of the Kawasaki if Tom Sykes. Xavi Fores made it three Ducatis in the top five, while Leon Camier put the MV Agusta into 6th place, in what is a promising start to the 2017 season.
After three glorious days for MotoGP testing, the weather at Phillip Island has taken a turn for the worse. The first day of the final two-day test for the WorldSBK series ahead of this weekend’s opener was hampered by strong winds and intermittent showers, wreaking havoc on the teams’ testing programs.
The World Supersport series had the best of the weather, the first hour of the morning taking place on a track that was pretty well dry, but the rain hit shortly after that.
Showers continued through the first session for the World Superbike class, but relented in the afternoon, giving the WorldSBK men a little dry track time.
Xavi Forés ended the day on top of the timesheets in the World Superbike class, putting in a couple of quick laps at the very end of the day. The Barni Ducati rider bumped reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea off top spot, the Kawasaki rider holding on to second ahead of Marco Melandri on the factory Ducati.
The competitors for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have just concluded a two-day tire test at the Colorado road course, and it should perhaps come as no surprise that our boy Carlin Dunne has posted the outright fastest lap for a motorcycle during the tire test (the Santa Barbara native set the outright two-wheeled course record last year on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S). What is surprising about Carlin’s result at the tire test is that he was on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike. That’s right, the fastest bike so far for 2013’s Race to the Clouds is a 200+ hp electric superbike that is refueled with solar energy. Petrol heads, eat your heart out.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won his second pole of the 2011 World Superbike season to start the season finale at Portimao on pole. He beat newly minted champion Carlos Checa to pole by more than two tenths in Saturday’s Superpole session, despite the riders having traded fast laps in Friday’s sessions. Joining them on the front row are soon-to-be-former Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row. 2010 champion Max Biaggi returned for the final race weekend after missing three race meetings due to a foot injury sustained at Nurburgring. Though he was quick on Friday and in the practice session, Biaggi managed only to qualify seventeenth.
Chris Vermeulen and Roberto Rolfo, along with Ruben Xaus did not participate on the weekend, all suffering from injuries that kept them home. Vermeulen was not replaced, though Rolfo was by his satellite Kawasaki team. The Italian had broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week, leaving room for Santiago Barragan to fill in for him. Karl Muggerridge again filled in for Xaus, as the Spainiard’s earlier neck and back injuries also kept him from racing. Though Rea and Checa each held a fat lap on Friday, it was Rea who held provisional pole going into the Superpole sessions. He would not relinquish pole, winning his second of the season. Race 1 was a sunny and bright affair, with a surprising early leader, decisive battles, and a a bit of icing on the cake of the 2011 season.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions at Portimao with a new lap record time. He held off second place starter Carlos Checa with that fast lap set early in the final S3 session. The two riders had dominated the times on Friday, with Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri completing the front row of Starters for Sunday’s races. Though Rea’s fast lap came early in S3, there was plenty of nail biting for riders further back the pack. Multiple riders hauled themselves out of the knockout zone on final flying laps after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row.
Max Biaggi returned for this final round of the 2011 World Superbike season after injury kept him from contesting the championship. Fellow Italian Roberto Rolfo did not compete, having broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week. Santiago Barragan replaced him at Pedericini Kawasaki. Fellow Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen ended this season as he began it, attempting to recover fully from a knee injury sustained in 2010. He did not participate in the weekend. However, Portimao saw Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki again at a WSBK round, though the Australian was knocked out in the final qualifying practice and started only 21st. Finally, word came from Troy Corser that he would not be returning to WSBK racing after this final weekend of the season.
Former MotoGP, current British Superbike, and this weekend’s wild card rider John Hopkins (2:04.041) started the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone on pole after dominating multiple sessions throughout the weekend, including setting a new track fast lap. The American rider led the first practice, the second qualifying practice, and ended the final Superpole session on Saturday on top of the timesheets and on track whilst much of the rest of the field resignedly remained in their garages. He was joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa. Max Biaggi crashed in Superpole 1, hurried through to Superpole 2, and was unable to qualify higher than eleventh on the starting grid.
For Silverstone, home rider James Toseland was back and barely squeaking through to Superpole, though he would only qualify fourteenth. Over at Castrol Honda, it was a bad weekend with both official riders out with injury. Alex Lowes continued to replace Jonathan Rea, but could not make it to Superpole. The worse drama came with Ruben Xaus’ newly-diagnosed L3 vertebrae fracture. Karl Muggeridge was to replace the Spaniard, but he injured his wrist in a mountain biking accident, leaving Fabrizio Lai to take the place of the replacement. Tom Sykes also had trouble in Saturday’s free practice, in the form of a crash that left him with a sprained ankle and minor concussion. He did not participate in Superpole, but started sixteenth. In the morning warm-up, Biaggi as fastest, leading a top five of Berger, Camier, Haslam, and Hopkins.
Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.
All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.
To call the Dakar dangerous is probably an understatement, as the rally has been fraught with stories of peril from its very inception. Often alone in some of the most remote terrain in the world, riders rely primarily on themselves for their safety, but the sport is marked with moments where participants put aside competition to help each other.
Stage 5 of the 2011 Dakar Rally had one of those stories yesterday, as KTM rider, and overall race leader Marc Coma found himself as the first person to come across an unconscious Olivier Pain on the race course. Coma, who himself had sustained a fall earlier in the day, stopped at Pain’s crash site and activated the unconscious rider’s emergency beacon. Coma stayed with with the fallen rider until his water carrier, Joan Pedrero, arrived on the scene.
Australian Casey Stoner topped the time sheets today at Valencia, in MotoGP’s second and last test at the Spanish track for week. Although clearly adapting to the Honda RC212V quickly, Stoner was still unable to touch Jorge Lorenzo’s top testing time from yesterday, with the World Champion being five hundredths of a second faster than the Aussie. While Stoner and Lorenzo were busy dazzling the at the front of the time sheet, the majority everyone’s attention was trained on Valentino Rossi, who tested over a second and half behind Stoner, putting him nearly at the bottom of the scrap heap for the day.
While many Rossi fans were expecting the Italian to light up the Spanish track on his new Ducati, Rossi battled a front-end issue (different from the one Stoner experienced) that prevented him pushing the GP11 hard in the testing sessions. Testing only the Big Bang motor, and not the Screamer, it looks like Ducati will stick in that direction for the 2011 season, as Nicky Hayden tested both motors and preferred the Big Bang configuration. Valentino Rossi and Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess will likely be talking to Ducati the rest of the week about where the team should focus its resources in developing the GP11 further. Testing results after the jump.
World Superbike hits Italy again this season, with WSBK stopping at Misano for its racing action. Sunday’s race should be a good one as there was a surprise result in Saturday’s Superpole qualifying event. Mixing it up on the front row is a glimpse of faces of old, some newcomers, and the usual suspects, which could sort itself out very interestingly in Sunday’s races. Find the full results after the jump.
Phillip Island served up another nail-biter for WSBK fans this Sunday. With the race winner making a last lap pass, no one could have guessed the top four finishers in this race. With a few familiar faces, along with a few new hopefuls, wrapping up the first stop on the World Superbike Championship only wets the appetite further for the rest of the WSBK season. Rider quotes, video highlights, and race standings after the jump.