Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) left Kyalami as the top man in testing every single day, setting a new track best of 1:39.714 early on in the last of three hot and humid days of a South African summer.
A further two riders, Ben Spies (Yamaha Motor Italia) and Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) also dipped into the 1:39s – Spies with a 39.978 and Haga 39.984. All three top riders, like most of the riders in the World Superbike division, used qualifying tires to set their best times. Pirelli brought 5000 tires to this test, a combination of new and proven options, which ran to six fronts and nine rears.
Spies was on strong form on day three again, after losing time on day two after a crash and today with technical gremlins in the morning. He did long runs and was happy to be consistently fast in each.
Fourth placed rider Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was on stock rubber all weekend (as the third rider in a loose team set-up he is not classed as having a top team entry), including his qualifying tire. But even on regular race tires he outperformed several bigger names on his first full World Superbike test session.
These included his team-mate Carlos Checa, just behind and overcoming a few troubles and a crash, but his last day was encouraging after some problems and transponder issues on day one.
Top Suzuki rider Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki) was only sixth, after some more promising early displays but the new Suzuki looks consistently fast already, if not quite as fast on qualifiers quite yet. His teammate Yukio Kagayama was right behind him, seventh.
The team bonds at this test proved strong, as Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano (Aprilia Racing) were eighth and ninth out of 13 Superbikes, in what was a busy three days. For the RSV4 duo this included a few technical issues at times, as the pace increased. Nakano was unable to improve on the last day as he had both bikes out for a period, and he lost valuable time, particularly when trying to set a single good lap.
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) sacrificed lap-time for track time and did a full 23-lap race simulation near the end. He thus finished only 10th on the sheets, with a 1:41.067 – still only 1.3 seconds from Fabrizio’s quickest.
Only just behind the ‘old’ Honda came the new BMW, in the hands of Troy Corser. He fell at Wesbank today, but recovered to post 11th best time, a highly respectable 1:41.102.
Another crasher, who hurt his shoulder and particularly his right ankle, was Tom Sykes (Yamaha Motor Italia) and after being ill on days one and two, his torrid test left him further away from the leaders than he had hoped with a 1:41.562.
Ruben Xaus, taking on a lot of roles during this test, was down in 13th place, taking his BMW just over two seconds from the top pace. In its first outing against its peers, the new BMW showed huge promise.
In Supersport, with only two Hannspree Ten Kate Honda riders around, Kenan Sofuoglu blew everyone’s minds with a 1:’42.872, with 2008 World Champion Andrew Pitt doing a time over a second from his teammate.
The threat of rain was around for the last couple of hours at Kyalami, causing some frenzied late activity to try and post good times before the weather closed in terminally. But despite constant lightning storms and dark clouds scudding across the skies, the rains bypassed the track.
The next tests for the majority of the World Superbike paddock are at Portimao in Portugual, January 23-25, in the form of official ‘all-out’ FGSport sessions.
COMBINED BEST TIMES ACROSS ALL THREE DAYS
1. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) 1:39.714
2. Ben Spies (Yamaha Motor Italia) 1:39.978
3. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) 1:39.984
4. Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) 1:40.035
5. Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) 1:40.170
6. Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) 1:40.394
7. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki Alstare) 1:40.657
8. Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) 1:40.768
9. Shinya Nakano (Aprilia Racing) 1:40.968
10. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) 1:41.067
11. Troy Corser (BMW) 1:41.102
12. Tom Sykes (Yamaha Motor Italia) 1:41.562
13. Ruben Xaus (BMW) 1:41.996