Fabrizio Leads Them To Opener

Henny Ray Abrams | February 22, 2009

With the World Superbike Championship opener just a week away, Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio put himself at the top of the time sheets in the final test session of the season at Phillip Island in Australia, the site of next week’s opener.”We have worked mainly on getting up to race pace today and it’s gone pretty well,” Fabrizio said in a team release. “In the late morning I completed a long-run with lap times that were similar to those I recorded during last year’s race here so I was pleased with that. It’s all looking good for next weekend and I’m feeling quietly confident.”Day two on the island was a Ducati day as Fabrizio’s teammate Noriyuki Haga also stepped it up to end up second fastest overall. Fabrizio lapped at 1:32.19 with Haga just a tenth of a second behind his teammate. Haga, however, did crash again for a second staight day – the crash coming after he’d set his best lap.”I’d say overall that it has been a productive day,” Haga said. “We have once again tested many different things and I feel I’m starting to know the bike better, but we still have work to do in order to test all the configurations that the bike permits. I rode race distance which was a useful exercise and I was quite happy with the wear of the tires, especially the front. On Friday we want to test some different suspension settings as I am not yet totally comfortable with the front.  I’m sorry that I crashed again in exactly the same way and place as yesterday, but accidents happen and overall I’m happy with the work we’ve done here.”Texan Ben Spies showed that with a little time on the fast Australian track that he too will be a force to be reckoned with as he jumped to third fastest on the factory Yamaha.The biggest surprise of the day, however, goes to Troy Corser with the Aussie riding the new BMW to the fourth fastest time today and the sixth best overall. Corser ended the day with an injured arm – not from crashing but from hitting one of the area’s notorious seagulls. The incident kept Corser off the track for the rest of the day.”That was a very scary moment I can tell you,” Corser explained in his press release. “I saw the bird on the track and moved inside to avoid it, but it flew up at the last moment – straight into my left bicep. Hitting a one kilo or so bird at over 230 kph is no joke and my left hand was forced from the handlebar and I had to control the bike with just my right hand. I’m not sure how I managed it, but somehow I did and was able to get the bike back to the pits. The left bicep was already swollen so I paid a trip to the doctors and was told not to get on the bike again and rest the arm as much as possible.”It was a pity, because we had quite a bit more to test and were not able to do so. But, we did manage a lot of stuff and I feel very comfortable on the bike. The S 1000 RR feels as good round Phillip Island as any other bike I’ve ridden round here. I’m not bothered at all about other people’s lap times. I know what I can do on race rubber and I know that laps in a long race are very different to setting one-off quick laps. We are progressing and although there is a lot of work to be done, everybody is fired up, working hard and determined to do the very best they can. Let’s see what happens next week now.”Suzuki men Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama – the fastest and third fastest from yesterday’s session – didn’t fare as well today as they failed to reach the times they’d done a day earlier. Still, they only slipped to fourth and fifth overall.Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa didn’t ride today after suffering a concussion in his crash yesterday, leaving his teammate Jonathan Rea to put in the best laps for the Honda team.  Rea ended the test as the seventh quickest rider.

Overall Best Lap Times1. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:32.19

2. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:32.30

3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:32.36

4. Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) 1:32.59

5. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1:32.78

6. Troy Corser (BMW) 1:32.93

7. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:32.96

8. Tom Sykes (Yamaha) 1:33.10

9. Carlos Checa (Honda) 1:33.3

10. Ruben Xaus (BMW) 1:33.53

11. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda) 1:34.0

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.