Fabrizio Leads Ducati Domination

Gordon Ritchie | February 22, 2010

The factory Ducati Xerox machine of Michel Fabrizio was fastest over two days of official pre-season testing at Phillip Island in Australia, but Althea Ducati privateer Shane Byrne finished just .012 of a second from the fastest lap time, as Ducati riders were in the ascendancy.A wet track stopped any Superbike riders from making progress in the early period of the second day, but Fabrizio set his leading lap of 1:31.650 near the end of the morning session, and was unable to beat it in the windy afternoon. None of the riders could match the circuit best of 1:31.050 of Regis Laconi’s Ducati, from 2009, but none were running qualifying tires in this test.The factory tire test teams had some new rubber to try, but privateers were not able to use those, choosing only between a 200 or 190 option brought for race day on Sunday 28th.For Fabrizio, the test was a good one.”I’m satisfied with the lap times because we were consistently fast,” said the Italian. “I found good race pace with one of the tire compounds in particular and this bodes well for the weekend, but the result will very much depend on the weather. There are several fast guys here, so it will undoubtedly be a tough race weekend, as well as a hard-fought championship. It’s a difficult challenge but I’m ready to face it.”

Byrne was confident of improving his time even more on his fly-by-wire 1098R, despite the winds, but machine problems stopped him making any more progress on the 200-section rear tire he was scheduled to test.”The tests were generally very good, but not this final afternoon,” Byrne said. “We lost out because the bike I used this morning is up to its mileage, but it was still working well. We had a bit of a problem in the afternoon session on the other bike, and the long and the short of it is that we lost two and a half hours, which would hopefully have let us improve the bike and the general settings further. It was good to make a fast time this morning, though. It was a little bit disappointing to get pipped this afternoon, but it was nobody’s fault. It is only a test so it is not the end of the world. It’s very positive for the team to have both riders high in the rankings going into next weekend. We can’t be too upset to finish second today by only a small margin. I think we are in pretty good shape. There are two types of tire, the bigger one and the smaller one, and we believe that the bigger one will be the way forward for the race, and that was what we were going to test. We had a good path to follow, but unfortunately we couldn’t even open the gate to get on the good path.”Jakub Smrz, a rider only finally confirmed in the entry recently on his Pata B&G Ducati privateer bike, went third fastest after a big push in the final session, holding off day one fastest man Carlos Checa, Byrne’s teammate. Checa was the last rider to put in a 1:31 lap during the tests.”I’m pretty satisfied with this second day of testing,” Checa said. “This morning I worked hard with my technicians thinking about the subsequent races. In the afternoon, we tested some new components and I was not able to improve my best lap time also because to the strong wind. We used two types of tire, but for the race next week we’ll also use some other different tires already tested by official riders. I’m happy because we almost completed our planned work schedule and I’m feeling quiet confident for the next two races of the championship.”A final afternoon run by Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea put him fifth, and top four-cylinder runner, splitting the factory Ducatis along the way. Rea blamed himself for a slow start, but it was a fast finish in any case.”Steady away this test and we have had a lot of things to do, which hasn’t helped my case,” Rea said. “I have really struggled re-learning Phillip Island. It is one of those circuits where there is one line but it has few references, so I rode around the first day not knowing where I was going, not setting up two corners ahead I was attacking one corner then not being on the line for the next corner. It was like last year when on the first day I was out of the top places, but on qualifying I was fast. The wind changes also make a difference of half a second or a second. We can start on race weekend with a more polished package this time.”Ducati Xerox’s Noriyuki Haga was in subdued mood through the tests, but worked hard on a race set-up and suspension for Sunday’s season opener, finishing sixth.Suzuki Alstare’s Leon Haslam was another more interested in preparing for the race, but all the same was the most consistently quick of the four-cylinder challengers. Max Biaggi, sporting new Italian colored leathers to show off the team’s new Alitalia sponsorship, was quietly quick on his V-four Aprilia, but only just ahead of Leon Camier, who had never seen the Phillip Island circuit before these tests began.Despite the depth of field, and not being fully happy with his race set-up, Max Neukirchner was 10th quickest of 24 riders, still looking for a half second he believes he and his team can find with relative ease before race weekend begins.Ruben Xaus was top BMW runner in 11th with Troy Corser just behind him 13th.The test was nothing short of a disaster for Yamaha World Superbike riders James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow, who struggled all test long with their new spec of machine. The 2010 racebike features almost 10 hp more than the 2009 version, but the new combined seat unit and fuel tank assembly, made from carbon fibee, has appeared to have upset the chassis setting of the R1. No matter what the team tried the bike suffered severe chatter problems, holding Toseland back to 12th and Crutchlow to 17th.Toseland left the circuit immediately after the test, having made his feelings about the machine’s behavior clear to his new team. Crutchlow had a high-speed crash when he could not close his throttle on day one, being unable to move across his bike properly and his right arm was locked in an outstretched position.Chris Vermeulen was top Kawasaki rider, only 1.2 from the leader but only 16th. American Roger Lee Hayden struggled on a difficult circuit he’d never seen before and ended up dead last on the Pedercini Kawasaki with a best lap of 1:35.763.The 2010 “Big Three” in World Supersport were expected to head up the timesheets at Phillip Island, and they did so, with Kawasaki Provec Motocard.com’s Joan Lascorz fastest, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Kenan Sofuoglu second and Parkalgar Honda’s Eugene Laverty third.As official riders, Lascorz and Sofuoglu got to try not only the two regular tires that will be available for the race, but also the even bigger rear brought by Pirelli as past of its tire testing program for the future.Lascorz set his fastest time in the best conditions on the final morning, but Sofuoglu had to rely on his best time from the very first session of the two days, finding some severe problems getting his tires to last on the second day, causing his concern for the forthcoming race.American Jason DiSalvo ended his first test at Phillip Island in 13th place on his Triumph.

World Superbike Times

1.                  Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:31.650

2. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:31.662

3. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:31.680

4. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:31.959

5. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:32.175

6. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:32.247

7. Leon Haslam (Suzuki) 1:32.279

8. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:32.474

9. Leon Camier (Aprilia) 1:32.621

10. Max Neukirchner (Honda) 1:32.69124. Roger Lee Hayden (Kawasaki) 1:35.763

Gordon Ritchie | World Superbike Editor

You may not understand Ritchie and his Scottish accent if you had him on the phone, but you can definitely understand what he writes as our World Superbike editor.