Sykes, Melandri Lead World Supers Test

Gordon Ritchie | January 24, 2013

After one day of World Superbike testing at Jerez in Spain, the main teams who had traveled there to ride together (Aprilia, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda and BMW) would have settled for the mere three hours of dry track time that the Ducati Alstare team got on their final test afternoon the day before. The fears that the journey to Spain would be wasted proved to be false, however, as day two proved to be sunny and dry, if not still bitterly cold.

The fastest rider on show on the only day that counted for working out who was ready to pack up and head to Australia for more tests and then the opening round, was Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, setting a mid 1:40 lap – but on qualifying tires. He also set some other impressive times at race pace, but some of his main rivals, all of whom ran transponders except his teammate Loris Baz, used softer race tires to set their times.

So fastest on a soft race tire and with a transponder was BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri, who screamed his way around the long Jerez circuit in a 1:40.758. He had made some laps on the same day as the Ducatis, so this was his third day on track in reality.

There were a few spills on the final day, most notably both Aprilia Racing riders Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli, plus Baz and a rider who was fast but a bit hairy on occasion, Davide Giugliano – a first-time Aprilia rider after spending his rookie season on a Ducati last year. Giugliano had a slow front ender at the far hairpin, with Baz coming off at turn two, a slow right-hander.

The latest 17-inch tires proved to be a success once more for most riders but some, Crescent Fixi Suzuki’s Leon Camier for example, are still working their way with them. He was far happier on the latest spec of alloy wheels than the previous batch, but would still prefer the 16.5s on his Suzuki. He was still fourth fastest transponder rider, behind Laverty and ahead of Honda’s Jonathan Rea.

The Pata Honda team, consisting of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam in their new colors, had some technical issues to deal with on their new bikes, particularly Haslam, who was still struggling near the end of day two with brake gremlins and electronics issues. Former AMA rider Chaz Davies was happy enough with his second outing on the BMW in anger, finding improvements from his last test at Jerez.

Guintoli was sixth fastest on verifiable transponder times, although eighth in acknowledged reality. Davies, Haslam, and Fixi Crescent Suzuki rookie Jules Cluzel finished out the top Superbike riders, and fastest man of all the World Supersport riders was new number-one plate holder Kenan Sofuoglu and his Kawasaki Mahi Racing entry over new Yamaha rider Sam Lowes.

“We have to be very happy after this test,” Sykes said. “Yesterday we had some wet track time and for some people it was maybe not very good, but for us it was very valuable. We learned some things yesterday and also today in dry track conditions. Eventually we had decent track conditions and we got up to speed. We were able to test very constructively. Both days have been very valuable and I would like to thank the team and Kawasaki because our test schedule has been very good and all the time we have been moving forward. For this I am happy. This circuit is quite special and for sure it is not our strong point, but looking at what is on paper we are not in a bad situation. On a race tire we did a long run and was able to set a 1:41.7 time after 14 laps with this tire option. Overall I am happy to have achieved what we have achieved and am looking forward to the next test at Phillip Island.”

Marco Melandri stated: “I was pretty happy after one day and because the new Pirelli wet tire, in 17 inches, is pretty good. So I feel more comfortable and I can warm-up the tire more than 16.5 so when you can do that you can get more confidence and the rhythm comes easier. Many times on day one it was wet but not enough. Raining, stop, raining stop. We tested some electronics and some pipes on day one. For me it was better to have the wet on day one because I could make some laps without too much stress on my shoulder. We have a new swingarm from last year, and we continue to test it properly in the dry. We tested a different triple clamps and forks so we made quite a big change compared to last year. These changes are important for rigidity, to give more feedback to the rider. We have found some good things in the BMW Italia team so we try to put them together and work as close as we can with Munich, because we do anyway. I like to see my garage and even if we did not test a lot until now we will start so much more aware about the bike than we were in 2012.

“I know very well the bike now, what is a positive point and a difficult point. So, I think I now my level and I can fight to win races and if it is a bad race I can find a way to stay close to the podium. I am very confident actually because last year we started very close to the first race and had many problems, many downs, but in the end we had a very good start to the season in Phillip Island. I do not know the other riders’ level but I think we are quite okay.”

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.