Kawasaki's Tom Sykes improved his overnight time by nearly a second to end the World Superbike Championship testing season as the top rider after two days on the Phillip Island Circuit.
Sixth fastest after day one, the Brit dropped his time from 1:32.465 to 1:31.648 to head the time sheets ahead of this weekend's World Superbike season-opener on the scenic Australian race track. The Yorkshireman set the fastest time in the cooler morning session and was also fastest in the warmer afternoon. Sykes finished with a time that was .3 of a second faster than the benchmark Althea Racing Ducati's Carlos Checa had set on the first day of the test.
But there was little comfort in it for Sykes. Checa was only .004 of a second behind, with third fastest Jakub Smrz (Liberty Racing Team Effenbert Ducati) at a gap of .152 of a second. The typically close World Superbike times were on display with the top 12 riders on the same second.
"We were fast this morning and also this afternoon in hot conditions, when we improved our time compared to yesterday's warm temperatures," Sykes said. "Overall we did quite a bit more testing today and certainly stumbled across a couple of good things, and at the end there we did 14 laps on race tires and it was very consistent, with the times coming easier than they were doing with previous settings.
"To be honest I have definitely been very focused over the winter period and pretty much everything I have done has been working towards the 2012 season. Winter testing has been good, but it was also nice to have a winter ban, as I used that time to keep focused, but also take a back seat and get away from it all, just to recharge the batteries.â€¨This year I have approached things slightly differently from before, without giving anything away, and obviously I have got a strong team behind me as well.
"Kawasaki has made a massive effort over the winter period and there is no doubt the latest Ninja ZX-10R race bike has improved a lot from last year's feedback, so this year it was only natural to progress.â€¨I am certainly happy enough with the personnel and the team behind me. Honestly speaking, this is not my favorite circuit, in fact it is one of my least favorite ones, so I am happy that we are up towards the sharp end at this track because I know that the performance should increase at the other circuits.â€¨I do not want to get too carried away because I like to keep my feet on the ground so we'll keep working and see what happens. I have worked hard over the testing and we have been putting in the laps so hopefully it is now paying off."
Checa said the bulk of his testing was finished in the morning and that he wasn't as aggressive in the afternoon.
"We finished our job this morning and we just were testing a little bit more to confirm different things, and once I had confirmed that the ‘war' was over," the reigning World Champion said after finishing his pre-season preparations.
Checa got a fast start on last year's championship by winning both races on Phillip Island.
"I feel comfortable, finally, with the last settings. We used the large tire and the small tire, and we worked out which settings to use for each one, and we just wanted to save the bike and the engine for the weekend, when the conditions will probably be a bit different and we will need to know which tires will come for the race. Our base set-up is comfortable, this track is good for Ducati and I believe we did a good job from the first test until now."
Then came Smrz in third on another Ducati 1098R, with Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike) the final rider in the 1:32s.
Aprilia's Max Biaggi slotted into fifth ahead of fellow Italian Marco Melandri, the BMW Motorrad rider who failed to improve on his day one time. Superbike rookie Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati) crashed his motorcycle for the third time, but still finished seventh, while the lone member of the Crescent Fixi Suzuki team, Leon Camier, was eighth. Camier's teammate John Hopkins is awaiting surgery on the right hand he broke during the previous private Phillip Island test.
Also injured is BMW Motorrad's Leon Haslam, who broke his right tibia in a Monday crash. Doctors in Melbourne confirmed a fracture and two cracks in his tibia, a crack in his left heel, and a small crack in his right little toe. Surgeons are expected to stabilize the tibia by inserting two screws into the damaged bone. The decision on whether he can race this weekend will be made following the surgery.
"Hopefully I will be back at the track on Thursday afternoon and able to jump on the bike on Friday," Haslam said.
After five days of testing - private and official - the Superbike teams and riders now have a chance to wind down before opening round action begins on Friday.
Day Two Times:
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:31.648
2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:31.652
3. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:31.800
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:31.913
5. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:32.034
6. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:32.232
7. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1:32.319
8. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1:32.320
9. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:32.347
10. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:32.397
11. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) 1:32.540
12. Michele Fabrizio (BMW) 1:32.605
13. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 1:32.746
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:32.910
15. Maxime Berger (Ducati) 1:32.911
16. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) 1:32.948