Photography by Gold & Goose
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Eugene Laverty was fast early and fast late, but in between it was Kawasaki’s defending World Champion Tom Sykes who emerged from the two-day Phillip Island World Superbike test as the fastest rider overall.
Sykes turned in his quick lap on Tuesday morning, the Brit lapping at 1:30.239 – a lap that was just .005 from Carlos Checa’s World Superbike lap record at the track on the Bass Straight in Australia.
“I am happy with the results of these two days of testing at Phillip Island,” Sykes said. “In the last couple of days we have done a lot of laps to confirm the remaining test items, so to be fastest and be one of the most consistent riders… I have to be very happy with that. Phillip Island has never been our main event, so to speak, so to be up there already is very good. I know the conditions have caught a lot of people out, but I know we can now go to the race weekend with more of a clear understanding of what to do. Now we will turn our focus more on performance, pure performance, over the race weekend. I will go away now and have a couple of days winding down and relaxing and come back on Friday morning ready to go again.”
Laverty ended up second – barely ahead of his rookie teammate Alex Lowes. The 23-year-old Brit, who rode for the first time at Phillip Island on Monday, was impressive. He dropped 1.1 seconds from his first session to lead the more experienced men of World Superbike. Lowes will make his World Superbike debut on Sunday at Phillip Island.
“The test has been good,” Lowes said. “I’m happy to be in the top-three overall over the two days. I’ve worked really hard; I was consistent this afternoon, we had a few issues, but it would be impossible not to be happy really. I don’t think many people expected me to be this close already and with a couple of days to reflect we should be in a stronger position for the weekend. I’m loving riding the GSX-R, it’s a bike you can really push and it seems to be a bit like me – the harder it’s worked the better it goes. Thanks to everyone on the team, we have a great atmosphere and I’m enjoying myself.”
Aprilia’s Marco Melandri and Ducati’s Davide Giugliano were fourth and fifth, respectively, and just ahead of Sykes’ Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz. Baz crashed twice during the test and was fortunate to not suffer injury.
Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli seems to be back to health with his surgically repaired shoulder and the Frenchman who won race one at Phillip Island last year ended the test seventh best. Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea both suffered crashes near the end of Tuesday’s session and they ended up eighth and ninth best. Ducati’s Chaz Davies was 10th overall after the two days of testing.
Only .848 of a second separated the top 10 riders.
Althea Racing's Niccolò Canepa was 11th overall on his EVO Ducati 1199 Panigale – the best of the EVO class racers.
Although he was kept in the hospital for precautionary reasons, Monday crasher Michel Fabrizio didn’t break any bones as originally feared. Sylvain Barrier wasn’t so fortunate as he suffered a broken pelvis that will keep him out of this weekend’s season opener.
Lowes wasn't the only Phillip Island newbie who turned heads. American PJ Jacobsen ended up second overall on the World Supersport timesheets, the New Yorker ending up just .281 of a second behind three-time World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu on his Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki.
World Superbike Testing
Combined Overall Times
Phillip Island, Australia, February 17-18, 2014
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:30.239
2. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki) 1:30.513
3. Alex Lowes (Suzuki) 1:30.528
4. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 1:30.579
5. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1:30.644
6. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1:30.757
7. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:30.766
8. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:30.798
9. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:30.813
10. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 1:31.087