Windy conditions welcomed riders to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit as the final pre-season test of 2018 was underway, but there were no surprises from the timing screens as Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) ended the day on top, followed by the Kawasaki Racing Team duo of Sykes and Rea with the top six split by a second.
Monday morning’s session saw riders start to bed in their new set-up ahead of the season opener, and the track temperatures clearly played a part. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) ended the session on top with a lap time of 1.30.726, ahead of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team). It was an eventful morning for what is set to be a stunning season, with wild card’s impressing and riders crashing. As teams began to get their bikes ready for the race, there were no main parts to test but they had two hours to prepare for the weekend ahead.
Reigning world champion Rea suffered his first crash of the year, as he went down at turn 11 but was up and ok, whilst Torres fell at turn two and was also up and ok. Despite the strong wind – especially through turn one, riders were already beginning to lap at times close to the fastest time set last year.
WorldSBK veteran Melandri had a very strong opening day Down Under, and finished the day on top overall as his team begin to work on the main race set-up. Emphasising the importance of keeping a cool head, they were working with the set-up from the previous testing. Mainly focusing on electronics, it was a different day for Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) as he finished in 10th position with a time of 1.32.054 and continues to work on his race set-up.
Despite both their riders crashing through turn 11, the Kawasaki Racing Team duo were able to finish in second and third – Sykes was 0.341s off the top whilst Rea was 0.533s behind. Both riders will be continuing with the new set up of their new bikes with the 2018 regulations.
With two new riders for 2018, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team were getting ready for the opening weekend with Leon Camier and Jake Gagne. British rider Camier continued to impress in the pre-season testing as he ended in a stunning fourth position, and has been working mainly on his position on the CBR1000RR SP2. Whilst on the other side of the garage, American Gagne was generally working on race pace ahead of the weekend, and finished in 17th.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team we’re utilising the extra track time they were offered, in order to prepare the YZF-R1’s for a round they are usually strong around. Gaining a basic feel of how the bikes feel with the track relating to the new rules, they were hoping to focus on the engine spec as well as enhancing their performance with some new parts on Tuesday. Dutch rider Michael van der Mark finished in sixth position whilst Alex Lowes was eighth following some strong laps at the end of the day.
Continuing to search for the all important rear end feeling with the RSV4 RF, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) secured a top seven finish and 1.147s behind the front runners with some strong steps made throughout the winter test.
Influenced by the cooler weather conditions, Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) was making the most of using both bikes in order to compare set-up on their machines. Continuing to adapt to the 2018 regulations, they are hoping to develop on their exit of the corners. With a full day of testing under his belt, he ended the day in sixth.
Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) had his first time out on track with the SS 1000RR bike, and was focusing on understanding the bike around the circuit. Using the same bike geometry as he did in the last test at Portimao, he used two bikes to try to adjust the settings. Aiming to put in as many laps as possible he finished in 11th position, with a time of 1.32.157.
Riders have one last day out on track ahead of the opening round of the WorldSBK 2018 season, and will be looking to find those all important final set-ups.
Starting under the sun on Monday morning, 24 FIM Supersport World Championship riders took to the track for the final pre-season test of the year. Strong winds were a force to be contended with, but riders were still able to impress out on track. It was Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) who took the first honours of the week, setting a lap time of 1.34.088.
Reigning world champion Mahias opened the year in strong form, and finished the mornings session at the top of the timing screens, over 0.329s ahead of his rivals. Team-mate Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) was the second fastest rider in the morning, whilst Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) impressed by ending in the top three. However the main protagonist’s weren’t far behind and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was fourth in the morning, with new addition to the paddock Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) in fifth.
With 2013 champion Sam Lowes still holding the lap record here with a lap of 1.32.545s, it would be a hard one for the riders to beat in such conditions as today threw up. But as riders prepared to head out in the afternoon, the wind continued to beat around the circuit. Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was spending his time getting used to the Italian machine, the Italian suffered a crash at turn three however was up and ok.
The end of the first day beckoned, and riders were being cautious out on track, not wanting to push too hard and cause a crash on the opening day of the week. Despite a slight challenge at the top of the timing screens, Caricasulo finished the day in second overall. Stapleford was not shy out on track and was challenging for the top position with just under an hour remaining. Ending the day in third overall, he was just 0.322s behind the top two riders and a positive 2018 beckons. Whilst rookie rider Cortese ended his first official day in the top four, ahead of five time WorldSSP champion Sofuoglu in fifth. With a new team for this season and his first time out on track, Jules Cluzel (NRT) impressed on his first ever day with the team.
Home hero Antony West (EAB antwest Racing) had a strong day at his home circuit, and was only 0.8s off the top of the timing screens as he continues to work with his new team. Mike Di Meglio (GMT94 Yamaha) is another new face to welcome to the WorldSSP paddock, and is preparing to make his debut with the YZF-R6 around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Finishing the day in 12th overall, he put in a strong start to the campaign.
Riders will now check their data and prepare for day two of the WorldSBK Official Phillip Island Test, ready for the opening Yamaha Finance Australian Round.
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