The Phillip Island Official Test awaits WorldSBK’s arrival
The new season really is within touching distance of firing into life, with the 2020 World Superbike field taking to the dramatic Phillip Island circuit for one more pre-season test.
Ahead of the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s first racing weekend, there’s one final bit of testing to take care of. The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit boasts fast straights, long corners, dramatic undulations and tight hairpins, making it a good testing ground for 2020. With Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) the favourite, Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) continuing his adaptation and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team) aiming to retain his top position from pre-season, there’s lots to focus on.
It was a Yamaha onslaught at the most recent test at Portimao, with Toprak Razgatlioglu leading the way come the end of play. Finding a breakthrough solution with the Q tyre at Portimao, Razgatlioglu now looks like a threat in Superpole as well as the races. Teammate Michael van der Mark concluded the Portimao test in fourth and was just over 0.6s off his teammate at the top of the standings. Both riders have been on the 2020 bikes, hailing aerodynamic improvements made for taller riders.
Scott Redding made strides at Portimao and was looking on course to finish both days on top before Razgatlioglu pipped him to the post. The Brit has been working away on rear-end grip and hopes that Phillip Island – one of his favourite circuits – can confirm his and his team’s findings. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) also made gains at Portimao and finished fifth overall. Ducati as a manufacturer have won the last five WorldSBK races in Australia and will look to continue their dominance Down Under into the new decade.
The Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK didn’t feature at Portimao and instead, took to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for a private afternoon of testing. However, when they were with the opposition, it was Jonathan Rea who topped the timesheets at Jerez. His 2020 teammate, Alex Lowes, has also been on the pace, enjoying crucial wet weather running at Jerez whilst also taking to the Barcelona-Catalunya track for the first time. Both riders hope to utilise the testing days at Phillip Island to return to the top Down Under come the race weekend.
Going into the Phillip Island Test, BMW’s S1000 RR has been transformed since the start of 2019. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and teammate Eugene Laverty head to Australia after strong testing in Portugal, working with the chassis set-up, braking strategies, electronics and more. Sykes is keen to start his season with a podium, whilst Eugene Laverty’s last win came at ‘The Island’. The Official Test gives both riders two days of track time in order to refine parts ahead of racing.
The final factory team at the Phillip Island Test is Team HRC, fielding 2019 runner-up Alvaro Bautista and 2010 runner-up, Leon Haslam. Both riders go well around Phillip Island, with Bautista storming to a hat-trick in 2019. Keeping their development secretive has added intrigue about the CBR1000RR-R ahead of the new season. However, Haslam topped day one of a wet Jerez before finishing sixth in the dry at Portimao. Can the Japanese manufacturer shine again in Australia?
Independent teams will join their factory counterparts for the Phillip Island Official Test, with Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) leading the way. The Frenchman was third on the final day is set to take to Phillip Island for the first time with Yamaha. Other Independent Yamahas include Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team), who makes his Phillip Island debut during testing. His teammate Federico Caricasulo was quick in testing and hopes to build on that. In all, the five Yamahas on the WorldSBK grid all packed out the top ten in Portimao testing back in January.
Remaining Independent teams include Kawasaki Puccetti Racing, who were the best Independent team for 2019. They’ve got best Independent rider from 2018 Xavi Fores for 2020 and are hoping to make more progress. Leon Camier (Barni Racing Team) will also be back out on his Ducati, whilst Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Goeleven) completes the Ducati presence. Max Scheib (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) will be in action at Phillip Island for the first time, as will Takumi Takahashi (Mie Racing Team), with the latter not featuring during any pre-season tests.
Refreshed line-ups, new rules and track time for rookies: there’s action from all directions as WorldSSP heads for one final role of the testing dice…
Changes headline the 2020 FIM Supersport World Championship, meaning that testing is of high importance. The last pre-season test before 2020 launches comes on the 24th and 25th of February, giving the new team linSe-ups one last chance to get to grips with their 2020 motorcycles. Slick tyres that will be introduced for the first time in World Supersport history, providing an extra challenge. Taking place at Phillip Island just days before the opening round, it’s a crucial pre-season test.
2019 WorldSSP Champion Randy Krummenacher (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) moves manufacturers in 2020, switching from Yamaha to the MV Agusta. The iconic Italian brand is in its 75th season of motorcycle production and is eager to recapture a World Championship. The Swiss enjoyed his pre-season testing schedule, which ended at Jerez, where he was first. He’s joined at the team in 2020 by Raffaele De Rosa and Federico Fuligni, both of whom impressed during the pre-season.
Replacing ‘Krummi’ is Italian Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team); he was quick at the Portimao test and enjoyed more dry weather running than most, with him and the BARDAHL squad taking to Almeria instead of Jerez in January. Back to one bike in 2020, the team is focusing on retaining the crown, with their title defence starting in testing and at a track Locatelli already knows.
The GMT94 Yamaha team topped the Portimao testing timesheets with Jules Cluzel in January, with the French outfit heading to Phillip Island as the team in form. Cluzel is in his eighth season of WorldSSP action and despite being runner-up three times, the title still eludes him. Joined once again by fellow countryman and good friend Corentin Perolari, it is a strong line-up for the all-French team. Perolari himself aims to be in the mix from the off, having performed well at the end of 2019.
The second half of 2019 saw Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) out-score every other rider, with the 2017 WorldSSP Champion perfecting the Kawasaki ZX-6R. Ahead of 2020, Mahias needs as much testing as possible after a finger injury sustained in Valencia in the MotoE™ World Cup. Joining Mahias is former Moto3™ GP winner Philipp Oettl (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who joins WorldSSP from Moto2™. Both are aiming high in 2020 and aim to improve further at the Phillip Island Test.
Three podiums in the last three races make Isaac Vinales (Kallio Racing) a rider to watch in 2020 and he knows the Phillip Island layout inside-out. Perfecting finite details and becoming re-accustomed to slick tyres, Vinales aims to pick-up where he left off. He has a new teammate in 2020, with Estonian star Hannes Soomer handed a huge opportunity to impress in WorldSSP. Soomer will be utilising testing in order to be in top five contention come the opening round.
South Africa’s Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Racing) has shone in testing and aims to cement Ten Kate Racing’s status as the most successful WorldSSP team of all time. Can Öncü (Turkish Racing Team) moves over to WorldSSP and is Turkey’s flag carrier in the class, whilst Indonesia’s hero Galang Hendra Pratama (bLU cRU Yamaha WorldSSP Team by MS Racing) moves to WorldSSP with Andy Verdoia, as does WorldSSP300 Champion Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). The test is crucial for Gonzalez, Verdoia and Hendra Pratama, with it being their debut at the track.
Keep an eye on Belgian Loris Cresson (OXXO Yamaha Team Toth) and his Hungarian teammate Peter Sebestyen during testing; both were in the top ten at Phillip Island last season. Hikari Okubo (Dynavolt Honda) is back with Honda in 2020 and is joined by rookie Patrick Hobelsberger this year.