Red Bull Honda World Superbike debutant impresses on Day 1 Down Under
Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) got his 2018 into top gear early at Phillip Island, as the Brit briefly led the way before ending Friday’s action second overall. Camier, who moves to the Honda squad for this season, put in a best of 1:30.722 to just pip Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) to the honour – two hundredths quicker.
“Today went well, after trying many things in testing for today we went back to our base setting and the bike felt great,” says the Brit. “I was able to set a good lap time in FP2. I'm happy with my pace today and we just need to keep working and make things a fraction better for the race - which I expect to be a tactical battle with many riders on similar race pace.”
Phillip Island has a reputation for fierce, close and exciting racing – and with FP3 now counting towards qualifying and the combined timesheets on Friday deciding the direct graduates to Tissot-Superpole 2, the battle is already hotting up. That’s not always what it seems, warns Camier – but it does lay good foundations for a well-fought first race.
“It’s one of those tracks where you think everything’s hunky dory in practice and qualifying and then you get in the race and it can be a different situation,” he explains. “We have to keep our heads down and keep trying to understand how we can improve on race tyres, but pace wise at the moment it looks pretty similar for everyone. I’m expecting a big gaggle of riders, maybe ten in there for the majority of the race until the last few laps – when instead of saving tyres everyone’s trying to put everyone else to the test and trying to make a break. So I’m expecting a big fight in the beginning and then maybe the last six or eight laps should be game on, I reckon.”
Sounds like a good season opener, and another Island classic. However, there was an extra hurdle for the #AusWorldSBK field on Day 1 in the form of the weather – with early damp then drying before another shower. But that, says Camier, is an advantage in terms of experience on his new bike – and doesn’t dampen his feelings ahead of Saturday.
“Riding the Fireblade in the wet today for the first time was a good experience,” affirms the Brit. “I felt very comfortable on the bike straight away, which is important. Overall, it was a good start and I feel like I'm ready for the race regardless if it’s in wet or dry conditions. But we have to keep working and maybe we can find a little bit more, a bit more consistency, and then we’ll see what happens...”
That first race of the season is already on the horizon as Saturday prepares for lift off at 15:00 (GMT +11) for Race 1 – but first there’s Tissot-Superpole 2 to navigate, with Camier guaranteed a place in the top twelve on the grid and now ready to fight it out to decide which. That begins from 12:30 local time.