WorldSBK takes a look over the teams present at this week’s test
With the green light for 2018 lit up, 10 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship teams will be present around Circuito de Jerez this week, and they will hope to make some strong steps with their 2018 machines. The first time many have taken to their machines since the last test at the same circuit in November, it will be an important week.
Reigning world champions Kawasaki Racing Team look forward to returning to a circuit which Jonathan Rea dominated around for the first time in her career back in 2017. Impressing in the November tests around the 4.4km of Spanish tarmac, both Rea and Tom Sykes are heading into 2018 with a strong pace on board their ZX-10RR machines. Northern Irishman Rea had a busy off-season, but will be determined to come back with an instant fast pace in January. Sykes, who noted how much more comfortable on his Kawasaki Ninja in the pre-season tests will also be looking to return to the top of the timing sheets on day one.
Aruba.it Racing – Ducati duo of Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri will make a welcomed return to their Panigale R’s following over a month away from on track action. 2017 runner-up Davies will be keen to get underway after his last test was cut short due to injury. A few days behind with their 2018 testing schedule, the Welshman will have a busy two days. On the other side of the garage, Melandri heads back to Jerez after a strong test last November and the Italian will be heading out with a clear plan in mind.
A new addition to the World Superbike grid for 2018 will be the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi announced as a permanent addition for the series over the winter. The Italian took to the WorldSBK machine at Jerez last year, putting in a stunning amount of laps, but now the move is official he will no doubt be working even harder to feel comfortable with his machine.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will be hoping to pick up where they left off in 2017. Recently married Lowes was setting lap times to rival those of MotoGP™ riders at the last test, so has a high benchmark set this week. Dutch team-mate van der Mark will be working closely with the new regulations to get his YZF-R1 machines to get the pace improved.
Resuming with the same team of Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty for 2018, Milwaukee Aprilia will look at finding some small steps with the Aprilia RSV4 machines and begin fighting for podium finishing spots in 2018. At the last test of 2017, Laverty was able to secure a top 11 lap time whilst Savadori was in the top 14, meaning the duo will be looking at improving their overall pace this time out around the Southern Spanish circuit.
Starting 2018 with a new team, Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) makes his much anticipated return to the WorldSBK paddock and will swing his leg over the BMW for the second time, ahead of his 2018 debut. After he spent the first Jerez test in November to focus on his feeling with the German machine, he will now bring forward the data from the two days – including a race simulation – to fine tune his pace and feeling ahead of lights out at Phillip Island.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse will come out with a strong effort, as both their WorldSBK and WorldSSP teams are taking to the track. Jordi Torres made the move to the Italian team over the winter, and he will now have his second outing on the machine. Joined by Ayrton Badovini and Raffaele De Rosa on the WorldSSP machine, it will be non-stop work for the Italian team.
After launching the colours of their 2018 machines, the all new Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team of Leon Camier and Jake Gagne head to Southern Spain to begin work on the CBR1000RR SP2. British rider Camier impressed last November when he tried out the Fireblade for the first time, and will be eager to make more progress with just over 30 days until the paddock hits Australia. For Gagne, it will be his first time back on the machine since the season finale at Losail International Circuit, and now with a full time ride he will be able to crack on with his work for the season.
Puccetti Kawasaki hosts a new line up for 2018, drafting in STK1000 star Toprak Razgatliogu as their WorldSBK rider, as Kenan Sofuoglu and Hikari Okubo the force behind the WorldSSP effort. The privateer team have always been at the forefront of the field, and with the new regulations they are bound to benefit from the new strengths to the ZX-10RR. It will be the Turkish rider’s second outing on the WorldSBK machine, as he was forced to miss out of the November test due to personal circumstances.
Czech rider Ondrej Jezek makes the step over to Guandalini Yamaha, as he hopes to tame the YZF-R1, and they are another team set to benefit from the new regulations for 2018. After a tough season in 2017, both the team and rider will hope to put it behind them and make some big steps in the season ahead.
European Superstock 1000 sensation Leandro Mercado makes the move over to Orelac Kawasaki VerdNatura, and will undergo his second test with the Ninja ZX-1000RR as he hopes to reduce the three second gap he encountered in November. A talented rider, Mercado has two days ahead of him to continue to work on pace and a relationship with the team.