What to expect in the final pre-season test
Just under a week remains ahead of the opening round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship around the spectacular Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, and riders are set to be out on track from 19th – 20th February in the final test of the off-season. Providing riders with an opportunity to make any final changes ahead of the Yamaha Finance Australian Round, the traditional two day test is always a telling and important opening to the season.
Kawasaki head into the test ready for a battle and will no doubt have a confidence boost as the Japanese manufacturer have had a strong winter testing period. Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have been working on their ZX-10RR’s in compliance with 2018’s regulations and have not come away feeling down beat. Full of praise for the team’s hard work and their new steeds, they will certainly be the target for the test. Making his WorldSBK debut will be Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), as the Turkish rider moves up from STK1000. Noted by many as a rider to watch for the up-coming season, his new team have notably put little pressure on the 21 year old, and he will continue to work through understanding the Ninja machine. It’s not only Puccetti who will have new riders taking on the ZX-10RR this season, with Yonny Hernandez making the leap over from MotoGP™ joining Team Pedercini Racing and Leandro Mercado taking on the Orelac Racing VerdNatura team. The green machines will certainly be ones to keep an eye on throughout the two day test.
Aruba.it Racing – Ducati are preparing for the new season with the same duo on their bikes, and as Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri begin to adjust to the new regulations for 2018, they will be putting the new parts into practise for the Official Phillip Island Test. Undergoing a strong test and race around the Australian circuit in 2017, going one step further will be the goal for 2018 as they hope to give the Panigale R a stunning final season. Barni Racing Team will once again run with the Italian manufacturer, and Xavi Fores has been putting in the hard work over the winter. Finishing in the top five in last season’s official test, the Spanish rider will make the most of his time out on track Down Under as he looks at making the step back onto the podium in 2018.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are preparing for what they hope is set to be a strong 2018 season, as Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark set their sights high for the season ahead. Lowes had a very strong pre-season so far, and is set to confirm some of the changes ahead of the opening round, at a circuit which he battled for the victory around in 2017. Van der Mark is heading into the test with some work remaining to do, but feeling confident ahead of the season. Guandalini Racing continue with Ondrej Jezek on the YZF-R1 for 2018, who will make the most of the vital testing time offered around the 4.4km circuit. Yamaha will also welcome the Yamaha Racing Team onto the grid in Australia, with Troy Herfoss and Wayne Maxwell taking on the WorldSBK class – and will no doubt use the valuable testing sessions before they hope to impress their home crowds.
Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) has been one of the stars of the WorldSBK winter testing, impressing with his new team at each circuit so far. Continuing to make updates on the CBR1000RR whilst awaiting a new electronics package, the British rider will utilise the time on track to be in the best possible position for the season. Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) is set to make his debut down under, a track he has hailed as the one he is most looking forward to riding. With a steady pace so far in testing, he will have a methodical two day test to work through the issues on the Honda. Tackling the third Honda on the grid, PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) has a big season ahead of him as his team also makes the move up into the WorldSBK class. Working closely with the Red Bull squad, no doubt the American will have a busy and productive two day test.
Remaining with the same duo in 2018, Milwaukee Aprilia are now the loan RSV4 RF beasts on the grid and will continue to work to make it a podium finisher with Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori. The team underwent a tough start to their season in 2017 Down Under, but after some solid days over the winter, there is no doubt they will be working their hardest to get their Italian machines into the competitive times.
Riding for new teams for 2018, Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) and Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) will be continuing to develop a relationship with their new teams in order to create a strong working atmosphere. With the two day test, they can work on their overall pace around the circuit as well as getting to grips with the bike as a whole, meaning it will be a busy two days for the pair.
Just one week remains until 2018 gets underway, so make sure to keep up with who ends the Official Phillip Island Test on top from Monday 19th February, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.