Teams look for extra improvements ahead of final third of the season
The summer is not over yet, but the wait for MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship action is! After a full month and a half during which many of the World Superbike riders swapped circuits for the seaside, it’s time for them to don the leathers and head back out on track.
Three weeks before returning to Portimao for the Nolan Portuguese Round, the WorldSBK teams head out to the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve for an Official Test, with their minds set on making as many improvements as possible before the season-end – whilst also keeping an eye on 2019. Four rounds remain on the calendar: this is the most critical moment of the year, where titles are won and lost, so everyone will seek to be at their sharpest for September.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) approaches his return to the bike at the best moment of his season. His four consecutive wins since that Race Two DNF at Brno have lifted the Northern Irishman to a healthy 92 point lead in the championship standings. For his side of the team box, the goal will be to tweak any remaining issues with the ZX-10RR but also, and perhaps most importantly, hope that any momentum was not lost during the break. His teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), meanwhile, will unfortunately have to miss out on the Portimao test after suffering an injury to his right ankle earlier this month.
Fresh off their impressive Suzuka 8 Hours win, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) face the Portimao test with their future in the Pata Yamaha family confirmed for another year. It was a step that confirmed how valuable both riders are to the Japanese manufacturer and will ensure that they can concentrate solely on extracting the best out of the R1 throughout the official test.
There has been no such announcement yet from the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team, but for now focus is kept exclusively on the remaining eight races. Reliability has been a missing piece in the Panigale puzzle all season, with a wildly different performance output from track to track. That will need to be resolved if the Ducati is to remain in contention for any championship – riders or manufacturers – from here to Qatar.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team will be perhaps the most active team at Portimao, having planned a two-day private test in Portugal before the official one. Earlier this month, Honda’s WorldSBK Operations Manager Chris Pike hinted at some of the areas that will be worked on, including electronic upgrades, a new exhaust system and an untried engine specification.
Meanwhile, the Portimao test arrives at a sweet moment for Milwaukee Aprilia. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) has managed to place his RSV4 onto the podium in the last two rounds, while Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) has also managed some promising results throughout the year. Some fine-tuning this week could lead to both riders challenging for more through September and October.
With several other riders looking to refine their machines this week in Portugal, including the likes of Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) or Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), there’s guaranteed to be plenty of on-track action as we turn towards the final stretch of the season.
Follow the Official Test at Portimao on Thursday and Friday with live-timing on WorldSBK.com, and catch the best moments from both days thanks to the WorldSBK VideoPass.