HOT HEADLINES FROM PORTIMAO TEST: "The target is high… we can be excited going into the first round!"

Thursday, 1 February 2024 10:11 GMT

Testing in Europe is in the bag and, with the paddock ready to fly to Australia, we take a look at some of the biggest quotes from Portimao

The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock hit the iconic Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for a two-day test earlier this week and, appropriately given the circuit’s nickname, there was a rollercoaster of emotions stemming from teams and riders. Lots of positivity was met with bouts of pessimism in the last European test before jetting Down Under to the season-opening Australian Round and, of course, the two-day Official Test leading up to lights out.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We are 99% ready to race… unbelievable lap time!”

Toprak Razgatlioglu left Portimao with a smile on his face after impressive lap times and race pace: “It was a fantastic day because we did a really good job. Now, we are 99% ready to race; the feeling is good. Every day, we are getting better because we improve the bike. On day two, with the SC0 tyre, I did some 1’39.8s maybe three or four times. With the SCX, I did a 1’39.2s; this is an unbelievable time! I was really surprised. At the end of the day, thanks to Bonovo because we asked for an SCQ tyre, but we only improved by a tenth. I didn’t make a 1’38s, but maybe next time! I did 15 laps in a race simulation. On two laps, I did a 1’39.9s, then after, I’m in the low 1’40s, which are very strong lap times on the SC0 tyre. It looks like we’re ready to race but we are still learning. I feel like the bike is my bike, I’m riding in my style. Turning isn’t 100% but we are close. Every day we are learning and improving.”

Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati): “Maybe I’m not 100% and I cannot push to the limit”

On the other hand, two-time Champion Alvaro Bautista could only manage P15 on day two at Portimao: “Basically, I can say that it has been better than Jerez but not enough. On day one, I felt a lot of improvement from Jerez about my physical condition, but on Tuesday, I felt a bit worse than Monday. Maybe this track is more demanding. It’s not too painful but it’s always there and it’s not easy. Also, we worked with the bike, and I think we took the setup that wasn’t the best because, at the end of the day, we saw the way we started on from day one, maybe I’m not 100% and I cannot push to the limit. Maybe that way wasn’t correct, but we realised at the end of the day. I’m not 100% but I think we miss something on the bike setup. A difficult two days, but now we have some time to think about the setup of the bike and try to recover a bit more for Australia.”

Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha): “I’m not completely satisfied!”

New Yamaha recruit Jonathan Rea completed a long run at Portimao and found speed as it progressed: “We just worked focused on our workload again, trying to confirm the bike. I’m not completely satisfied with the feeling out there, but I did a longer run to understand the tyre drop here, and I got faster and faster during that. There’s some positives but I think we need to improve our out and out speed a little bit. I wasn’t completely comfortable so we’re still looking to find that optimum setup for my style. We tested some suspension ideas, chassis parts, different geometries with setup as well. I was starting from a Jerez base setup. We ended up somewhere similar to that to be honest, after trying and trialling lots of ideas so it tells you we’re sort of in the ballpark.”

Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven): “We are quite fast… the target is high!”

WorldSBK rookie Andrea Iannone is poised for a rollercoaster campaign ahead of his debut in the Championship: “With the race tyres, we are in a good position. We are quite fast. It’s possible to improve a little bit and we need to, but the difficulty for me is the track. With the race bike, I’ve never ridden here, and it was really difficult because I didn’t have a reference. I had a lot of fun. We tried something with the setup, but we’ll receive the 2024 package in Australia and, I’m positive. I signed before we started in this way and on this level. Some moments are completely unexpected. We don’t know what to expect and it’s important that we work well. I don’t want to have big expectations because I know we will have really difficult moments, but also, the possibility to have really good moments. I think the target is high. We are here to have really good results.”

Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): “It’s my third season in WorldSBK… I don’t feel a big improvement”

Iker Lecuona was left wanting more after two difficult tests at Jerez and Portimao: “Day two was hard and difficult. Firstly, because on my first flying lap, I crashed at Turn 7. It’s a fast corner. We changed the bike on day one, and I completely forgot. I arrived, completely lost the front and then we lost all the morning to repair the bike. Even with the crash, we still struggled. We didn’t find a way; we didn’t find anything that works well on the bike. We don’t know why or what we need to change. That’s the reality. It’s the last day of testing and to go to Australia with this feeling is not the best. It’s my third year in WorldSBK and, for now, I don’t feel a big improvement. We improved sometimes but, in the end, what is clear is that we’re not ready to even fight in the top ten. Let’s see in Australia in the two days of testing whether we can find anything. It looks like a hard year.”

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati): “I was very fast… I am happy because my race pace was good”

There’s been no stopping 2023 WorldSSP Champion Nicolo Bulega in testing, who rounded out the Portimao test with P2 and lap record pace: “Obviously, I need to adapt as I’m not at 100% but it’s normal. We’re working very well all together. I’ll go to Australia with good positivity. The lap was with the SCQ but with the SCX, I was very fast so apart from lap times – which are important but not a lot – I am happy because my race pace was good. I think testing has been very good; we started at Jerez with a normal feeling but every day, my feeling was getting better, so this is very important and I think we have some margin. We’ll try to be more ready in Australia. It’s a little bit better than expected. I don’t have a lot of things to do; more time on the bike, do more laps and understand the bike better with worn tyres and low fuel. I am excited and looking forward to Australia with this amazing bike, as Phillip Island is my favourite circuit.”

Marc Bongers (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “The target is at least a win”

BMW boss Marc Bongers revealed the changes made on the M 1000 RR and his goals to bounce back from 2023: “We’ve built on the package from last year. Some minor changes in all areas really; chassis, electronics, aerodynamics. Just minor updates but to complete the package and it’s a pleasure to see that Toprak didn’t seem to take a lot of time to adapt. Since we could carry the setup from Jerez to Portimao and it immediately works, we are convinced we have a good base package. We need to get back to the podium. We had several in 2022 but a hard year in 2023. The target is at least a win, but I would imagine that we’ll see several podiums.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “We’ve opened that window up a bit… we can be excited”

De facto KRT team leader Alex Lowes spent Jerez and Portimao working on end of race pace and was optimistic after the second test: “Here and at Jerez at the end of last season, we’ve been working really hard on used tyres at the end of long runs. My pace was strong today, I think we have a strong race pace. I enjoyed riding the bike and did 90 laps. We’re pretty much ready now with the items we want to choose heading into the first round at Phillip Island. We’ve made a step. We’ve made the bike easier to ride and manage. The window was quite small, but we’ve opened that window up a bit. I think we can be excited going into the first round.”

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