The sun has dawned on 2024’s first test and with a new-look grid, high profile rookies and ex-teammates falling out, drama was out in force in all forms
Cobwebs have been blown off, the first venture out onto a circuit of the season; a massive season awaits the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship with a raft of changes, new names and a shaken up order in prospect. The first test of 2024 is in the pocket and we weren’t short on stories. We’ve put all the main ones in one place for you to digest.
Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “When I saw 1’37.809 on the dashboard, I was smiling!”
Fastest across both days and setting a new unofficial lap record for a Superbike, Nicolo Bulega stole the show: “We tried something that I liked and the time attack was very good. The pace was good with the race tyre; I’m happy with the work done for the first test and we move on to the next one. I’m very proud and very happy that the first test of the year has been incredible. It was obviously not easy to do, but when I saw 1’37.809 on the dashboard, I was smiling. It was just a test, it changes nothing and I want to enjoy my first season in WorldSBK.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We are still working for rear grip”
Two days of dry testing, crucial for Toprak Razgatlioglu as his adaptation to BMW continues: “We tried some new parts; sometimes they are positive, sometimes not. We are still working as we need to improve it and I still need to understand it. Every lap, I understand the character more. We did a 1’38 and many 1’39s, so it was a positive test. With the race tyre, we are strong, but we need to learn about the SCQ tyre and the setup for the grip. We improved on corner entry so now I am happy with the bike but we are still working for rear grip. If we improve this, we can fight for the podium every weekend. Step by step, we’ll improve all areas. With the swingarm, we used a new one but we need to ride again at Portimao with both. I’m not sure now; with the old swingarm, I did a good lap time but in the afternoon, we tried the new swingarm, so I’m not sure if it is good or not because in the hot conditions, the bike completely changes.”
Jonathan Rea (Pata Yamaha Prometeon): “We have to be very clear of the package we go to Australia with”
Happier than on day one, Jonathan Rea and Yamaha worked on a variety of items: “We struggled to make progress on day one, trying so many different items and focussing on some key areas of the bike. This morning, I went out and felt great straight away. We’ve learnt a lot and I am really happy with the progress and the findings we have. With the swingarms, there’s a clear direction that I like, which is good and Yamaha have been working really hard behind closed doors to move the package forwards, so I’m really thankful for that. Sometimes, it’s really hard being a rider because you have to do a lot of laps but do them at the exact rhythm and give a lot of clear and precise feedback. These are hard parts that we’ll probably start the year with and become our base setup, so it’s really important. Portimao will be a track where we reconfirm some items but we have to be very clear of the package that we go to Australia with and that’ll be the key to the next test.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I still have some pain… I couldn’t train in November or December”
P16 on day two and not showing his hand at all, is there concern for reigning double World Champion Alvaro Bautista? “I felt better than yesterday but not perfect; I still have some pain when riding and on left corners, I’m not comfortable but it has been a bit better. That means I am improving my physical condition. We decided to change the setup with the bike that we chose yesterday, to find some positive or negative things, to make the best base possible I couldn’t train in November or December; with the nerve, it’s always very slow and you can’t do too much. I started my training at the beginning of the year, so not a lot of time. If I can’t ride like I want, it’s difficult to understand the bike. It’s always more difficult than last year because the bike is too heavy and I feel a lot of inertia. I don’t feel so good on the bike.”
Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven): “I did the time with the SCX tyre so therefore, we are more or less the best rider!”
A first crash in WorldSBK for Iannone in WorldSBK but strong one-lap pace as well as a good string of laps, ‘The Maniac’ is in form: “It’s our goal and focus to improve day by day; we changed something on the bike and we followed a different way compared to yesterday. In the end, I am quite happy. I need kilometres, experience with the bike, team and tyres but I think we closed the first test of the year in a good way. We are not so far away. I did the time with the SCX tyre so therefore, we are more or less the best rider! We struggled a bit with the Q; we tried it today but the bike changes a lot and I don’t have experience. We’ll try it again at Portimao to understand the tyres more and what I want. I used the race tyres well but not the SCQ. I think the race pace was very good but it’s a bit early to understand everything.”
Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “It’s just disrespectful. I have no words for this”
Explaining a late, on-track incident with Scott Redding, Michael van der Mark’s words weren’t minced: “He did nothing wrong? Well, honestly, I went out and followed Toprak. All three of us went out on a SCQ and I wanted to take the tow of Toprak and I was almost in his arse and Scott decided to pass me halfway around the lap. I didn’t leave a gap between me and Toprak. He wanted to be between us. I passed him back again. At the last corner, he decided to dive up the inside again, hit me, and he messed up Turn 1 and then he messed up my first sector. There’s no rule for this, it’s just disrespectful. I have no words for this. It’s a test, not a race weekend. For himself, he wanted to prove something, put everything on Instagram again to show who’s the best and have a good night’s sleep. I tried to outbrake him on the outside before he hit me. I wanted to go in front again.”
Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW): “He was desperate to stay there… there’s no hard feelings!”
Giving his side of the incident, Scott Redding commented: “The two factory guys went out in front, and obviously I want to try to follow Toprak; I want to learn, I want to see. I passed van der Mark twice already on the lap and he passed me back. He was desperate to stay there, I was desperate to stay there. I passed him into Turn 9, he passed me back and I passed him into T11. In the last corner, he tried to outbrake me on the outside; it was a risky move. Crazy to do that, if I was him, I would’ve just accepted it and followed me. Then we went up to Turn 1, I went for a late entry, and he just went up the inside, so it ruined my first lap on the SCQ. I took it easy, was able to build some momentum and push again at the end and set my best lap. Overall, it worked out well for me. Times are tight and everyone wants to be there with the best. It wasn’t me trying to be an idiot, I just wanted to follow the best like I did last year in Superpole. I did everything I could to be behind the best in Superpole. I wanted to see what my full potential was. We didn’t look to go out with them, we exited the box and they exited at the same time. I thought it was meant to be and to make the most of it, but it didn’t really happen but there’s no hard feelings from my side.”
Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team): “We can be very positive”
Talking about using the SCQ tyre and his progress moving forward, rookie Sam Lowes said: “It’s different to what I thought it’d be; you kind of improve everywhere. The run before, I used an SCX tyre and I thought ‘how am I going to go quicker than that’ but you just have more grip everywhere, so you have to anticipate the corner and use the grip through and out. The bike feels a lot better when it has grip and the better you can get the tyre working, the faster you go. We need a bit more time to understand but it transforms the bike sticking to the track. I still need to improve the first part of braking, I’m not constructive enough there and I need to pick up the bike more on exit. I’m really happy with the job done; we can be very positive looking at the next test and the first race.”
Xavi Vierge (Team HRC): “We can’t be happy, we struggled more than expected”
A tough test for Xavi Vierge as he got to grips with Honda’s new machine for 2024: “The first thing is that I’m happy to be back working with my team; we are lucky that we have really good weather to test, so this allowed us to make many changes on the bike, on setup and on the electronics side. Of course, we can’t be happy because we struggled more than expected on the traction phase but as I told you, we made huge changes on the bike setup and now we have some days off before Portimao, which will be crucial to analyse all the data and to understand the way to follow. We aren’t able to use the power we have; we have so much spin and right now, this is the point to work on. The goal of everyone is to win but right now, it’s too early because we have a completely new bike.”
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