WSBK fills grid for Phillip Island test

Phillip Island Preview

A virtually full grid of SBK competitors line up at Phillip Island for the final official pre-season test of the 2010 season, starting Sunday 21 and ending Monday 22 February.

Phillip Island is a classic circuit in any regard, and has always been a popular test circuit for European-based teams in the winter months. The Victorian track’s 4.445km length contains virtually every kind of corner, but the emphasis is on fast cornering and changes of elevation.

It has been the scene of some all-time great SBK moments, with almost every rider including this track in his or her top three favorites for pure enjoyment. As a test of rider and machine, it has few equals.

All the top forces in the SBK class will be present for the Phillip Island tests, plus the vast majority of the privateer riders, in what should be an excellent indication of how race weekend may well turn out.

All seven competing manufacturers will have their highest calibre artillery and troops loaded in the breech at this test, with Aprilia’s duo of Max Biaggi and Leon Camier leading the alphabetical run-down of SBK combatants. Tellingly, for the first time since arriving in WSBK racing in 2007, Biaggi starts one season with the same manufacturer he finished the previous season with.

BMW, with only two factory riders last year, have no fewer than four pilots on the S1000RR. Returning official riders Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus, in the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team, are now joined by privateers Reitwagen BMW, with their pairing of Andrew Pitt and Roland Resch. The latter have been in Australia acclimatizing to their machines for some time now.

Six Ducati riders will show themselves at the Phillip Island tests, the factory Ducati Xerox pairing of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, the Althea duo of Shane Byrne and Carlos Checa, plus lone entries from DFX (with Lorenzo Lanzi) and Pata B&G racing (Jakub Smrz). All of these riders should be on podium capable machinery once again in 2010.

Honda is well represented at the tests, although the injured Broc Parkes (ECHO CRS Racing) will miss his home-circuit practice, and the race itself, after suffering a training injury.

Proven race winners Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner are both keen to test again for the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team, while Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda Garvie Image) takes his second year steps with Honda again.

Kawasaki will be at full strength, as the official Kawasaki Racing Team makes its way down under with Tom Sykes and local lad Chris Vermeulen. In addition, the Pedercini Kawasaki team will be present with Matteo Baiocco and US rider Roger Lee Hayden.

Two top level Suzuki riders are in town for testing as well, Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Alstare), with Haslam in particular having been outstandingly quick in previous test outings this winter.

Alphabetically last, but by no means least, Yamaha bring two top talents to testing as well, double World Champion James Toseland and current Supersport World Champion Cal Crutchlow.

The action in testing is set to be intense and closely fought with so much at stake only a few days afterwards, as the 13-round, 26-race, championship gets underway on Sunday 28 February.

Supersport riders also getting set to test

The Supersport World Championship riders will also be lapping Phillip Island in testing between 21 and 22 Feb, with the entry led by four of the top five riders in the 2009 final rankings.

Championship-runner up Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) is out to keep 2007 Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec behind him after topping recent tests at Portimao in Portugal.

2002 World Champion Fabien Foret rides for Kawasaki Lorenzini by Leoni in 2010 and as a race winner last year he is looking to these test as a way to turn his new machine into a podium challenger, sooner rather than later.

Comeback ‘kid’ Sebastien Charpentier (Triumph BE1 Racing) is one of four riders on Triumphs this year, including Briton Chaz Davies, American Jason DiSalvo and Spaniard David Salom. Each will test in Australia.

Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki Provec is a race winner in this class, as is Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda) and these riders will be joined by new Supersport hopeful Gino Rea (Intermoto Czech), who moves up after winning the European Superstock 600 Championship last year.