Temperatures are beginning to rise for the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike Champion at Phillip Island on Feb. 25 -27 in Australia. WSBK motorcycle racing teams from around the world are busy with final details as riders move to new teams and teams make changes in machinery and personnel.
Aprilia sees reigning SBK champ Max Biaggi returning to the line-up, while Kawasaki is the only marque to be introducing an all-new motorcycle this year in the shape of the Ninja ZX-10R, which will be ridden by Aussie star Chris Vermeulen.
The BMW S1000RR Superbike team just finished three days of testing at Eastern Creek last week, experiencing two extremely hot days with track temperatures up to 60 degrees, before the third day provided slightly cooler conditions.
Australia’s Troy Corser and Leon Haslam (former Aprilia RSV4 rider), were quick from the get go managing to clock 1m30s times in the hot conditions on the BMW S 1000 RRs. But on day three Troy and Leon set their best marks – Corser a blistering fast 1m29.5 s lap (a new lap record for the creek) and Haslam a 1m30.5s time.
The team decided to test in Oz, over the official tests in Portugal, to focus on setting up the BMW S 1000 RR for race tracks with very low grip. The conditions in Eastern Creek proved to be perfect for that aim, as the very high temperatures made the race track quite slippery.
Troy Corser (2011 BMW S1000RR) says: "I am pretty happy with the progress that we made on my bike. We worked on electronics, traction and rear wheel activation. In all areas we made some good steps.
"I also tried some chassis,geometry and fork setting. We concentrated on these areas to give us some information and to understand what we need to do if we get the same situation. The lap times got better and better as we improved the bike and the better the circuit became. The lap time we got to quite comfortably is very good for this track.
"I think with what we have learned here we are now very well prepared for the test next week, regarding the set-up of the bike. It was nice to come back to Eastern Creek. The last time I was here was 18 years ago, in 1993. It was a good experience to ride on the superbike here."
Leon Haslam (2011 BMW S1000RR) says: "We mainly worked on the electronics, just trying to dial it in. We also focused on setting up the chassis to get a base set-up, because in the hot conditions the bike behaves very differently.
"We had a few issues but we are making progress with the bike. Certainly you always want to go faster and make things happen quicker. But we got in a lot of testing, which is good, and are definitely improving. I am very confident the team will give 100 per cent and that it should be good."
On the other side of the global, Jakub Smrz proved to be the fastest rider in the official pre-season WSBK test at Portimao last week. After three days of changeable weather conditions, the Effenbert-Liberty man’s time of 1’43.503 remained unbeaten throughout, giving the Czech-based Ducati team a great start to life in World SBK racing.
Jakub Smrz (2011 Ducati 1198 R): "We brought two bikes here, one with almost the set-up as the one I used for a while last year and one set up like the factory team of last year. That had some different things with geometry, gearing, swingarm and so on and I was fastest on that one on the first day.
"The other two days there was not so much do, because the conditions were not fully dry, not fully wet, most of the time. The team worked perfectly and it is great for them to start the season being fastest in this test."
In the overall three day rankings, Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) was second, and WSBK rookie Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) third, with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike) a confident fourth. Carlos Checa (Althea Racing) filled the top five places, with World Champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) sixth, despite only taking to the track on the dry first day.
Michel Fabrizio (Team Suzuki Alstare) headed off Smrz’s team-mate Sylvain Guintoli for seventh, despite crashing twice on the second day. Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) was ninth and new WSBK rider Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) beat some established names to go tenth quickest.
1. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1’43.503; 2. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’43.676; 3. Laverty E. (IRL) Yamaha YZF R1 1’43.707; 4. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’43.770; 5. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1’43.789; 6. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1’43.840; 7. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1’43.879; 8. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1’44.369; 9. Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1’44.446; 10. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’44.752; etc.
Mildura rider Josh Waters, the 2009 Australian Superbike champion, will also make a one-off appearance at Phillip Island for the famed Yoshimura Suzuki team. The former dirt track prodigy has logged hundreds of laps at Phillip Island over the last few years, and definitely has the form to embarrass some championship regulars.
Perth’s Bryan Staring has scored Australia’s second wildcard. The 2010 Australian Superbike champion is still searching for some extra sponsorship for the Pedercini Kawasaki ride for the Phillip Island opener – but is confident he will be on the grid.
Phillip Island’s three day World Superbike program has just been finalized. Friday’s schedule sees first practice for World Superbikes at 11.30am, and first qualifying at 3.30pm – so make sure you are there from early Friday AM to get all the action.
Saturday is back to back action, with final qualifying and the three stage elimination Superpole for World Superbikes, qualifying for World Supersport and five races for the national classes.
Sunday is world championship race day with two 22-lap World Superbike races held at 12.00pm and 3.30pm on Sunday, the single world Supersport event at 1.30pm and plenty of great racing from the national classes.
In all, there will be 12 international and national races at Phillip Island over the three days.