2014 World Superbike Rider Speak from Phillip Island
From the outset of Friday's practice sessions at Phillip Island for the opening round of 2014 World Superbike, the competition was high.
And this continued Sunday during the double-header World SBK weekend in Australia - the first round held under the new Superpole rules that are similar to MotoGP qualifying, and the new EVO class.
And the winners? The same as last year - Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli. But this year Laverty wasn't piloting the Aprilia RSV4; instead, he is with the Voltcom Suzuki team.
Laverty's win aboard the GSX-R1000 was the first time a Suzuki stood on the podium since race two at Kyalami in 2010. Joining Laverty on the podium was newly-signed Aprilia rider Marco Melandri and the other factory Aprilia pilot, Guintoli.
In race 2, Guintoli - who also started from pole - would be victorious. He would be joined on the podium by the Kawasaki duo of Loris Baz and the reigning World SBK Champion, Tom Sykes.
Following is what the riders were saying following the opening round of 2014 World Superbike at Phillip Island. For some in-depth commentary discussing the winners and losers at Phillip Island, click here.
2014 Phillip Island World Superbike Rider Quotes:
Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike) says: “A day of highs and lows! The first race was incredible! To be so far back on the first lap and come through to win; it was the perfect race for us and a nice way to pay back the whole team for the belief they’ve shown in me.
"Paul Denning worked hard to get me on board and he delivered everything I needed. He brought in my Crew Chief Phil Marron, Davide Gentile to work on the electronics and Stan; who I’ve worked with before.
"All the rest of the boys have welcomed me, so it was nice to be able to reward them with the win right away, and it’s a win that means more to me than any so far in my WSBK career. The second race was a disappointment for everyone. We didn’t deserve that - that’s for sure - but that’s racing and unfortunately that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Alex Lowes (Voltcom Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike) says: “I’m frustrated with today. I tried really hard and don’t have a lot to show for it really. The first race crash, and in the second race the run on; on the first lap and then the crash later was all because I was struggling to change gear with my foot.
"I had a numbing injection, lost a bit of feeling and I couldn’t change gear so it was hard work! I was riding through the pain, so to just get three points has upset me a bit because we had such good pace all through the test. I’ve never been here before and we were still looking like we could run at the front and challenge for a podium so I’m really disappointed, but I’m going to come back fitter and stronger and we should be ok for Aragon.”
Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: “In Race 1 maybe I had a little too much faith. I started off strong and toward the end I lost the right feeling with my rear tire. The conditions were much different than they had been over the last few days but we did a good job anyway. In the second race I tried to look after my tire and it worked.
"If I think about everything that happened during the winter I can't help but be pleased with our weekend. I'm finally back on the top step of the podium. I want to thank the guys who looked after me during my recovery. I'm pretty tired now but I'll have a month to recover before the next round.”
Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: “Race 1 went well. I got off to a good start and then I was able to ride smoothly in the first few laps to conserve my tires for the end. Unfortunately after the halfway point the bike was sliding around a lot.
"I wasn't able to be incisive so when Eugene took the lead I preferred holding onto second place. In Race 2 I wanted to use the same tactics again but to overtake Rea I braked harder than usual and the rear wheel came up so I was forced to run on. I'm disappointed because I threw away some important points.
"I'm sure I still need more experience adjusting to the way the bike reacts and adapting the settings to my riding style. The track conditions also brought out some problems that I had never had before. Now I need to get a handle on the situation so that I'm ready for the next race.”
Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Ninja Superbike) says: “We changed just a little thing on the bike for race two and then opted for a new front tyre. So to score second place and then leave here second in the world championship is really good.
"In race one I was really happy with a top five and it felt like a podium. When I crashed again on Friday I really did not think I could make it this week but it worked out well on raceday. I wanted to go really fast in the beginning of race two and I saw that my pace was really good. I was even faster than Sylvain in the lead, but I always rode with the idea to save the tires. My bike was feeling great. Tom was coming back and I am sure the end of the race would have been a great fight if it had gone full distance.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Ninja Superbike) says: “We had some issues in race one but in the second race we changed the set-up. I really do have to say a big thanks to the team. I have a real good set of guys working for me and their knowledge is incredible. We went back to some basics and it was so nice.
"Although Sylvain rode well to win the race I felt race two would have been our race, but unfortunately it was cut short. That is how racing goes sometimes. I am very happy with how things have gone finally. For track temperatures to be so hot on raceday here in Phillip Island, and a little bit of wind blowing around, these are usually the worst conditions for us. So it was great to come back so strong at the end.
"We reeled in the Aprilia and that never usually happens here, so I felt the next second laps of the second race would have been my part of the race. Now I can head back to Europe knowing that we have been so competitive at our worst circuit. We’re off to a steady start but I am only six points off second in the championship and 16 points off the lead.”
David Salom (EVO Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Ninja Superbike) says: “I can add this Evo class win to the one from race one. The second race was hotter and I did not have as much grip. Marco Melandri passed me so I followed him and he helped me to push forward. On the last laps I took a lead over Canepa and I was going faster every lap. The team and I worked well in the winter tests to arrive here in Australia 100% ready.”
Niccolò Canepa (EVO Althea Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superbike) says: “If they’d told me before the start of the weekend that I would have finished second in both Evo races I would have definitely been happy but considering our results during the practices I’m a little disappointed with today’s outcome.
"I battled with Salom in both races. In the first, I made some small mistakes and was unable to pass him, while in the second we went even faster but Salom maintained a pace that he never showed in practice and that I was unable to match. But, anyway, this has been a very positive race weekend overall. We carried out solid tests and collected data and experience that will be extremely useful during the rest of the season, as well as the knowledge that we can fight for the win in Evo. I want to thank my team for their exceptional work.”
Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team 1199 Panigale R) says: “In race 1 I was quite relaxed. I managed to lap fast by only riding at about 70%, saving that extra 30% for the end of the race but unfortunately the grip became an issue maybe five or six from the end. In the second race, I immediately realized that conditions were warmer than the first and so I tried to limit the damage by holding back a little.
"Then later I started to push and was catching those ahead of me – I think I could have battled for the podium if the race had gone full distance but unfortunately they stopped the race after 14 laps. Anyway, overall it’s been a great weekend. We’ve shown that, as far as the chassis and my riding is concerned, that we’ve arrived.
"We were consistently fast throughout the weekend and this gives us confidence for the next races. Today’s results are very encouraging for me, for the team and for Ducati.”
Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team 1199 Panigale R) says: “I am a little disappointed in terms of race results. In race one we had a rear tire issue and I gradually lost grip from maybe the mid-race point. Race 2 was a little better, I was hanging in there with the front group, managing to edge my way up through the field to about fifth.
"Then at about lap 10 I felt like I lost power and so I slowed down because I didn’t know what was happening. It was a shame as I think we were in for a better result in race 2. I felt more comfortable, with the team having made some changes between the first and second races. Anyway, there are positives to take away from the weekend.
"Solid points in each race for example – it’s the first time I’ve scored points in both Superbike races at Phillip Island. I also made the fastest lap of race one. But I know we’re capable of more, everyone’s working hard and the bike is feeling good. Roll on Aragon.”
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR) says: "I guess we have to be reasonably satisfied with the result here because we’ve made a big improvement over last year here at Phillip Island. It’s clear which areas we need to work on and it’s mostly mechanical grip.
"In race one, some of the guys struggled with tyre problems because it went the full distance, but I was able to look after my tire which was a good thing. But we still need to make improvements in that area because the guys at the front had no problems.
"Race two was unfortunately stopped early because I think I was probably conserving my tyre a little more than I should have been. Sykes passed me into turn one but kind of stopped up in the corner and I lost a lot of places and lost touch with the group so the last few laps were quite boring.
"But I’m quite happy with everyone on my side of the box – we’ve been making good linear progress. They’re not results to jump up and down about but it’s a good way to start the season. I’m looking forward to getting back to some more conventional circuits in Europe and to aiming a lot higher than we did here."
Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR) says: "I had a big disaster in race one – we had a bit of an electronics issue and then the bike spun from under me at turn 12. We saw what that was and we know the problem in that area but the boys had to work really, really hard to get the bike ready for race two.
"They put a good setting in the bike that allowed me to run consistent times similar to the leaders’ but we just had a few niggly issues that stopped me getting up to them. Me and Johnny had a good battle and then the race got red flagged.
"It was disappointing that we didn’t get to have a bit more fun out on the track but fifth and sixth for the team, considering the issues we’ve had, is not so bad. We’ll go back and work hard for the next one – we’ve made some steps forward since Friday but we didn’t get back to where we were at the test, which was a little disappointing. We know why though, and we’ll get it sorted for next time."
Aaron Yates (Team Hero EBR 1190RX Superbike) says: “The bike was the best that it’s been all weekend. We found something in the warm up session which has helped us massively. Towards the end of the race I was thinking about not getting in the way of leaders but we did what we set out to achieve and that was to finish both races and get a lot more data. We can go to Aragon proud of what we have achieved here.”