News 25 Feb 2020

Phillip Island WorldSBK test ends with Rea on top

Baz and Sykes complete the top three on day two of testing.

Image: Russell Colvin.

The final pre-season test for the 2020 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) has been completed with five-time reigning champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) setting the pace.

The spectacular Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit brought in wet weather at stages, whilst numerous crashes and red flags occurred, including offs for Rea, Scott Redding ( Racing – Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC).

Leading the way into the weekend, Jonathan Rea moved into top position and put in a strong lap time of 1m30.448s, coming in the morning session. The Ulsterman used today for long runs, showcasing his ability to work well and return to first place.

However, his day wasn’t without incident and was one of a handful of riders who crashed at turn four. He was okay and the bike was virtually undamaged. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) continued his switch to the KRT squad but was down in 12th, giving him plenty of work ahead of the racing weekend.

Flying the flag for the Independent teams once again was Baz as the Frenchman continued to be quick in the pre-season tests and finished second. What is impressive for Baz is that he hasn’t used the 2020 engine yet, so his pace is done purely on the 2019 engine – he expects a big step forward come Friday and his race pace is already looking strong. Other Independent revelations inside the top 10 included Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) in eighth.

There was a vast improvement in lap time from Scott Redding, despite the more inconsistent weather at the start of the day. The WorldSBK rookie managed to get into the 1m30a bracket as he perfected the balance of his bike. Still learning the Q tyre, Redding is aiming to be on the pace come the start of the weekend.

His teammate Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati) struggled to keep pace with his rookie teammate but worked away nonetheless. Redding finished in sixth but with big gains, whilst Davies was 11th on combined times.

2013 WorldSBK champion Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) led the BMW charge as he continued to shine at the sharp end. Having struggled with rear grip in the 2019 races, Sykes can now run comfortably for longer in the 1m31s.

He’s been working on the balance of the bike, whilst also using a new rear shock, placing him third. Teammate Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) completed his swingarm and chassis work and is now focused on electronics and short runs. He finished ninth overall.

Having been flying high at the head of the field on day one, Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team’s day two was slightly different. Toprak Razgatlioglu couldn’t replicate his day one pace in the tricky conditions, but was focused on settling in a good race pace and not just setting a strong one-off lap time.

However, his ability to set a strong one-off lap time with the Q tyre itself confirms the strides he has made over the pre-season at a time attack in Tissot Superpole style. Michael van der Mark crashed in the morning session at turn 10 but was okay. The Dutchman didn’t put a fast time in on Monday but set 15 consecutive laps in the 1m31s, demonstrating a good race pace. Toprak was fourth whilst van der Mark was seventh.

‘Pocket Rocket’ Leon Haslam (Team HRC) was once again in the top six, making it all six manufacturers inside the top half dozen once again. His lap time of a 1m30.882a was right on his race pace from last year, so there’s plenty of promise from Honda and their new CBR1000RR-R already.

On the other side of the garage, Alvaro Bautista wasn’t up at the sharp end and suffered a crash at turn four during the morning. He was in the top 10 however, which is an important step forward ahead of the weekend.

Sandro Cortese (OUTDO Kawasaki – TPR) was just outside the top 10 in 13th, 0.005s behind Lowes. Cortese was impressive, considering this was his first testing on the ZX-10RR. Behind Cortese in 14th was returning Spaniard Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), whilst Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) continued to impress in 15th.

He was just ahead of Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) and his teammate Federico Caricasulo, whilst Leon Camier (Barni Racing Team) and Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing Althea Honda Team) were just behind. In all, the top 17 were covered by just 1.5s.

WorldSSP results to come.