After driving down from Cartagena to Guadix yesterday and kicking around the town, having a lazy afternoon, today it was back to business as usual – or so we had hoped.
Guadix is a beautifully maintained, delightful 3.0km race circuit owned by ex-pat Brit Clive Greenhalgh, and its mix of fast corners and hairpins make it a perfect venue for BSB teams for pre-season testing as well as being used as a test track by some of the top racing car teams in the world.
It’s set against the snow-tipped mountains of the Sierra Nevada and on a sunny day, there’s no better place to be. But while the sun was out from first thing this morning, there was a nasty, bitter wind blowing tumble weeds across the course, ensuring that the track temperature didn’t get above 12 degrees until later in the afternoon.
To make things worse, the track surface was really slick and with only two full-on BSB superbikes in a field of seven riders, there was little chance of putting enough rubber down.
John Hopkins came in after a few exploratory laps and told the team, “if it stays this way, we’re not going to get anything sensible done. It’s so slippery out there that I can’t even get my knee down. I’ve never ridden on asphalt like this.”
He wasn’t alone, Gary Johnson parked up the East Coast Hondas (ex-Uel Duncan roads superbike and ex-GNS CBR600RR. Team-mate Lee Johnston also has an ex-GNS 600) while Howie Mainwaring took occasional looks at the track with his MSS Kawasaki superstocker but both agreed there was more to lose than to gain with the track being so slick.
Lap times in the morning were something like seven seconds off Leon Haslam’s unofficial lap record of 1:12.4 that he recorded in 2008. Stuart Easton did a 1:13.4 last year on the Swan Honda. But even that looked a fairly distant target to shoot for.
This afternoon Hopper was driving around the circuit perimeter in his hire car, watching from the sidelines while team-mate Jon Kirkham did a couple of fairly lengthy runs.
One of them was with Howie Mainwaring chasing him on the MSS Kawasaki superstocker and to hear them comparing notes afterwards was an interesting experience: Kirkham saying how he was gradually getting more accustomed to the power delivery of the Suzuki and how he was getting better in the tighter stuff (compared to Cartagena where he was losing heaps of time in the final three tight corners).
Howie clearly happy with the way he could home in on the pure-bred superbike mid-corner.
Mainwaring’s ZX-10R is currently in the early stages of development and what you might call super-superstock with no work on the engine, no quick-shifter, and no Power Commander.
He matched his 2010 lap times on the old-style ZX-10 that were achieved in four days inside half a day this time around. But then the new ZX-10R should be a radical improvement over the previous model.
Mainwaring said: “The new bike has a much better power to weight ratio. It’s fast, more nimble and even up against Jon’s superbike, it was still holding it’s own. It’s fast.”
Johnson was back-to-backing on his two Hondas – the superbike being the bare bones of the machine he raced with the Uel Duncan/Robinson Concrete team and has since been run by Michael Dunlop on the roads.
“It’s the same swing-arm and frame but the engine has evolved,” said Johnson.
“It’s got a different gearbox, linkages and yokes and is a very different feel to when I last rode it. I’m much more comfy on it now than I ever remember it,” said Johnson.
Late in the afternoon there was a flurry of activity in the Samsung Suzuki pit box with Hopper taking to the track again to try some different forks while Kirkham’s crew switched from a factory swing-arm to a modified stock one.
And Hopper went from an SC01 Pirelli to an SC02 and had the feel come back to him that had been lacking earlier.
We’ve had a brief smattering of rain this evening but tomorrow the forecast, according to Greenhalgh, is for much calmer, sunny conditions in the morning but with the possibility of the wind picking up again in the afternoon. Get it on early boys.