After an often highly successful 2015 season in most of the categories it has competed in the Yamaha YZF-R1 took its first track-bound laps in full WSB specification on Tuesday 3 November in the hands of new pairing Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli.
With its all-new specification and no previous R1 effort being run to full WSBK rules the test is very much a shakedown test, the beginning of an extensive development programme for all aspects of the bike. The engineering and European development base for the overall Yamaha effort will be in Germany, even though the team will eventually be run from the UK.
Both new Yamaha riders said the engine and chassis package immediately felt strong, but with so much work to do on the 2016 components and electronics, it is very much early days yet.
Lowes said, after two days, “The first test was good, the potential of the bike is really high but we have a lot of work to do. Already my feeling on the bike is fantastic. I really enjoyed riding the YZF-R1, it's been lots of fun and it's nice to get the project started so successfully.”
The Pata Yamaha riders did over 100 laps each, despite losing some time to the weather.
For 2014 World Champion and former MotoGP rider Guintoli the first test was as much as he could have hoped for after a tough 2015.
“We've managed to do quite a lot of work but most importantly the base of the bike - the chassis and power delivery - feels really good,” said Guintoli. “It was a positive test overall. I really enjoyed riding it - it reminds me a lot of the M1 from 2007, I can see and feel the same philosophy behind the bike - so yes, a very positive first impression and it's nice to feel such a good atmosphere with Yamaha."
The KRT riders, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes had their first joint test after Rea missed the Motorland outing last week to be at home for the birth of his second child. Adverse weather conditions in the UK delayed his arrival at the test on day one but that coincided with some bad weather in the morning, so his loss of time was less important than it could have been.
Rea worked on the 2016 version of the Ninja ZX-10R for the most part, and even had a small off at turn five on the second morning. He rode back to the pits to get back into track mode again.
He said, “Day one started out damp, plus I did not arrive until lunchtime because of flight cancellations, but we still got 44 lap done yesterday and a lot of work done on the second day. We are happy because we were able to lap much faster than we did during race weekend in 2015.” Rea set a best of 1’40.6 and Sykes a 1’41 flat.
Sykes worked more on a hybrid 2015 to 16 machine spec, adding to the knowledge he gained at Motorland, while re-confirming the best part he evaluated there. His eventual machine spec at Jerez was almost all 2016.
He also fell, losing the rear between turns 12 and 13, but riding back to the pits to continue. Additionally he was hit in the face by a bird on what he said would have been his fastest lap. “I had a bit of a crash in one of the fast turns, lost the front on the double right near the end and I ended up with massive scuff marks on the leathers. I saved it three times but eventually crashed. I also got hit by a bird, right on my Shark helmet, and some of it went in through the mouth vent. I even had a couple of feathers stuck in my beard!”
Of his overall test he felt positive in the direction of development but he lost too much track time to be completely satisfied with the final results, as he did not get to try some of the parts and settings he and his team knew would bring even more improvements at the very end.