It was no surprise to see World Superbike series leader Troy Bayliss dominate proceedings at this week’s three-day Pirelli tyre test at Brno in the Czech Republic. On each day he set the pace on race rubber and qualifiers utilising a selection of four new Pirelli rears and three fronts.
Bayliss is clearly the chosen one when it comes to tyre development and his vast experience on Dunlops in BSB and Michelins in WSB and MotoGP has helped the Pirelli technicians take their tyres to the next level. For sure Troy Corser also plays an important role, but he was absent from the test due to a bout of Chicken Pox caught from his son – which meant Bayliss had even more attention and even more tyres to test.
It seems that whilst all the other teams are testing anything and everything including head angles, suspension linkages, and different ignition maps, as well as new tyres, Ducati are already at the limit of the their development so spend lap after lap fine tuning their package, tyre testing and dedicating time to finding perfect race set-ups.
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The results are clear to see and the Bayliss factor is also playing a massive part. He may be 37 years old and in theory approaching the end of a highly successful and tough racing career, but his dedication and work ethic is undeniable. On any day he’s nearly always the first on track and from his first flying lap he’s generally setting the pace.
Days two and three saw more of the same with Bayliss setting some seriously quick times on new Pirelli qualifiers, more than two seconds faster than last year’s best – scarcely believable. He also completed a long run in the midday heat, which showed unrivalled pace for the first handful of laps before his times dropped off to a more realistic pace which were matched by his rivals.
The only thing that spoiled the Australian’s test were two crashes. The first happened on day one, a nasty highside which came about, rumours suggest, because his bike’s traction control system was switched off without his knowledge. The second one, losing the front, brought a premature end to his long run when he was dicing with Haga who was on significantly newer rubber.
Also at the test, James Toseland got his first taste of traction control on the Winston Honda. Day one was predominantly spent getting the system working on a fifth bike built specifically for testing purposes. Up until Brno the Dutch team had only completed bench testing of the new system so Brno was the first real test. It proved to be pretty slow progress for the team, but by day two Toseland was lapping faster on the new bike using a revised PI Electronics control system – although the Ten Kate team didn’t have the traction control side of the system up and running.
Toseland was pleased with the initial throttle response and the bike’s behaviour under braking with less backing in, but when the traction control was switched on he lapped slower. Toseland knows all too well how difficult it is to set up a traction control system from scratch as he had to do it for Ducati in 2005, sustaining a nasty pre-season injury in the process which hampered his early season.
The team remain confident that it’s the way forward and will be a benefit but it looks like they have a long road ahead to get their system somewhere close to the level of Ducati and Suzuki. On day three Toseland’s team-mate Karl Muggeridge got to test the system. It was his first ever taste of traction control and like Toseland he went slower using it. It seems unlikely that the team will run the system at the next race in Misano as there’s too much to test and a race weekend is not the place to do it.