The first major BSB test of 2009 was battered by high winds yesterday when the HM Plant Honda, Hydrex Honda and Crescent Suzuki teams took to the Almeria circuit in southern Spain.
The difficult conditions failed to deter Hydrex Honda pair Karl Harris and Stuart Easton who were positively bubbling with enthusiasm for their new bikes.
Harris said: "The test has been really positive today and we were doing low 38's which I was pretty happy, considering we didn't get many laps this morning. We had a few niggling problems but we sorted them out pretty quickly.
All this year’s Hydrex Hondas have Pectell engine management, after a year of developing the system on one James Ellison’s bikes last year.
Harris said: “The new bike is just awesome and it stunned me how fast it was straight off. The whole package is just mega and this is the first time we have really seen its potential, with all the electronics and chassis changes for this year. I reckon we’ll be up there from the start.”
The Hydrex team use 43mm kit Showa forks and Showa kit shock developed by Spaniard Xavier Munos. Harris said: “We’ve been focusing on suspension (set-up) and as the day went on both me and Stuart (Easton) were going quicker and the lap times were dropping. There is still more to come and today was just the start. Now we will be working more on the set-up, the electronics and possibly some race runs so watch this space."
Easton won last year’s Macau Grand Prix on a version of the Hydrex bike he’ll race this year but this was his first time with the now revised Honda on a short circuit.
He said: "It has been a good day for the whole team today. It is the first chance to really work through the positioning of everything to get me feeling comfortable on the Hydrex Honda.
“We have been doing some short runs on track and the bike is very sharp and responsive, the speed is one of the most impressive things about it. The Hydrex Honda is very trick so that gives us plenty to work through during the rest of the test, but we are making good progress so I am feeling positive."
HM Plant Honda riders Glen Richards and Josh Brookes also made their track debuts on the up-dated 2008 Blades raced by Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam.
Brookes said: "Today was the first day out on track working with the new team and to also ride the HM Plant Honda so I was taking it steady to start with. I had not been out on track since the final World Supersport race at Portimao.
“I felt a bit rusty in the first session but we worked through several different changes to see how the HM Plant Honda would react and we were improving on times throughout the day.
“It was a good opportunity for us to work together and familiarise myself with the new bike. We made a good start and I have been focusing on the changes I needed to make, I did some laps with Glen but he was lapping quicker as he had more knowledge of the track and by the end of play I was catching him up. I haven't paid much attention to the other riders on circuit today but I am sure as testing continues I will be seeing more of them."
Richards wasn’t available form comment but team manager Havier Beltran said: "The first day of the test has gone well, it has been very windy here today and it rained heavily yesterday so the track is quite dirty where the sand has been blown onto it.
“We are really pleased with the positive progress that Josh and Glen made today and how they familiarised themselves with the new team and the HM Plant Hondas. We have quite a few things we need to run through on day two, but what we can work on will depend on the weather conditions."
Crescent Suzuki’s new signing Sylvain Guintoli has already clocked up considerable miles both with the 2008 bike and on the new K9 but this test is the first time he’s been on track with a rival BSB team.
Guintoli said: "It was difficult today as it was very windy out on track so we didn't do any fast laps as it was quite risky. However we have worked on the clutch, gearing and the start (launch) control, which was important to do. We have several new factory parts for this test which we haven't been able to test yet, but we have worked on the base setting we had from Calafat so today we have that to look forward to tomorrow if the weather has calmed down."
Team boss Jack Valentine added: "The strong winds today made it difficult to try and set any fast lap times, but we were still able to work on a basic set-up that we had from Calafat. Sylvain was able to complete some practice starts and focus on the gearing and tomorrow we hope that we can start testing some of the new parts we have for this test."