Cartagena, Thursday, March 3
Another day, another race track. We’re at Cartagena now and it feels more like a normal BSB meeting than a pre-season test – packed garages, loads of new bikes, chilled air even with the sun out. Like Brands in Spring…..?
First thing, I saw Conor Cummins wandering through the paddock but didn’t really cotton on. Ten minutes later he’s there in leathers getting on the Black Horse Finance Kawasaki to go out and do laps. I wasn’t the only one stopped in my tracks. I think his fitness battle has gripped not only ordinary people like me, but his on-track rivals too have been impressed by his sheer determination to get back racing again after that horrific TT crash. He’s far from 100% but you know what, from the sensational progress he’s made so far, you wouldn’t bet against him making the start of the season.
Walking down the lengthy pit road it’s clear there’s some serious work-in-progress still ongoing – which is no drama since the start of the BSB season is still weeks away. Notably, Stuart Easton and Gary Mason had to wait for their MSS Kawasaki s to be finished and the Rapid Solictors Ducatis are still waiting on new parts.
Michael Rutter suffered the fate of being the first top line BSB rider to fall. He slipped off in the penultimate left hand hairpin, trailing the brake to the apex. No real damage done apart from the old man’s pride!
He wasn’t the only one to fall. Dan Linfoot stepped off the SMT Honda. But at least he could argue he was up to speed and pushing on after arriving a day early and doing a Hotttrax track day – well the afternoon anyway.
I didn’t bother looking at lap times today and neither did many of the riders. This, like the first day at Calafat, was installation day.
The sad thing is that over the next few days lap times will become of interest and although Barry Symmonds has laid on proper timing facilities for this year’s Pro-Test, I’m not sure all the teams will take up the option. I think they enjoy the catch and mouse games of seeing just how far they can stretch the truth on lap times in pre-season testing. Now if someone high up at MSVR could suggest it’s a cool idea then maybe the big teams will play ball. Otherwise we’ll be down to peaking over shoulders at crew chief’s clip boards or trying to read computer data.
One of the big highlights for me today was seeing John Hopkins riding the Samsung Suzuki. How cool is it to have a MotoGP class rider in BSB? I’m over all the BS about world class riders not being able to cope with our tracks. I think Gregorio Lavilla and Sylvain Guintoli proved that if a rider really wants it bad enough, and has world class ability, he can ride anywhere. And you’ve got to say Hopper is in that mould. I personally can’t wait to see him let rip at Brands.
It was also great to hook up with Josh Brookes again. The guy is just full of enthusiasm for the sport and it’s always good to hear what he has to say. I think it’s a great pity that the ‘I, Superbiker’ movie didn’t tease more of his character out because the film would have been all the richer for some of his top banter.
I think we’ll really see his true colours in the more relaxed atmosphere of the Relentless by TAS team. I like the thought of a Suzuki battle within a BSB battle. There’s some serious kudos to being top Suzuki team this year. Hopper v Brookes. Crescent v TAS. Now there’s a grudge match waiting to happen.
Swan Yamaha’s Mick Shanley rang me mid-afternoon to say rain had called a halt to their test so we’re expecting to see them and HM Plant Honda arriving at Cartagena a bit earlier than expected. And once they are present and dialled, then we’ll maybe start looking at the lap times to see who really earned the bragging rights.