MCN BSB testing blog: Hill and Laverty on fire

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There wasn’t exactly fear on the faces of the BSB teams in the Cartagena pit lane but there was genuine surprise at how fast Michael Laverty and Tommy Hill were today on the Swan Yamahas.

Everyone keeps harping on about times not being important at this stage of testing and they are so right, but they certainly took a second take at their stopwatches when Laverty set the pace with a 1:34.1 and Hill was only a touch slower at 1:34.7.
Why? Because everyone else, with a day under their belts already, was still in the 1:35s!

Hill had a little off in Turn One early on, rushing past Gary Mason’s Kawasaki on the brakes and straight into the grave. He later blamed his faux pas on new brake pads! But he set his best lap in a mixed session at the end of the day in traffic.

Laverty was the king of cool as usual. He’s asked his crew chief to turn off the anti-wheelie at Calafat and they’d forgotten to turn it back on but there was no drama when he realised what was going on.

Laverty cruised into pit lane and calmly said, ‘I’m having to use the rear brake a lot more than usual here,’ and everyone twigged what was up.

Laverty’s ‘advantage’ today was that he’d been to the track on a 600 and a superbike in the past so he could concentrate on exactly what the bike was doing, rather than worrying about where to turn in or where to hit the apex.

If the weather holds, I’m pretty certain that we will see some pretty impressive times over the next couple of days and the 1:33.5s that Hill and Yukio Kagayama did last year here in testing on the Worx Suzukis could easily be surpassed.

If you apply the Laverty logic what John Hopkins is doing – then that puts his low 1:35 on the Samsung Crescent Racing machine into the ‘highly competitive’ bracket, considering he’s not even started to exploit the adjustability of the GSX-R1000 yet. And he’s still learning the track.

Team-mate Jon Kirkham is only a second or so off Hopper’s pace which is also mightily impressive and Josh Brookes is in the high 1:35s too on the Relentless Suzuki after a day of changing stuff for change’s sake and going full circle with his bike set-up.

Michael Rutter has been making all sorts of radical chassis changes to the Rapid Solicitors Ducati, things they wanted to do last year but never had time during a BSB meeting.

Martin Jessopp took time out, only doing sporadic laps, and still struggling with the leg injury sustained at Mallory last year.

Stuart Eaton and Gary Mason have quietly been plugging away with their MSS Kawasaki – with a proper structured programme to suss the new chassis but both are well upbeat about the new ZX-10R’s capabilities.

So what does it all mean? It means there’s a pit lane of fascinating technological and psychological warfare going on that’s already starting to develop such exciting prospects for this year’s British Superbike championship.

This is no ordinary dull, drawn-out test. There’s a real buzz of excitement and anticipation here and while I’m only to well aware that riders and teams will always talk up their chances pre-season, I’ve never seen some of here riders so pumped about the challenges ahead.

And tomorrow will be even more fascinating when the HM Plant Hondas take to the track. Shane Byrne was in his element at Calafat but British champion Ryuichi Kiyonari looked a tad off the pace.

He arrived at Cartagana in the afternoon and was slumped over the pit wall, travel pack still on his back, watching the bikes flash past.

“Hey Kiyo, lap times not so good at Calafat? Problems?
“Not fast enough.”
“But did you have problems?”
“Hmmmm. No problem. We try many things. Lap time not important.”
Kiyo to a tee.

It’s funny but everyone remarked how off-the-pace Kiyo was at Calafat but two things here: 1) in the absence of official timing, no one’s really sure of his times.

Shakey did a 1:23.3 (according to Shakey) but the consensus was Kiyo never went under 1:25s (consensus, as in the only the team in the paddock at Calafat). But so what?

We’re all used to seeing that from him and the next day he’ll go and blitz the lap record. You can never underestimate the wily Japanese warrior.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s action. 

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Gary Pinchin

By Gary Pinchin