Tommy Hill wound up fastest in the four-day test here with a 1:32.9 on the Swan Yamaha but Josh Brookes second and Michael Laverty – each just one tenth of a second further back and Shane Byrne just six tenths off Hill.
What began the week as methodical testing turned into a typically frenzied last-ditch dash to post the best times – as it always does and there were the claims and counters claims of who did what…. All good-humoured banter between the rival teams
The track temperature was dropping away fast at the end of the afternoon but there was a definite buzz of anticipation as the test reached its climax.
When Tommy posted his quick time, he got off the bike grabbed a spray can and left and indelible record of his time on the Cartagena concrete pit wall. It’s tradition…
But as Laverty came over to high-five his teammate – the pair of them absolutely over the moon with their efforts, Brookes - using a soft SC0 Pirelli for a final three-lap run - scored his best time to split the pair of them – all three just tenths apart.
The SC0 isn’t usually worth a jot in BSB, but as Brookes said the tyre has been improved this winter and the Yamaha guys also used one to good effect.
Hill and Laverty were consistently quick at Calafat and Cartagena, so much so that their rivals wouldn’t even acknowledge their lap times for most of the test.
I didn’t really get that because a) I’d seen the times on their watches, sheets and/or data, and b) Dan Linfoot was insanely quick in his debut on the Motorpoint Yamaha last year so it’s patently obvious the R1 suits this circuit.
Brookes wasn’t as consistently fast as the Yamahas but that was more down to him building steadily to get his head around the Relentless Suzuki rather than any serious issues.
He reckons he’s still got to sort a couple of things to make him really happy, like front-end feel, but you have to admit he made a good start with the GSX-R1000.
The HM Plant Hondas had problems but I don’t think Ryuichi Kiyonari’s performance was as bad as lap times suggests – or the picture he’s been painting. You’ll have to read the Pinchin ‘conspiracy theory’ in MCN on Wednesday for an explanation; suffice to say that it’s pretty obvious we shouldn’t be writing Kiyo off after this test.
Shakey was up to speed on the Honda and with his patter. He’s still as positive as ever and why not with a team like HM Plant behind him? He certainly did enough in Spain to show everyone that he’ll be a title contender this year.
I can’t even be bothered to explode the ‘Shakey can only ride a v-twin’ myth. His times speak for themselves!
The Samsung Suzukis and MSS Kawasakis didn’t run today, Samsung heading out to Guadix for a three-day test later in the week, MSS off to Portimao for two days.
Don’t think we should underestimate John Hopkins.
Jon Kirkham just needs more time on the bike, which he’ll get this week and Easton and Mason looked pretty good out here and they’ve not even got their superbike-spec engines yet.
The Rapid Solicitors Ducati didn’t have anything really new to try at the test so threw a bunch of different chassis geometry at the bike they never had time to play with in BSB last year.
Michael Rutter did most of the riding – and crashing (two front enders that left the Ducati nicely gravel-rashed) while Martin Jessopp had another infection in the leg he injured at Mallory last year.
I’m not sure about Jessopp prospects, just because of his leg injury, but Rutter’s going to be good once they get their fly-by-wire kit. They’ve got one of the factory Ducati teams on board all year to short-cut their learning time with the new kit – if you get my drift!
Big downer of the test for me was when Dan Linfoot blew an engine to bits and his crew chief Alec Tague blew a gasket when he found Linfoot, Brembo’s Ian Edwards and yours truly stood around the tarp-shrouded dead motor in the back of the garage.
To be honest, with my best ‘eagled-eyed’ journalistic head on, I didn’t even clocked the motor because we were engrossed in a conversation about the Jerez Moto2 test and frankly, I didn’t give a monkey’s about what was under the cover.
I knew his engine had gone pop in a spectacular way – it had already been tweeted by Laura Stevens from MSVR - but this is racing and shit happens.
But somehow I got singled out as some kind of pariah and was threatened I’d never get another scrap of information if I mentioned their blown engine that had a con-rod hanging out of the cases. Oh dear, that’s ‘blown it.’
Hey ho, that’s one garage I won’t need to be visiting this year then. If I don’t write much about Linny this year, I apologise now. Sorrymate(.com).
Couple of people I did feel sorry for were Tom Tunstall and Dave Johnson. Tunstall crashed his new BMW trying to sort the fuelling and did the ligaments in his foot.
He was back at the track on crutches on the last day and putting a brave face on things. Johnson crashed his new superstock Honda and banged up his hand.
It wasn’t just top BSB action at Cartagena. Gary Johnson was there on the East Coast Hondas he’ll be racing on the roads this year. Dan Kneen was on the Marks Bloom ZX-10R superbike prepped by ‘Slick’ Bass and Conor Cummins – as I mentioned earlier in the week - was back on track with Ian Lougher’s Black Horse Finance Kawasaki team.
I’ve also got to say I was pretty impressed with Guy Martin’s work-rate at this test on the Relentless Suzukis.
He wasn’t ripping record-pace laps but he spent session after session on track, Pirelli tyre testing for the TT and rode not only two different spec superbikes, he also rode a superstocker and supersport bike. Alastair Seeley was almost as busy, dialling his GSX-R600 supersport bike but also had runs on the 1000s.
Shane Byrne HM Plant Honda 1:23.3
Tommy Hill Swan Yamaha 1:23.8
Michael Laverty Swan Yamaha 1:24.2
Ryuchi Kiyonari HM Plant Honda 1:25.0
Tommy Hill Swan Yamaha 1:32.9
Josh Brookes Relentless by TAS Suzuki 1:33.0
Michael Laverty Swan Yamaha 1:33.1
Shane Byrne HM Plant Honda 1:33.5
John Hopkins Samsung Suzuki 1:34.0
Dan Linfoot sorrymate.com Honda 1:34.4
Stuart Easton MSS Colchester Kawasaki 1:34.5
Michael Rutter Rapid Solictors Ducati 1:34.9
Ryuichi Kiyonari HM Plant Honda 1:35.4
Gary Mason MSS Colchester Kawasaki 1:35.5
Jon Kirkham Samsung Suzuki 1:35.8
Martin Jessopp Rapid Solictors Ducati n/t
All times are unofficial and supplied by teams