Fun in the sun at Cartagena BSB test

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Former Honda and Norton race team boss Barry Symmons has been running the Cartagena Pro- test for 18 years and it has become a mecca for all of the top BSB and road race teams. This year the four day event has attracted more riders than ever before with all the main title contenders making the trip to southern Spain.

Each day’s action is divided into four sessions with each class- 125cc and Moto3, Supersport, Superstock and Superbikes- enjoying a 20 minute outing in each one.

“We have had more red flags this year than usual.” Symmons explains, which might indicate the competition is more intense than usual.

Dan Kneen was the first crasher on day one, earning himself a trip to hospital after highsiding on his maiden run on the Mar-Train Yamaha superbike. Stiff and sore Kneen has now rejoined the fray and, like Alastair Seeley who slid off after an oil pipe let go on his RAF Reserves/Briggs BMW on day two.

There is certainly no lack of effort, concentration and sometimes frustration on the part of the team personnel and riders as they struggle to find the set up that will see them happily on their way towards the first round at Silverstone on April 10.

The cool shadows of the garages offer some comfort from the mid day sun for the JG Speedfit mechanics who swapped frames on Peter Hickman’s ZX10R in a fruitless attempt to overcome his chatter problem.

Hickman and teammate Leon Haslam chat to their experienced race Dads about settings and geometry as they watch and wait.

For many of those who have seen it all before these test days can be long. Andy Reid stretches out on the pit wall as John Hopkins whizzes around pulling wheelies on his scooter to relieve the boredom

For this year’s star rookie, Glenn Irwin, it is all a little more new fangled. “Mental” is the only word he can find to describe the power of his Be Wiser Ducati and he dutifully follows the lead set by four time champion teammate, Shakey Byrne, on and off the track.

The BSB runners share garages with some of the biggest names from the road racing grid.  Buildbase BMW is giving Michael Dunlop his first outing on his 2016 superbike and stocker S1000RRs while his TT rival, Ian Hutchinson keeps an eye on proceedings from the Tyco BMW garage two doors down.

Lap after lap the riders circulate on the abrasive Cartagena track, a strip of tarmac plonked in the middle of what feels like a huge and desolate quarry. Even in mid-March there isn’t a single blade of grass to be found in this Spanish desert.

The chatter is all about high 33s and low 34s, tenths shaved off here and there that brings smiles to the racers face and confidence to their souls.

Stuart Easton was heard to describe lap times as “the gauge of your progress”. It is strange then how secretively those times are guarded initially from public knowledge. Time and again a vague reference is made such as “he is faster than last year already’ or ‘he is within touching distance of the quickest lap ever round here’ but nothing specific is mentioned during the opening days.  With no transponders on the bikes the only way to find out is to ask the teams and slowly but surely a picture begins to emerge of who is on fire and who is not.

Times after day two

1. Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) 1m:33.4s
2. Danny Buchan (Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati) 1m:33.804s
3. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 1m:34.3s
4. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 1m:34.4s
-Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) 1m:34.4s
-Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) 1m:34.4s
7. James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 1m:34.5s
8. John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha) 1m:34.6s
9. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Bennetts Suzuki) 1m:34.8s
10. Fillip Backlund (Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki) 1m:34.9s
11. Tommy Bridewell (Bennetts Suzuki) 1m:35.1s
12. Peter Hickman (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 1m:35.3s
13. Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW) 1m:35.4s
14. Richard Cooper (Buildbase BMW) 1m:35.8s
15. Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) 1m:35.9s
16. Stuart Easton (ePayMe Yamaha) 1m:36.0s


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Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

Biographer of John McGuinness & road racing's foremost writer & photographer