Lowes tops the testing Brit Pop

Published: 17 February 2015

The star of the two day WSB final testing show at Phillip Island may well have been Aprilia Racing Red Devils Roma rookie Jordi Torres by any normal standards, as he split the usual phalanx of British riders at the top of most WSB sheets by going third fastest with virtually no Superbike experience under his belt.

But the most remarkable fast rider on show was not the otherwise brilliantly quick Torres. His Aprilia is, after all, maybe still the best WSB all round even now in the era of reduced power and cost control.

There were two other riders ahead of him in the end, Englishman Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) and Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Rea (KRT) although the top three were crammed into the same high 1’30 lap times, with Lowes setting the quickest mark of 1’30.859.

Lowes, a podium man in his rookie year, said of his testing triumph, “The GSX-R is pretty good now, we’ll make a few changes over the weekend depending on the temperature and some minor things to try with electronics and the chassis but the biggest improvement still to come is from me and I know a few areas I can ride differently. I enjoyed it a lot today, did a race-run, put a lot of effort in and tried to keep within the limits.”

In third place Torres’ 1’30.971 lap was a remarkable feat of arms for a rider who is still learning his way around the Pirelli tyres and whole new class of racing.

Behind the fast new WSB Spaniard (one of many this season) came old WSB stager and 2013 World Champion Tom Sykes (KRT), only just outside the 1’30s. He was a late faller as his bike highsided him of at turn 11. As the battered but unbroken Yorkshireman said, not the place to fall off…

He was uninjured, if beaten up, and went out on his second bike to set the fastest split time in the first two sectors near the end of the day - only to lose a potential best lap in the third sector. He was fourth quickest, but so close to the top men as makes no difference.

Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Red Devils Roma) was a strong fifth overall, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it) an improving sixth, carrying on the British WSB connection to the hilt.

His team-mate Davide Giugliano had unwillingly ruled himself out of the race this coming Sunday after suffering a huge highside late on day one. A scan showed two fresh fractures on his L1 and L2 vertebrae. Up and walking even right after his crash, he hopes to be fit to ride again at the new Buriram/Chang International circuit in Thailand next month. He was eventually tenth in the combined time sheets at these tests.

Last year David Salom won the SBK Evo Championship and his reward was a full 2015 Superbike ride with Team Pedercini, and more than a pinch of support from Kawasaki.

He made use of it at these tests, taking his new bike to seventh in practice.

A small Spanish armada of riders who find a fast living in WSB in 2015 includes Nico Terol. He is learning his Althea Racing Ducati well and he went eighth, grinning fit to burst as he enthused about his big 1200cc Ducati.

WSS Champion and WSB rookie Michael van der Mark was a more than respectable ninth for Pata Honda, but behind the injured Giugliano’s Ducati came another big vee-twin, but not the kind you may imagine vying for a top ten sport that was only narrowly missed.

Niccolo Canepa we know as a fast Superstock and Evo rider, but absolutely nobody, event he man himself could have imagined he would finish two days of dry testing only 1.143 seconds behind the absolute fastest on his Hero EBR 1190RX. “Me neither,” he said when it suggested that nobody would have predicted this outcome even a few days ago.

Last year’s Hero EBR project was a brave but very definitely fail. This year, in a team run by Larry Pegram and his former AMA team, Canepa ended up 11th of the 25 riders in testing, and ahead of the (admittedly injured and detuned) Sylvain Guintoli’s Pata Honda, plus Leon Camier’s theoretically faster MV Agusta and Leandro Mercado’s Barni Racing Ducati.

Mercado was doubly unlucky as he fell and broke his outer left metacarpal of his left hand, but avoided re-injuring his left scaphoid, after breaking it in Jerez testing last year.

Aussie Wildcards Mathew Walters (Pedercini Kawasaki) and Jed Metcher (Race Centre – Demolition Plus Kawasaki) were 19th and 20th respectively at their home round.

Looking at any of the unexpected testing glories of many of the new rider and team combinations in 2015, what must surely be the most unpredictable and reshuffled season of WSB racing ever is about to start in a few days.