Sykes fastest as Phillip Island takes its toll

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The second and final day of action at Phillip Island saw a rash of crashes and some injuries, all of which led to lost track time for all at the awesome but tricky 4.445km track in Australia.

As the air temperatures jumped up to almost 40°C just a few days before the real start of the 2016 season the final session delivered few improvements in times for most.

With a strong wind to go with the massive hike in temperatures on the second half of day two the track proved difficult and slower in the final afternoon than on day one. In the morning session of day two, when four of the top five put their best laps in, it was still warm but nothing like the heights of the second afternoon.

Thanks to his day one time Tom Sykes was top of the final pile on his Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja ZX-10R. His team-mate and reigning champion Jonathan Rea was second – thanks to his second day morning time on one of the championships all-new machines in WSBK spec.

Sykes said, “There were a lot of stoppages for red flags over the course of two days but I think we are in a very good situation. We are fast with the cold conditions, warmer conditions, and also with some laps on the tyres. We have finished our two days of testing in a strong way, at a track that has been one of our limits in the past. Everything is definitely heading in the right direction and we have gathered some great information. I am happy to head into the race weekend now having completed a successful test.”

Rea, who like Sykes is now anticipating the weekend after what some would consider to be almost too much winter testing, said of his test, “It was challenging at times because the red flags came out while we were making a constant effort with some items but in general the two days have been pretty good. We had two different conditions; one cooler one on day one and then one very hot one with really high wind. That wind made getting across from turn two to turn three so difficult. All things considered, we ticked all the boxes we needed to and we managed to do a race simulation this morning. We are ready to go into the race weekend with a package I feel comfortable on. I am just super-excited because even though it is not that long a winter in WorldSBK it feels like forever since the final race of last year in Qatar. I just want to see the lights go out and get stuck in for 22 laps at one of the best circuits in the world.”

Third best of the test was Davide Giugliano ( Racing Ducati WSBK) finding pace and calmness to fill in right behind the top two Kawasaki riders.

“In general, I’m pretty happy about these tests,” said the Roman rider. “Especially, about the competitiveness shown this morning, when the climate conditions were similar to those that we should find during the race week-end. We just lack a bit of grip in the center of the corner. Unfortunately, I could not do a long run in the afternoon because of the weather. The extreme heat does not suit a flowing riding style such as mine, and there were so many crashes and red flags that I preferred not take risks. Still, I managed to do 22 laps on the same tyre with a competitive pace.”

With a new team-mate to push him on, and more so because of his strong PI showings in his own right last year, second season WSBK rider Michael van der Mark took his red, white and blue Honda to fourth best time, having been fast from the start in Australia.

Fastest man in the final session, in the heat and the wind of the second day, was new Yamaha rider Sylvain Guintoli. The 2014 Superbike champion on his all-new (to WSBK at least) YZF-R1 put down a strong early marker that in real race conditions anything is possible for Yamaha’s re-entering race rocket.  I’ve tried lots of solutions that are working well – we ended up getting closer and closer to the leaders and ended up topping the last session so that felt good! This track really suits the character of the YZF-R1, the bike is fantastic to ride here – with the change of direction and the long, fast corners – it’s really sweet and efficient to ride.”

He was another faller, but with little consequence on day two.

Despite a big fall and an elbow injury that only just stopped short of requiring surgery, Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) was top S1000RR rider, just ahead of Nicky Hayden and his official Honda.

Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) completed the top eight riders, like Torres and Hayden, with his best time coming from the first day of action.

Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Ducati) was ninth on his privateer Panigale, one up on the still recovering Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati WSBK). Badly beat up and with the effects of a head-knock to carry around – albeit not a concussion – he rode to be ready for Sunday, and this finished tenth from 25 riders.

New WSBK full timer, Markus Reiterberger (Althea Racing BMW) placed himself 11th – and he was yet another fast faller – while Roman Ramos (Go Eleven Kawasaki) piled in with a 12th best time. He too crashed and was taken for checks before being declared fit.

Aprilia’s 2015 spec bike took Lorenzo Savadori to a respectable 13th in his first IodaRacing Team outing in the big class, ahead of Leon Camier’s works MV Agusta and two places up on local rider and 2015 BSB champion, Josh Brookes (Milwaukee BMW).

Local wild card Mike Jones (Desmo Sport Ducati) scored 16th place.

In these final pre-season tests, littered with crashes and a huge number of red flag interruptions, two rookie riders – Josh Hook (Grillini Kawasaki) and Fabio Menghi (VFT Racing Ducati) – will now miss race weekend due to injury. Hook fractured and dislocated his left shoulder, while Menghi’s fast highside fractured his pelvis.

A final red flag ended the last WSB session a minute or two early, ending yet another crash strewn final pre-season official test.

Gordon Ritchie

By Gordon Ritchie