With the Superbike World Championship so finely poised in 2018, this week’s private test at Brno marked a pivotal two days for several of the teams and riders.
Aruba Ducati duo Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri were on-track at Brno plus Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, Yamaha’s Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, Barni’s Xavi Fores, Orelac’s Leandro Mercado and Triple-M’s PJ Jacobsen. Three World Supersport teams also tested as GRT’s Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo were joined by Randy Krummenacher and Nacho Calero.
A total of 16 hours of testing was available across Wednesday and Thursday, with rain threatening throughout the second day. The ambient temperature was lower than the 20 to 25 degrees Celsius it had been on Day 1, meaning lap times were quicker, although no official times were released. MCN has learned that the Ducati and Yamaha bikes were very closely matched on lap time, with Kawasaki fractionally quicker, although as usual each rider was focusing on his own workload.
There were no new tyre compounds to sample, as this was not an official test, meaning each team could very much place the emphasis on their own programme.
At Ducati, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri analysed different geometry and electronic settings in their search for more grip and a more stable bike, in Melandri’s case especially. Both riders tested a new swingarm over the two days, already raced by Shane Byrne in BSB at Brands Hatch as well as Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Assen last weekend; the aim of the new component is more edge grip. Pata Yamaha completed a mammoth 346 laps courtesy of Lowes and van der Mark, pleased with the lower track temperatures and only mildly affected by light rain on Thursday. Before this week, Lowes had ridden just seven laps at Brno on the MotoGP M1.
“It was a good second day,” Lowes told MCN. “I made some decent improvements thanks to a different fork and shock setting. The track was cooler on Thursday, so lap times were quicker, and I managed one race simulation on each day. Hopefully the hard work will soon pay off. I’m still searching for more confidence on corner exit but we have honestly made a step forward before Imola.”
Kawasaki claimed its focus was primarily on the Brno races, which will take place in June and see the Czech circuit return to the calendar for the first time since 2012. The green squad also evaluated chassis settings as well as new suspension and brake components after suffering issues in these areas earlier this year.
On the sole Honda, Jacobsen enjoyed his Brno Superbike debut and is feeling better with his setup. Mercado also ended proceedings in a positive mood, this being the first proper test the Orelac team has done since the season started. It experimented with various setups – which it hasn’t had time to try during race weekends – and electronic strategies; the main area to look into was working on a used tyre in order to have better pace towards the end of races.
In the Supersport ranks, GRT has been struggling for engine power and this was reflected in the tough Aragon and Assen races for World Champion Lucas Mahias, constantly losing out to rivals on corner exit. Naturally, he focused on this area.
There is more testing before WSB regroups for the Italian Round on the weekend of 12-13th May. Althea BMW will try new parts with Loris Baz and Superstock 1000 rider Alessandro Delbianco at the Magione circuit in central Italy while Jules Cluzel’s NRT Supersport team will be at Mugello on Monday 7th May, just after the Italian Championship races there and before heading to Imola later that week.