Friday, February 15

LAVERTY FASTEST; SYKES CRASHES


Aprilia factory rider Eugene Laverty set the fastest time on day one of the private Superbike World Championship test at Phillip Island on February 14, ahead of the opening round of the championship next weekend, February 22-24.

While all times are unofficial, Laverty, now the star turn at Aprilia following the retirement of 2012 world champion Max Biaggi, set a best unofficial lap of 1m 31.7s around the freshly resurfaced 4.445km circuit.  If that time is correct, then the 2009 and 2010 World Supersport Championship runner-up is already matching the Superbike lap record set Max Biaggi on the factory Aprilia last year.

Laverty was just ahead of the FIXI Cresent Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Leon Camier and Pata Honda riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam.  The appearance of the Suzuki near the top of the time sheets is welcome news for the series with a renewed effort from Yoshimura in engine development.  Camier showed good form at the end of last season and could be a dark horse this year.  He was unhurt apart from bashing his elbow and wrist in a crash.


Meanwhile, Tom Sykes, the man many anticipated to have a strong shot at this year’s title, crashed his ZX-10R Kawasaki in the fast Turn 11 and sustained a hairline fracture to his left wrist.  The 27-year-old was sent to a Melbourne hospital for a scan, and will now rest before returning to Philip Island on February 18 for the start of an official two-day test.


Another SWC star, 2011 champion Carlos Checa, also had his problems.  The 40-year-old Spaniard didn’t even manage to get out onto the circuit due to a stomach ailment, and is currently undergoing tests for a possible intestinal blockage.  Checa has won four of the last six SWC races at Phillip Island and holds the pole position lap record at 1m 30.882s at an average of 176.074s set in Superpole 3 at the 2011 event.  That is faster than any lap ‘greatest rider of all time’ Valentino Rossi managed in two years on a MotoGP Ducati.

With Checa absent, it was left to his FIAMM Alstare Ducati team-mate Ayrton Badovini to continue development of the all-new Panigale 1199R race bike.  He was ninth fastest with a best lap of 1:32.8.
World No. 3 Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team S1000RR) was fifth fastest, ahead of new Aprilia signing Sylvain Guintoli and Suzuki rookie Jules Cluzel, who, like team-mate Camier, also thumped himself on the deck.  However Cluzel was left with a large and deep hole in his arm.  He will be operated on in Melbourne today to close the wound. 

Fastest non-factory rider was Italian Davide Giugliano on the Althea Aprilia RSV4, getting to grips with the 1000cc four after two seasons racing a 1200cc V-twin Ducati.

Philip Island circuit manager Fergus Cameron said the new surface had plenty of grip and he was intrigued watching the riders acclimatise to the new conditions. 

“With the added grip, they are carrying so much speed into the corners and taking totally different lines -- in some cases even running over the apex kerbs into the turn,” Cameron said.

“It’s interesting to see where they are staying on, and conversely coming off.  Turn eight was notoriously tricky, but now they have got so much grip there the riders are nearly taking a straight line through the corner 

“And the riders are losing it in different places.  Yesterday they came off going into turn two, losing the front-end going into Southern Loop, and also the exit at turn 11.  That’s where Sykes had a cropper. 

“Once they get their tyre set up right, we’re going to see some really quick times around here,” he said.

Unofficial lap times:

1. Eugene Laverty IRL Aprilia Racing RSV4 1m 31.7s
2. Leon Camier GBR Fixi Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 1m 31.9s
3. Jonathan Rea GBR Pata Honda CBR1000RR 1m 32.0s
4. Leon Haslam GBR Pata Honda CBR1000RR 1m 32.0s
5. Marco Melandri ITA BMW GoldBet S1000RR 1m 32.2s
6. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Aprilia Racing RSV4 1m 32.3s
7. Jules Cluzel FRA Fixi Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 1m 32.5s
8. Davide Giugliano ITA Althea Aprilia RSV4 1m 32.7s
9. Ayrton Badovini ITA Alstare Ducati 1199 R 1m 32.8s
10. Max Neukirchner GER MR Ducati 1199 R 1m 32.9s
11. Chaz Davies GBR BMW GoldBet S1000RR 1m 33.0s
12. Loris Baz FRA Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 1m 33.2s
13. Michel Fabrizio ITA Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 1m 33.7s
14. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 1m 34.5s