Two 120-minute sessions kick started the WSBK Official Test, the final pre-race test and ahead of the 2015 eni FIM World Superbike Championship season opener with Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) sitting pretty atop of the combined times.
With almost perfect weather conditions the 25 protagonists who will do battle in Sunday’s 22 lap races relished the opportunity to fine tune their machines across the opening two timed periods.
Ex MotoGP racer Randy De Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) led the field for the first 74 minutes of the day before Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and former World Superbike Champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) each took their turn at the top, but it was in the afternoon when the times really tumbled. The Frenchman crashed at the high speed turn 11 in the closing minutes of the afternoon, sustaining bruising and took no further part in the day’s proceedings.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) ended the first 2 hours on track a fraction ahead of his team mate Tom Sykes.
In the early minutes of the afternoon, Italian Davide Giugliano (Aruba Ducati SBK) crashed at the fast turn 11. He was unable to rejoin. When the circuit re-opened it was former World Champion Tom Sykes who produced a run of fast and consistent laps to close the gap to his new team mate before a number of riders set personal improving laps.
With 2 minutes to go Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) unleashed the fastest lap of the test so far to edge session one pace-setter Jonathan Rea by 0.331s.
Leon Haslam also improved late on, displacing Sykes who ended day 1 in 4th overall ahead of the impressive Spanish rookie Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and Davide Giugliano whose time from the morning kept him in 6th. Sykes did however have the accolade of completing the most laps – 72 in total.
Chaz Davies on the second of the factory Ducati machine was 7th, Randy De Puniet 8th, and reigning World Supersport Champion Michael vd Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) 9th.
Former 125cc World Champion Nico Terol rode his Althea Racing Ducati into 10th overall ahead of compatriot and 2014 EVO winner David Salom (Pedercini Kawasaki) who was 11th.
Reigning World Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) eased into his title-defending season with 13th overall just behind MV Agusta Reparto Corse’s new recruit Leon Camier.
The new-look Team Hero EBR squad of Niccolò Canepa and Larry Pegram were in fine form with Italian Canepa claiming an encouraging 14th at the end of 4 hours of testing.
Australian wildcard Jed Metcher was 18th overall on his Superbike debut, improving significantly in the afternoon session. Of the other rookies Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) was 19th, Santiago Barragan (Grillini SBK Team) 22nd and the youngest full time entry in this year’s series Christophe Ponsson (Grillini SBK Team) 24th.
The final two 120-minute timed test sessions will take place tomorrow at 9.10am and 1.30pm local time (GMT +11).
The penultimate day of World Supersport testing ahead of the season opener ended earlier today with Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) coming out on top after two 110 minute sessions.
In the opening session of the day it was former champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) who emerged on top 0.699s ahead of 2014 Phillip Island race winner and the 2014 vice champion Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), the pair several tenths ahead of the rest of the pack.
The later afternoon session saw the morning head wind on the Gardner Straight subside resulting in brace of faster times and with a lap time within a second of circuit lap record it was Sofuoglu who goes into tomorrow’s final test session in top spot.
Commenting on his pace during the day the Turkish rider was clearly buoyed by the his team’s ability to ensure tyre durability so early in the weekend – “It’s hard to make a tyre a last even 10 laps here, so to complete so many laps at the pace we did is encouraging for us. The team did a great job”.
Behind Sofuoglu, Jules Cluzel improved his time to consolidate 2nd position overall ahead of the improving Lorenzo Zanetti (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and American PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress) who elevated himself to 4th on his final lap.
Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda), who is returning to the WorldSBK paddock after three seasons in Moto2 took an impressive 5th on his first competitive ride on a Supersport machine since 2011, the Londoner confident of further improvement as the test continues tomorrow.
Local wildcard rider Aiden Wagner (Oz Wildcard Racing) completed the top six.
The top ten were rounded out by Roberto Rolfo (Lorini Honda), Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing), Riccardo Russo (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) and Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) respectively.
Australian Glenn Scott (AARK Racing) took his Honda CBR600cc machine to 19th overall while Alex Phillis substitute rider for Alessandro Nocco (Lorini Honda) was 20th. The second local wildcard entry of Sam Lambert powering his Triumph Daytona machine to 22nd in the combined classification.
Kyle Smith was the only faller today, the Englishman should be back in action tomorrow.
Of the 24 entered riders, the CATBIKE/exit Kawasaki pairing of Nacho Calero and Marcos Ramirez failed to record a time in either session, the team preferring to ensure everything is 100% with the machine preparation before allowing the riders to take to the track while Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot (CORE Motorsport Thailand) managed only 20 laps after there was a delay in receiving his riding gear.
The final two 110 minute timed test sessions will take place tomorrow at 1120 and 1540 local time.