Tom Sykes set the pace on the final day of pre-season testing at Phillip Island, the Kawasaki pilot edging out Carlos Checa.
Tom Sykes closed out pre-season World Superbike testing on a high note. The Kawasaki ZX-10R pilot topped the timesheets at Phillip Island, nipping reigning champion Carlos Checa by a scant 0.004 seconds. The two front-runners, which traded top position on the lap charts during last week’s three-day private test at the Australian circuit, were a tenth faster than Ducati privateer Jakub Smrz. Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Aprilia’s Max Biaggi rounded out the top five.
“We were fast this morning and also this afternoon in hot conditions and we even improved our time compared to yesterday’s hot track conditions,” said Sykes in team press statement. “Overall we did quite a bit more testing today and certainly stumbled across a couple of good things. At the end of the sessions we did 14 laps on race tires and it was very consistent, with the times coming easier than they were doing with previous settings.” On his chances for this weekend’s season opening round Sykes said: “I do not want to get too carried away because I like to keep my feet on the ground, so we’ll keep working and see what happens on race weekend.”
Having turned the Double at Phillip Island last year, Checa remains the favorite this weekend. The Spaniard managed to pare off a couple tenths from his pace on Monday.
“I’m feeling happy with the bike and the setting that we have but now we must wait to see how the track conditions, temperature and tires will be this weekend,” said Checa. “We know that this is one of the best tracks for the Ducati and so we want to make the most of this opportunity. I will focus, do my best and we’ll see what this can bring us on Sunday.”
On a circuit that traditionally favors the Twin-powered Ducati, Smrz stuck his Effenbert-Liberty mount into an impressive third on the timesheet. Smrz’s teammate, Sylvain Guintoli, was ninth-fastest and a little over a half-second off his paddockmate’s pace. Both riders have proven they can surprise during favorable conditions, flanking Checa on the Miller Race 1 podium last season (Miller another circuit that fancies the Ducati). Checa’s new teammate Davide Giugliano also showed a competitive pace, lapping seventh-fastest on the combined timesheet – though the Italian did register his third crash of the test on Tuesday.
The Honda World Superbike effort sees Rea logging a competitive top-five pace. As for his new Ten Kate Honda teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama, the former MotoGP competitor is struggling to crack the top 10 and finishes the test 14th-fastest. Said the lone Japanese competitor in SBK: “These two days I have learned a lot more and one thing in particular: that this is a very tough championship!”
Biaggi trimmed two tenths off his Monday time, though the 2010 SBK champ couldn’t dip under the 1’32 mark. The Emperor once again headlines the Aprilia testing effort, as Eugene Laverty still recuperates the hand broken during the previous three-day PI test. As for the third Aprilia SBK rider, 2011 World Supersport champ Chaz Davies finished the pre-season way down in 18th aboard the Parkingo RSV4.
In the BMW camp Marco Melandri led the way in sixth, though Supermarco could not improve on his impressive Monday best (which was more than a second better than his best in the preceding Phillip Island test).
“Overall, I am not very happy with the result of the test,” said Melandri in a candid team PR. “Up to now we have not really fixed the vibration at the front. We made a step up yesterday and we have an idea what way to go, but we could not make further improvements today. The changing track conditions didn’t help in fixing this issue. Nevertheless, the people here and back home in the factory are very motivated, and they are all working very hard. Thanks to all of them.”
As for BMW Motorrad’s second rider, Leon Haslam, his injury prognosis did not improve with more evaluation. The list of injuries confirmed now has expanded to included two cracks in his fractured right tibia, as well as a crack in his left heel and right little toe. The British rider will undergo surgery on Thursday with his status undetermined for the season opener, although Haslam said in team PR that “hopefully I will be back at the track on Thursday afternoon and able to jump on the bike on Friday.”
Leon Camier lapped eighth-fastest during the test, with the English rider anchoring the Crescent Fixi Suzuki effort. Temporary teammate Josh Brookes was 21st on the combined timesheet, the Australian rider and British Superbike regular still aching from a high-side crash on Monday. Brookes is standing in for injured American John Hopkins, who is confirmed out until Round 2 at Imola owing to a fractured hand sustained in last week’s Phillip Island test.
2012 WSB Phillip Island Test Combined Results:
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’31.648
2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1’31.652
3. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1’31.800
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’31.913
5. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1’32.034
6. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1’32.232
7. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1’32.319
8. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1’32.320
9. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1’32.347
10. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1’32.397
11. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) 1’32.540
12. Michel Fabrizio (BMW) 1’32.605
13. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 1’32.746
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’32.910
15. Maxime Berger (Ducati) 1’32.911
16. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) 1’32.948
17. Lorenzo Zanetti (Ducati) 1’33.136
18. Chaz Davies (Aprilia) 1’33.358
19. David Salom (Kawasaki) 1’33.385
20. Bryan Staring (Kawasaki) 1’33.418
21. Josh Brookes (Suzuki) 1’33.623
22. Marc Aitchison (BMW) 1’34.169
23. Raffaele de Rosa (Honda) 1’34.341