Tom Sykes ran laps in the wet on Day 1 of testing at Aragon to improve his set-up in saturated conditions.
Winter testing continued for many World Superbike riders during a second two-day stint at Motorland Aragon that was, in reality, more of an afternoon’s-worth of opportunity as the persistent wet weather frustrated most attempts to gain useful information through the first sessions of Day 2.
With the recent news of 2012 World Superbike champion Max Biaggi’s retirement comes the opportunity for a number of riders to step up and claim the top position in 2013. Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, who was just half a point shy of the title at the end of 2012, has been working hard to acclimate himself to the new 17-inch tires that will be regulation in 2013. The British rider has already posted some scorching lap times with the new tires in testing and seems poised to be a front-runner in the forthcoming season. He logged over 30 laps in the wet conditions on Day 1 at Aragon and took full advantage of the dry afternoon on Day 2.
“I am very happy with the test even if we had reduced track time,” said Sykes. “We still managed to evaluate a number of things. We have learned quite a bit today and we have definitely improved the feel of the bike in some areas. We have been able to do reasonable lap times and we can do them consistently with good feedback and I hope we can build on this at the next test.”
His teammate, Loris Baz, is looking to build upon his single race win in 2012 by improving the overall feeling of the ZX-10R.
“The test was good on the final day but we could not ride yesterday because of the weather,” said Baz. “This morning was not so good either but we had some nice sunshine finally in the afternoon and we did something like 60 or 65 laps. We improved the feeling with the bike a lot, and I was more comfortable on it again.”
BMW Motorrad pilot Marco Melandri and his new teammate Chaz Davies were also on hand at Aragon, completing a combined 114 laps on their respective S1000RR superbikes. Davis ventured out in the wet weather on the first day to improve feeling in the saturated conditions and was pleased to finally get a break on Day 2 to push laps in the dry.
“I was very happy to finally ride the bike in fully dry conditions and my good first impressions of the RR were confirmed,” said Davies. “I think it went very well and I have learned a lot. We focused on me getting comfortable, were working with the electronics a lot and also started to work on the suspension, but obviously we only had three or four hours of riding in reasonable conditions. That is not enough to know everything about the bike. So we are still missing track time but I am very positive at the moment.”
Melandri made history in 2012 by giving BMW its first World Superbike race win, followed by five more, and even took the overall points lead briefly late in the season. Like Sykes, he’s working to find the right configuration to accommodate the new tire size.
“We tested some new components, but we still have a lot of work to do in order to make our bike work with the new 17 inch tires as we struggled to ride fast lap times,” said Melandri. “So we hope for our next test at Jerez the weather will be good because we need three days of dry conditions in order to continue our work and improve our feeling with the bike.”
Honda’s Jonathan Rea and newcomer to the team, Leon Haslam, were also on hand testing new parts on their CBR1000RR Fireblades. Rea got time with new braking components in the dry afternoon on Day 2 and also tested a new swingarm. During the next test at Jerez, focus will turn more toward fine-tuning his electronics package. Haslam ran into trouble on Day 2 after switching to the softer tire, losing the bike into the barrier and having to take up his spare for the rest of the session.
“When I went out on the softer tire, I lost the rear going into turn one and the bike ended up in the barrier and too badly damaged to repair,” said Haslam. “The boys got the spare bike ready but it was quite different and there really wasn’t much time left anyway, so it was quite frustrating in the end. The one lap that I did on the softer tire told me that the swingarm felt much better, so I’m looking forward to trying that with some other new parts at Jerez.”
Off track, Jules Cluzel got the chance to visit the FIXI Crescent Suzuki headquarters in Verwood, England, to meet his new crew and sit atop the GSX-R1000 he will race in 2013. Cluzel got started right away, asking members of his crew to make slight adjustments to the seating position after his first impression on the bike. The French rider will take to the track after the first of the year during testing in Spain.
“I am really happy to have come here to England and meet the team and see my new bike,” said Cluzel. “I am really looking forward to riding the Suzuki GSX-R and I am very excited about the first exit in the first test, because the bike felt great as soon as I sat on it, now I want to ride it! This is a new challenge and I am really happy to be involved in this with FIXI Crescent Suzuki. I have met all my new crew and they were really friendly and I’m really looking forward to working with all of them.”