WorldSBK Phillip Island Test: Bautista dominates day one in Australia

 In News, World Superbikes

World Superbike

After three weeks of rest the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship riders were back in action on Monday at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the final pre-season test before the season premiere. Amidst chilly temperatures and winds, Ducati’s debutant Álvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) clocked in the fastest time of the day, over four tenths of a second faster than Alex Lowes Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).

The Spaniard’s best lap of 1’30.743 could be interpreted as an early warning shot to the 17 other men on the grid. Race performance remains an unknown, but over one lap the 34-year-old is as fast as they come – and this was just his seventh day onboard the Superbike, with much of the focus for Bautista and his crew still centred around adapting to the softer WorldSBK tyres.

It was far from a flawless opener for the garage however, as Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati) lingered at the bottom end of the timesheets for both sessions. Still searching for an ideal base setup, the Welshman found some technical issues early on and was unable to match his teammate’s pace. Much work left to be done on day two for Davies who nonetheless, it’s worth noting, usually excels in race conditions.

The other two Panigale V4 Rs on the 2019 grid also continued developing and discovering the new red beast. Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) focused on base setup as well as improving the feeling on the rear of the bike, while Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), making his Phillip Island debut, fixed his attention on their new Showa suspensions.

Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) were the two first men out on track in the morning and showed similar pace, finishing the day in third and fifth respectively. The Englishman, fully adapted now to the WorldSBK-spec ZX-10RR, chose to test his tyre selection for Australia, while the four-time world champion overcame a crash at turn 10 to be the best Kawasaki on the day, while also trying out the new Pirellis.

Turkish Puccetti’s Toprak Razgatlioglu also appeared to be making ground with the 2019 ZX-10RR, as he set the tenth fastest lap on his first day with the new engine, rising above his fellow Kawasaki privateers.

A clear frontrunner for the title of ‘Mr Consistency’ during winter testing, Alex Lowes again finished inside the top two here at Phillip Island, 0.403s behind Bautista. Both the Englishman and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) – seventh on Monday – set out to confirm the good results from both January tests, the YZF R1 looking already like an incredibly competitive package.

The other two Yamahas on the grid also excelled on day one, as the Japanese manufacturer managed to place all four bikes inside the top eight. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), sixth, tried out some new solutions before entering the finetuning stage tomorrow, while Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) – eighth – rode his first laps on a Superbike at Phillip Island.

This was also a fruitful day for the two BMW bikes, fitted with a new chassis and swingarm link for the first time. Both riders continued to build confidence onboard the S1000 RR, with a stunning Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in fourth position having the edge over Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), ninth fastest. The Yorkshireman was in fact second fastest in the second session – a sign that the BMW might be ready to fight for podiums right from the get-go.

After several months of swirling rumours and working outside the spotlight, Monday was also the day we finally got to see the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team in action. The first signs would seem promising, as Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) edged close to the top ten with a bike still in an early development stage.


World Supersport

Cloudy skies welcomed everyone out on Monday morning for the final pre-season test of the year as the FIM Supersport World Championship riders got the ball rolling at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. This was the first time we saw the full grid in action this season including several fresh faces, but it was familiar ones at the forefront as Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team) led a BARDAHL Evan Bros one-two over Federico Caricasulo (BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team).

The BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team could have hardly hoped for a better opening day at the windy and winding Australian track as they took the top two spots on the combined timing sheets. Coming off the back of a successful two-day test at Jerez last January – neither rider took part in the Portimao test three days later – Federico Caricasulo was again in top form, setting a provisional fastest lap of 1’33.882, although his day ended on a downbeat after a late crash.

New teammate Randy Krummenacher will not be one to be overlooked, however. The now beardless Swiss racer remained second fastest and barely a tenth of a second behind the young Italian throughout the day, with both riders – who took first and second place in Australia back in 2016 – focusing directly on the setup for the upcoming race weekend. Then, with the chequered flag down, Krummenacher rushed into the lead by barely 0.062s, rounding off a perfect day for the yellow bikes.

It was also a mostly successful outing for both Kawasaki Puccetti riders, with both men comfortably inside the top six on day one. Lucas Mahias’ (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) day went off to a rough start after a small crash two laps into the first session, but the 2017 World Supersport Champion recovered to sign off the fourth fastest time of the afternoon. Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) meanwhile closed off his Monday as sixth fastest overall, less than four tenths of a second behind his teammate.

Completing the trio of different bikes amongst Monday’s fastest five was the MV Agusta F3 675 of Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), just 0.411 seconds off the leading pace, while teammate Federico Fuligni (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) continued his adaptation to the Supersport category with the 16th best lap time.
A late charge from Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA) lifted him up to third at the 4.4km track, as he continues to work around the leg injury he suffered back at Qatar. The Frenchman suffered a small crash at Doohan Corner just two minutes before the end of Session One but was able to get back out later on. 20-year-old teammate Corentin Perolari (GMT94 YAMAHA) was ninth fastest on the timesheets, three tenths behind.

It was also a busy day of work for the entire Kallio Racing team, as all three of their riders look to continue Sandro Cortese’s legacy on the blue bike. Thomas Gradinger (Kallio Racing) was the fastest amongst the three, finishing eighth on the official timings – 0.285s faster than Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) in tenth and 0.541s quicker than Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) in thirteenth.

Whilst the names above had already enjoyed some track time last month at Jerez or Portimao, several riders took their first steps of the 2019 season here at Phillip Island. Héctor Barberà (Team Toth by Willirace) was seventh and best of the rest on his first day aboard a Yamaha YZF R6, with Hannes Soomer (MPM WILSport Racedays) as the most competitive Honda in eleventh, Peter Sebestyen (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) in twelfth and wildcard Tom Toparis (Landbridge Transport Yamaha) in fourteenth.

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