Yesterday the MotoGP action came to an end in Thailand and today it was time for the Superbikes at Phillip Island. A two-day test for the production-derived series at the Australian track, ahead of the championship's season-opener this coming weekend.
The wind, a sure thing at Phillip Island, didn't make life easy for riders but Marco Melandri wasn't too bothered by it, powering his Ducati Panigale to the head of the pack during the morning's session and setting what proved to be an unbeatable time. The Italian was the only rider to duck under 1’31”, setting a best of 1’30”726.
“It's been a positive day, despite the less than perfect weather conditions - comments Marco - The wind was very strong and unpredictable, so it wasn't possible to improve on our times further in the afternoon, but we worked well and I have a good feeling with the bike. Having evaluated all the components at the last tests, here we were able to focus more on performance. A year of experience on the Panigale R is definitely an advantage, particularly in terms of the electronics. The races are a different matter though, so we must maintain our focus”.
We're still a little way off the fastest Phillip Island lap times (last year Rea scored pole with a lap completed in 1’29”573) but, as we've said, the track wasn't in the best condition. The wind meant it was easy to make mistakes, and Rea was proof of this, crashing at turn 11 though fortunately unhurt. The same went for Torres on the MV Agusta, who crashed at turn 7.
The two Kawasakis were breathing down Melandri's neck, with Sykes closing 2nd (he was the fastest rider of the afternoon), just 0” 341 behind, while Rea finished 3rd, more than half a second back though he didn't ride in the afternoon's session.
Davies does not feature among the frontrunners, having preferred to limit the risks considering his injury of late last year. Chaz closed in 10th place, 1”328 from his team-mate.
A very positive 4th place for Leon Camier on the Honda, which has clearly taken some steps forward over the winter. A different picture for team-mate Gagne, just 17th.
The two factory Yamahas close inside the top ten, Van der Mark 5th and Lowes 8th, both improving during the afternoon session.
Sixth for Fores on the Team Barni Ducati, followed by the Aprilia of Eugene Laverty. Lorenzo Savadori, riding the other RSV4, closes 12th, ahead of Razgatlioglu. Loris Baz, returning to SBK from MotoGP, lies 11th with the Althea BMW. The Frenchman had two bikes in the garage, allowing him to complete the scheduled tests more efficiently.