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Russo: "SBK is like... the MotoGP!"

The Yamaha-Guandalini team rider gets to know his new category: "my rivals are lions on factory bike, I need time and tranquillity"

SBK: Russo: "SBK is like... the MotoGP!"

Riccardo Russo has completed his first tests of 2017 on the Yamaha R1, at Portimao and Jerez, building confidence with his new bike and discovering the secrets of SBK, a category in which he will debut this year.

The young team Guandalini rider has had a first taste of the Iwata 4-cylinder bike, learning many things between one rain shower and the next: “I didn't get much riding in at Portimao and Jerez - comments Riccardo- because, with a small technical problem with an engine and the unstable weather conditions, I only really made use of two out of the four days”.

Despite the minor setbacks, “Rick 84” has understood the characteristics of his SBK R1: “the bike was put together right before the test, the team worked hard and we were able to test it, to understand its characteristics. The SBK R1 is a lot more stiff than a Superstock, as well as having must more sophisticated and sensitive suspension. Thanks to the more advanced fork, you can enter the corner much quicker than you can with a Superstock. Another more efficient area is the braking, you can really brake hard with the Brembo system”.

Did the Superbike engine impress you?

“Not particularly to be honest. it pushes a little more than the Superstock version, but it's also true that I tested a particular configuration of the engine during the tests. We'll work to develop this”.

You tested the Pirelli slicks, how were they?

I really like the Pirelli tyres, I'd already tried them during some 2016 CIV races, and knew them a little. I can say that they offer more grip and corner speed than the cut tyres”.

You got to line up alongside the competition at the tests, what did you learn?

The Guandalini team and I are a new structure, we need to cover a lot of miles with the bike and we need to time to get to know each other. Our rivals never stopped, they practically rode non-stop and have ‘packages’ that are already tried and tested. Our rivals are lions, I can see that the technical level is very high, the riders are very fast. The factory teams can count on technical and organisational packages that are really impressive. Their bikes have cutting-edge electronics and those riding know how to get the best out of their bikes. Rea and Sykes were strong in all conditions, the Yamaha riders have an updated bike. Without forgetting the Hondas, the Ducatis…”

Were you struck by the general level?

Far from ‘second division Superbike’. The level of this championship has risen further, there are many factory team. It's almost like being in MotoGP… Aprilia will have 3 bikes on track, supported by the Noale factory; on track, the lap times speak volumes: every rider wants to stand out and do well, or rather, to be up front and try to win. At the Jerez tests, Rea's times for example are in line with those of the GP bike, the stopwatch doesn't lie”.

Where do you think you can improve in terms of your riding?

With this bike you need to brake hard, leaning decisively and then getting the bike upright as quick as possible! You need to open the throttle early, and let the electronics help you, we need to improve here”.

What's your goal at Phillip Island?

“I want to give it my all, and try to get the best out of my bike. My Yamaha R1 is not a factory bike and both the team and I will need time to understand how best to work. I want to be fast, and work in a calm state of mind. Also because the Australian track is a tough one”.

Translated by Heather Watson

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