It is a nonstop week for the factory derivatives which go from Jerez to Portimão where the second tests of the new year will take place. The curtain will rise on the two days of testing tomorrow and the Portuguese event will be the last chance for the teams to hone their weapons before sending all the technical material to Australia for the season opener.
Participating as always will be the Kawasakis ridden by Johnny Rea and Tom Sykes who – surprise, surprise – dominated the last outing in Spain, confirming their position at the top of the class. Despite the 900 rpm engine reduction, the ZX-10RR remains the point of reference. This is no small dilemma for those who hoped to see a script rewrite, but instead it remained unchanged.
The new rules threaten to penalise the Ducatis, forced to play catch-up in the Tuesday and Wednesday tests. The gaps are wide, but Melandri offered words of reassurance, pointing out that the work in Jerez focused on using the race tyre. As for the engine, some upgrades are expected. On the other side of the garage, on the other hand, Chaz Davies needs to reckon with less than optimum physical conditions after a crash in November, although the Welshman’s morale is also high.
The season opener is just under a month away and Honda tried to send a clear message to their rivals. The fourth best time done by Leon Camier on Wednesday is a sign not to be underestimated that confirms the Fireblade’s growth. Is if that were not enough, in Portugal the Japanese bike will finally be showing off the long awaited Magneti Marelli electronics. This was supposed to happen on Tuesday, but team Ten Kate preferred postponing it.
Also in action at Portimão will be the Yamahas ridden by Van der Mark and Lowes, with high expectation for this 2018 season, particularly in view of the technical upgrades. In Jerez the two had to reckon with the astonishing third time done by tester Niccolò Canepa, but we are convinced that this time they will be aiming to re-establish the hierarchy. And then, what about Loris Baz and his BMW, that he is getting to know better and better, as well as Spaniard Jordi Torres and his MV Agusta, called on to carry out a complicated task with the manufacturer from Schiranna.
One of the protagonists of the two days of Portuguese testing will also be Xavi Forés, absent on Tuesday and Wednesday in Jerez, as was American rider PJ Jacobsen, who will be making his first appearance on the team Triple M Fireblade SP2.
There will be a total of ten teams hard at work on the Portuguese track, including Laverty and Savadori with their Aprilia machines, the Puccetti Kawasaki ridden by Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu and the team Guandalini Yamaha, entrusted to Ondrej Jezek.