The Superbike has got used to a long summer break in recent years. After the July round at Misano, fans will have to wait until mid-September for the Portimao race weekend. In the meantime though, bikes will be in action on Thursday 23 and Friday 24, taking part in a two-day test at the Portuguese track with the aim of readying their weapons for the second part of the season.
Almost all teams will participate in the Dorna test, making it a sort of taster for teams and riders, who already had chance to build confidence with the track back in January. On that occasion, it was Johnny Rea who set the pace, recording a best of 1’41”485. The Cannibal, fresh from his Suzuka 8 Hours podium, is ready for the final push that will take him to his fourth SBK title. The 92-point advantage he has over Chaz Davies is reassuring, the path to victory already traced. In the Kawasaki camp, the spotlight will also focus on Tom Sykes, who has struggled with the ZX-10R during the first part of the season.
It might also be true that this is Tom's last season with KRT but the Brit still wants to step it up a gear following the difficulties of the Laguna Seca and Misano rounds. Meanwhile, over at Ducati, Marco Melandri is of current interest. With Davies as good as confirmed for 2019, the Italian has four rounds still to run with the Panigale before saying his farewells.
Aruba will bring some new chassis components, with which Chaz and Marco, but also Michael Rinaldi, hope to be able to take significant steps forward for the September race. Despite Rea appearing unstoppable, the battle for second place is still open, the Welshman tasked with fighting off Michael van der Mark, just 30 points back on the Yamaha.
The biggest update will be in the Honda garage. With Leon Camier back on board, he and American rider Jake Gagne will test an engine update supplied by Rossi Racing. In recent months, as reported by our colleagues at Speedweek, the Italian company has been given the task of developing the engines for the Fireblade SP2 that, as we know, has moved away from Cosworth electronics and embraced those of Magneti Marelli. So expectations are high for this upcoming test. Let's not forget that Leon was led the chasing pack in the January tests, only Rea doing more.
In addition to the track action, Portimao will also provide an opportunity to talk about the market. MV Agusta should clarify whether or not it will compete in next year's championship, and the same goes for Milwaukee, working on its contract renewal with Aprilia. Team Althea will not take part as, having nothing new to test, the team prefers to sit the test out, leaving Loris Baz free to replace Pol Espargarò on the KTM at Silverstone this weekend.