Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam have now completed the European-based legs of their winter testing programme, with Rea setting the fastest lap and Haslam ending another successful test fourth overall.
After a positive test at a partially resurfaced Jerez just a few days ago the entire KRT team arrived at Portimao ready for two more days of action, at what is a very different track design and layout from its Spanish equivalent. Undulating and featuring many blind corners, Portimao is an exciting track for the riders and almost unique in terms of its character compared to the other WorldSBK circuits.
This outing was the first opportunity for Haslam to ride his official Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR at the 4.592km track near the Algarve coast. Portimao features as a round of the championship itself again this year, in early September, which added another layer of significance to the final days of the European winter test season.
Rea tried out a qualifying rear tyre to set a best lap earlier today and then went out again and bettered it, to leave with an untouchable 1’40.885 lap time. He was almost a second faster than the second quickest riders Alex Lowes. A late fall on his very last lap, shortly after performing a practice start, left Rea uninjured and fully ready to take on the next challenges in Australia.
Haslam’s best lap of the test was a 1’42.144, set on a qualifying tyre. His impressive best time on a race tyre was only just 0.1 seconds slower, after he got interrupted when going for a final quick lap on a Q tyre.
Rea and Haslam also had the first chance to use the new Pirelli SCX rear tyre, designed for the new initiative of a ten lap Sunday morning ‘sprint’ race in WorldSBK, which will feature in addition to the traditional full distance races on Saturday and Sunday.
With the new Ninja ZX-10RR having been tested by Rea and Haslam at three different tracks now, on four different occasions in all, the results have been positive for both riders and Kawasaki technical staff.
The next track sessions will be the official organisers’ tests at Phillip Island in Australia, shortly before the first round of the championship. The final pre-season tests will take place on Monday the 18thand Tuesday the 19thof February.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It has been a super-positive test. We came from the Jerez and I was still understanding the bike and the asphalt there. It made it difficult to understand the work we had done over the winter. But coming here we had quite a neutral platform to work with and a lot of data. Although the temperatures did not get into a perfect operating window it gave us a consistent effort over two days. We confirmed the chassis items we tested at Jerez, and electronically we worked a bit better. We started to work on our race performance. I was really happy with how I felt with a lot of laps on the tyre compared to last this time last year. I got to try a qualifier at the end of the day and that felt quite good and I was really fast with it. This test ticked every box, just a couple of little items we could have re-checked and gone over. But the priorities were done and we got to try some new Pirelli tyres as well.”
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “A good test for us and we made a step with the lap time. I made a 1’42.2 with a race tyre, which I was really happy with. I did not get any benefit from using the soft tyre mainly because with the first chance to go faster there was a red flag and for the second one I got rained on. I never really got a chance to go for one lap again. That was a little bit frustrating but on the race tyre times I was really happy. I made some good steps and tried a few things, including a different front tyre for the first time, which I felt was a bit better. We only had one of them so I could not put it toward an even better lap time. But I was consistently in the 1’42s, so I am pretty happy with things.”
Pere Riba (Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea): ” I am really happy because we have been improving since yesterday morning. Here we confirmed some items that were on the list, mainly with the balance of the chassis. The new engine has a small difference in the character on corner entry or corner exit, and the revs are different, which also changes the character a bit. This also affects the chassis and we tried to put it all together. Honestly speaking we made a step forward and Johnny was flying. On the race tyres we made a lot of laps and after many laps it was we were still doing very strong times. The tyre wear was good and overall everything was very good.”
Marcel Duinker (Crew Chief for Leon Haslam): “I am very satisfied because this was the final day before moving to Phillip Island. We managed to do a 1’42.2 on race tyres, and not in the first lap, after a couple of laps. We made some progress on set-up for the Portimao race weekend but that is not just what we were here for. We are here to improve the base machine and introduce some items that we tested already in Jerez, and reconfirmed at this track. Leon feels happy with his bike. Of course we know that this is a very special track, not the average racetrack we face during the season. You can try to make a base set-up here but it is just a waste of time. A good lap and consistency on race tyre means we are ready for Phillip Island and I am looking forward to it.”