Kawasaki Racing Team riders Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea finished third and fourth fastest respectively after two days of official DWO testing at Phillip Island, the venue for the first round of the championship this coming weekend.
With a dry track surface to work with each day, but often high winds to deal with at the same time, four-time WorldSBK champion Rea and reigning BSB Champion Haslam set about making real preparations for the first round of the championship.
With several red flags being shown to halt the on-track action, frequently due to wild birds wandering onto the 4.445km long circuit, the tests were often halted, sometimes at key moments for the KRT team riders.
The all-new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR took Haslam to the third best time of the two-day tests, thanks to a 1’30.668 lap time. Rea was fourth fastest with his 1’30.722. All the best times were set on race tyres, with no qualifying options at this test.
Now the refreshed KRT riding line up, and the new Ninja ZX-10RR have the opportunity to work toward podium finishes in what will be a new-look WorldSBK weekend.
As well as the two regular full distance WorldSBK races of the past seasons, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, there will be a third ‘sprint race’ at each event this year, to be held over ten laps each time. This Tissot Superpole Race will not only score championship points, if a reduced number compared to a full race total, but will also determine the final race staring grid.
The first practice sessions of the new-look 13-round, 39-race season will take place on Friday the 22nd of February, with race one on Saturday the 23rd and the two other races on Sunday the 24th.
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Up until today we probably used the least amount of tyres compared to anyone else. We were just looking at race set-up and looking at a real specific plan of what we wanted to do, hence we were not posting really good one-off lap times and putting new tyres in. Our race times have been pretty competitive over both days. I had a bit of a go for a lap time at the end there but I got traffic on my first two laps and I think it was my fourth flying lap I did the 1’30.6. I think if we could have maximised the early laps, like everyone else seemed to be doing, we could have been a little closer. The biggest thing about this test for me was the average of the base pace, looking after the tyres, and managing that side of things. We are in a good place, I think. I am not looking to the races just yet; I am looking to the practice session on Friday, because there are still a few things we want to try. I feel good and we are making the steps.”
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “This has been a really positive test and we have been able to analyse a lot of items and changing things in the bike to see exactly what the track requests. This track is so unique because of the energy and load we put into the rear tyre, because of those fourth and fifth gear corners. Now we have a lot of data but unfortunately today there were a lot of red flags and we were not able to complete a long run or maximise a time attack. So this has been a huge data gathering two day test and it will prove very valuable for race weekend. With three races this year we need to be clever with the timetable and Sunday will be very a tight day for many reasons. The racing itself, trying to take on board food and – being in a factory team – the media commitments. So Sunday will be busy. From a racing point of view, I am quite happy.”
Marcel Duinker (Crew Chief for Leon Haslam): “We had a very good winter test programme and this final test was all about preparation for race weekend. We wanted to give Leon as many laps as possible to give him more time to adjust to this bike. We made an agreement together that in every session we needed to improve our pace and that is what we did. I think we were the only riders to improve the lap time and the pace, session-by-session. To be third right now makes me very confident but I am more convinced about our consistency. We have no problems with rear tyre endurance. We are, after ten or 12 laps, at least as fast or faster than our competition so I am looking forward to the weekend. With three races the weekend will be as busy as usual, but more exciting.”
Pere Riba (Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea): “The test has been the same as each previous year in Phillip Island. This is a unique track, completely different and we have been preparing the base bike and the starting point for 2019. In the winter tests it has been very good and then when we arrived here, as we expected from previous years, everything has been different. So we started to focus on the base setup for this track and then focus with the tyres. This is one of the main things we have to focus on here, especially the rear tyre. This has been the target to try to find a good balance for Johnny and also for durability for the rear tyre. As for race weekend we have to analyse everything, and I already have some ideas. On Friday we still want to try something to give Johnny a little bit more confidence and understanding.”