Windy conditions welcomed riders to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit as the final pre-season test of 2018 was underway, but there were no surprises from the timing screens as Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) ended the day on top, followed by the Kawasaki Racing Team duo of Sykes and Rea with the top six split by a second.
Monday morning’s session saw riders start to bed in their new set-up ahead of the season opener, and the track temperatures clearly played a part. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) ended the session on top with a lap time of 1.30.726, ahead of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team).
It was an eventful morning for what is set to be a stunning season, with wild card’s impressing and riders crashing. As teams began to get their bikes ready for the race, there were no main parts to test but they had two hours to prepare for the weekend ahead.
Reigning world champion Rea suffered his first crash of the year, as he went down at turn 11 but was up and ok, whilst Torres fell at turn two and was also up and ok. Despite the strong wind – especially through turn one, riders were already beginning to lap at times close to the fastest time set last year.
WorldSBK veteran Melandri had a very strong opening day Down Under, and finished the day on top overall as his team begin to work on the main race set-up. Emphasising the importance of keeping a cool head, they were working with the set-up from the previous testing. Mainly focusing on electronics, it was a different day for Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) as he finished in 10th position with a time of 1.32.054 and continues to work on his race set-up.
Despite both their riders crashing through turn 11, the Kawasaki Racing Team duo were able to finish in second and third – Sykes was 0.341s off the top whilst Rea was 0.533s behind. Both riders will be continuing with the new set up of their new bikes with the 2018 regulations.
With two new riders for 2018, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team were getting ready for the opening weekend with Leon Camier and Jake Gagne. British rider Camier continued to impress in the pre-season testing as he ended in a stunning fourth position, and has been working mainly on his position on the CBR1000RR SP2. Whilst on the other side of the garage, American Gagne was generally working on race pace ahead of the weekend, and finished in 17th.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team we’re utilising the extra track time they were offered, in order to prepare the YZF-R1’s for a round they are usually strong around. Gaining a basic feel of how the bikes feel with the track relating to the new rules, they were hoping to focus on the engine spec as well as enhancing their performance with some new parts on Tuesday. Dutch rider Michael van der Mark finished in sixth position whilst Alex Lowes was eighth following some strong laps at the end of the day.
Continuing to search for the all important rear end feeling with the RSV4 RF, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) secured a top seven finish and 1.147s behind the front runners with some strong steps made throughout the winter test.
Influenced by the cooler weather conditions, Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) was making the most of using both bikes in order to compare set-up on their machines. Continuing to adapt to the 2018 regulations, they are hoping to develop on their exit of the corners. With a full day of testing under his belt, he ended the day in sixth.
Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) had his first time out on track with the SS 1000RR bike, and was focusing on understanding the bike around the circuit. Using the same bike geometry as he did in the last test at Portimao, he used two bikes to try to adjust the settings. Aiming to put in as many laps as possible he finished in 11th position, with a time of 1.32.157.
Riders have one last day out on track ahead of the opening round of the WorldSBK 2018 season, and will be looking to find those all important final set-ups.
Phillip Island Official Test WorldSBK Day One
1. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1.30.726
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) +0.341
3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) +0.533