MotoOnline.com.au again delivers the latest in racing for the ASBK; WSBK; MotoGP; AMA SX and Oz MX championships.
The final pre-season test for the 2010 Viking Australian Superbike Championship took place at Phillip Island on Monday and Tuesday, where it was a very interesting couple of days just over a week out from round one.
It was again very difficult to nail down official lap times from the teams, not only because the test was happening within a ride day, but also because Dunlop is yet to supply a large amount of the D211GP Racer tyres that will be the control rubber this year.
Most teams on hand, which included the majority of the top Superbike efforts apart from Team Suzuki, only had one set of control tyres per rider to test with, leaving a mix of slicks and even treaded rubber on many of the bikes during the test.
While we couldn’t get a true indication of the times completed during the test, it’s safe to say that this year is going to be a very competitive one – made even closer by the control tyre rule as the best fight for every ounce of traction they can find.
Crashers at the test included Jordy Burgess on the Ducati Motologic 1198 R, as well as Bryan Staring, who had a horrible test that was plagued with electrical issues on the ex-Motologic CBR1000RR that was delivered on Monday afternoon.
The Ducati is fast in a straight line, Aprilias impressive with the Trinder Brothers Racing team’s first outing at the Island, Shannon Johnson again quick on the factory RC8 R, and the ever strong Honda line-up of Wayne Maxwell, Glenn Allerton and Staring sure to challenge for the crown this year.
Speaking of Johnson, congratulations to him on becoming the latest Australian Motorcycle News columnist – “42nd Street” debuting in the issue released this week.
The presentation of the teams this year will again be a step ahead of years past, with the glow red Ducatis catching much of the attention of the regular ride day participants at the Island this week.
The best thing about this year is the uncertainty of who will win races and the title. It was becoming somewhat too predictable at the final rounds of last year – basically Maxwell, Waters and Allerton ruling the podium more often than not.
This year it’s different. Yamaha and Kawasaki may be out, but the Stauffer brothers are back and more determined than ever with Italian equipment at their disposal, Supersport champ Staring is on proven Fireblades, while Johnson has vowed to continue as the hard man of Aussie road racing in his return to the premier class.
Hopefully those guys can get it right and take it to the likes of the leading trio, while we can never rule out the capabilities of three-time champ Shawn Giles and Robbie Bugden – both who were strong at the finale last year.
Some new sponsors were debuted at the Island test, with Maxwell’s GAS Honda featuring Demolition Plus as the title sponsor, while The Natural is the naming rights position of the TBR Aprilia team.
GAS had a connection already with Demolition Plus after Geoff Winzer was involved in the 6 Hour winners’ program, while The Natural is a yet top be launched company of Craig Trinder that will specialise in natural health.
Aaron Gobert made a welcome return to Australia at the Island test and will contest the entire ASBK series in the Supersport class on Yamaha YZF-R6 machinery this season, starting round one on an ex-Scott Charlton Vern Graham Yamaha before switching to new models for Hidden Valley and beyond.
Gobert will be joined by current 125cc Grand Prix Champion Blake Leigh-Smith for at least round one in Supersport, adding some extra depth to the field after Yamaha and Kawi pulled the pin.
One interesting thing to watch at the Island was Allerton complete two laps on the ESG Honda CBR600RR that Johnson raced last year, only to pull back into the pits and park it for the remainder of the test.
The word is that Allerton was considering racing Supersport as well as the Superbike this year, however it seems that option won’t go ahead – not at this stage anyway.
Also of note at the test was that young Aaron Morris was riding Rick Olson’s Superstock 600 championship-winning YZF-R6 during the test and making quite good progress after switching from Kawasaki.
One more thing: Victorian Brent George returned to the track on a GSX-R1000 at the Island test, set to make a comeback in the Superstock 1000 A class this year. His test was cut short when he crashed on oil midway through the opening day.
Suzuki was absent from the test, however Waters was in Darwin at Hidden Valley for the launch of this year’s ASBK series. Jamie Stauffer was also at the launch, however he flew back in time for the second day of the test to continue development of the 1198 R.
Yamaha Racing Team and support riders will have one final hit out at Eastern Creek this week on Thursday and Friday to wrap up the pre-season schedule, where Kevin Curtain will debut back in blue for the new season.
By the way, it’s nice to see the Supplementary Regulations finally released for the ASBK series today!
While the ASBK teams have all but completed their pre-season test schedule, the World Superbike teams are beginning to arrive in Australia for their final test before the season kicks off on the last weekend of the month.
The WSBK circus will arrive this week and take to the track on Sunday and Monday, where we’ll get our first real indication of who has done their homework this off-season so far.
Andrew Pitt’s Reitwagen Racing BMW team will have an upper hand for at least the first session since the team has been in Australia testing for a number of weeks already, the team taking part in the ride day alongside the ASBK contingent this week.
The S 1000 RR is super fast down Gardner Straight, however the team will have to further adjust the bike to the WSBK spec Pirelli tyres since they’ve been running on standard rubber so far.
I’m excited for this test, but the big event will go down just five days later when the World Superbike season officially commences on 26-28 February at the scenic Victorian circuit.
As we all await the Superbike opener at the Island anxiously, we can’t ignore the fact that MotoGP will have its second test of the year again at Sepang in Malaysia on 25-26 February.
Teams would have gone back to their factories and done their homework after test number one a few weeks ago, so we should see some more advancements and a greater indication of who will be the man in twenty-ten.
It’s a shame to see Jorge Lorenzo ruled out for this test after fracturing his hand and undergoing surgery recently, because every second of track time counts when it’s a restricted test schedule put in place in this day and age.
One rider to keep an eye on is WSBK champion Ben Spies, who shocked the paddock by lapping on the pace in his debut at Sepang at the previous test, so he’ll be even stronger now on his second visit.
The AMA Supercross series heads east to Indianapolis this weekend, where it was previously expected that Australian Rockstar Makita Suzuki rookie Matt Moss would debut on the 450 in the U.S.
Moss is scheduled to be joint series leader Ryan Dungey’s teammate for this year, however a compressed vertebra suffered at the Brisbane round of Super X has derailed his season so far, and its been very quiet on the Moss front since that point.
We’ve had no word that he’s back riding again, or any update on his injury apart from the fact that he’s over there in America, so let’s hope all is on target for a debut soon.
Could it be this weekend? Well, rumours have it doubtful – some suggesting that he’ll miss the entire Supercross season and instead wait to start fresh at the outdoor nationals, which kick off in May.
The other rumour has it that he’ll revert to the Lites class for the East Coast, however that has been a long standing one that just doesn’t seem to disappear no matter how many times its swept under the rug.
We’ll soon see what happens, but the good news is that twin brother Jake will be there at Indy for the opening round of the East Coast Lites series, as will South Australian Brett Metcalfe.
Things turned around for the Aussies somewhat last week, where Michael Byrne and Dan Reardon finished eighth and ninth at Anaheim 3 respectively, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more green and gold toward the front from now on.
The series launch for the 2010 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals, Australian Motocross Championship, will be held at Victoria’s Barrabool complex on 5 March.
With the new series inching ever closer it will be excellent to see the class of twenty-ten back in action in their final new colours, the launch potentially being the first sign of what’s ahead in the new year.
The series will commence exactly one month later at Horsham on 28 March, finally bringing the fresh season to life as we see Jay Marmont shoot for title number three in succession.
Interestingly, there’s still been no official word what 2008 Pro Lites champion Luke George will be doing this season, however the latest speculation has him again on Kawasaki, this time with support from Monster Energy in his own effort that could see him pitted with Chad Reed come Super X. Now that would be cool…
That’s all for this week, thanks for reading!