News 20 Feb 2010

WSBK: Testing commences at Phillip Island this Sunday

Phillip Island’s massive week of World Superbike action begins tomorrow when the second and final official pre-season test roars into life, followed by the opening Yamaha Phillip Island championship opener starting next Friday, 26 February.

The two-day test on Sunday and Monday, 21-22 February, is the final chance for the major championship contenders of World Superbike and World Supersport to lock in their set-ups.

In World Superbike 23 riders from 13 teams will test, representing seven manufacturers – Yamaha, Ducati, Aprilia, BMW, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki. All the leading names will be on track including the samurai of slide Nori Haga, the returning James Toseland, veteran Max Biaggi, the UK’s Jonathan Rea, Cal Crutchlow and Leon Camier and four Aussies – Troy Corser, Chris Vermeulen, Andrew Pitt and Josh Brookes.

The World Superbike teams will benefit from extensive track time at the Island with two 140-minute sessions scheduled for both days – over nine hours all up.

Wollongong’s Troy Corser returns on the factory BMW, and if any circuit is going to provide a trigger for the Corser of old to return, it’s Phillip Island. The Wollongong star always flexes his muscles around the 4.445km circuit, which is probably why he’s the current lap record holder (1:31.826) and has seven wins to his credit, going all the way back to 1995.

Last year was his first year with the new BMW entry and while he would have liked to have gone a fraction faster in the first official test of 2010 in Portimao (Portugal) he is looking forward to the Island.

“I’m ready to go,” said Corser, despite a bad week for the Corser family where their beloved pop who’s been a race team regular since day one, passed away. “I am fully fit and I’m over the shoulder injury that hampered me late last year. We’ve made big big improvements in the BMW. The power delivery of the engine is a lot more how I like it and the chassis has a far better feel.

“This year we realistically see us on the podium. We’ve set ourselves a goal of top three to five in the championship and hopefully winning a few races along the way. You know that Phillip Island is my track, and I’m going for nothing less a podium next weekend. With pop riding on my shoulder, I am going to have a great result for him in particular and give the fans a top weekend of racing.”

Port Macquarie’s Andrew Pitt returns to World Superbike after a three year absence and he knows there is a big week of gruelling work ahead. Pitt only rode his Team Reitwagen BMW race bike for the first time during a public track day at Phillip Island earlier this week, and he’s under no illusions the almost non-existent pre-season has left him with plenty of work to do.

“Although the ride days were far from what I would call a test, the laps were very valuable in setting up riding position for footpegs, levers, handlebars and so forth, plus it allowed us to scrub brake discs and find a starting point for geometry,” said Pitt. “We also learned a small amount about tyre wear and we have helpful data to take to this Sunday’s official test. There is no doubt the bike is very fast and the power curve is nice so I’m looking forward to really pushing the bike this weekend.”

The third Aussie at the test, Kawasaki’s Chris Vermeulen, could be the real surprise. His situation is intriguing as he continues to come to grips with the ZX-10R after only a few outings in December and January. He hasn’t been particularly fast, but there’s a feeling he’s on the cusp of a breakout performance.

The Queenslander is certainly content with the horsepower is factory Kawasaki is producing, and now he’s just focussing on geometry and suspension ahead of the season opener.

“Portimao was a great test for us in that we learnt a lot about the bike, even though we got a little bit unlucky with some weather,” said Vermeulen. “Kawasaki and Showa have developed some new parts from the information we came up with at Portimao and we are going to be testing them at Phillip Island (on February 21-22), concentrating on things like weight transfer on the bike from braking to accelerating. They will be our priorities, and when we go into the race weekend it will be all about going as fast as we can!”

Newcastle’s Broc Parkes (Honda) will not be riding at the test or the first round after breaking his right tibia in a training accident, however 2008 World Supersport number three Josh Brookes has been called up to replace him. Brookes is a current factory Honda factory rider in British Superbike and has won at Phillip Island in Supersport as a wildcard earlier in his career.

The two-rider factory teams from Ducati, Yamaha, Honda, Aprilia, Suzuki, BMW and Kawasaki will all be on location. There is massive anticipation heading into the new decade after one of the busiest off-seasons in World Superbike history, with only two of those teams – Ducati and BMW – fronting up with the same riders as 2009.

British pilots dominated late January’s Portugal test, with Jonathan Rea (Honda) the fastest from Leon Haslam (Suzuki), privateer Shane Byrne (Ducati) and rookie Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha). Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) and dual world champion James Toseland (Yamaha) were fifth and sixth.

World number two Haga (Ducati) was only eighth, but the wily campaigner is expected to be closer to the pointy end at the Phillip Island test, where the best ever WSBK lap around the circuit of Frenchman Regis Laconi’s 1:31.050 could be eclipsed if the weather conditions are conducive.

Other riders who have shown some strong recent form at Phillip Island include Max Neukirchner (Honda), veteran enforcer Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and Haslam.

There will also be 17 riders from the World Supersport ranks, led by the three standouts: Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda), Eugene Laverty (Honda) and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki).

Tickets are now on sale for the 2010 Yamaha Phillip Island Superbike World Championship next weekend on 26-28 February. Visit or Toll Free Superbike Hot Line on 1300 728 007.

Sunday February 21
9.00 – 10.30 World Supersport Free Practice
10.40 – 13.00 World Superbike Free Practice
13.30 – 15.00 World Supersport Free Practice
15.10 – 17.30 World Superbike Free Practice

Monday February 22
9.00 – 11.20 World Superbike Free Practice
11.30 – 13.00 World Supersport Free Practice
13.30 – 15.50 World Superbike Free Practice
16.00 – 17.30 World Supersport Free Practice