Phillip Island, Australia
In the only true Free Practice session, one that does not count towards Superpole entry, Davide Giugliano went quicker than all but Alex Lowes in the timed sessions. Tom Sykes reassuringly sat in second place ahead of Sylvain Guintoli.
Kenan Sofuoglu escaped from the clutches of Michael Van Der Mark by eleven thousandths of a second, retaining the top spot before final qualifying. PJ Jacobsen, the American by way of British Superbike, was in third place ahead of Kev Coghlan and series rookie Ratthapark Wilairot. The MV Agusta pair of Vladimir Leonov and Jules Cluzel are the only other riders under 1'34.
Alex Lowes demionstrated that his Friday performance was not a one-off by putting his Suzuki in provisional pole ahead of his teammate. Eugene Laverty on the other GSX-R1000 was within xxx, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies sitting in third and fourth places, following in Carlos Checa's qualifying performance from last year. Tom Sykes, world champion and qualifying maven, assured that he'd be in the top qualifying group while Niccolo Canepa makes history by putting his EVO Ducati Panigale into Superpole 2 amongst the full-SBK spec bikes.
Marco Melandri crshed easly on, ensuring that he was unable to improve on his best time from yesterday, but his Friday time was enough to keep him in the top qualifying group.
Phillip Island is unique. The opening race is held in the southern hemisphere, seven weeks before the circus gets to Europe. The track has its own climate and last year’s resurfacing still makes the track abrasive. Testing here took place last week, which gave teams a bit of additional setup, but it also took its toll in injuries, something that continued into the qualifying runs. The morning’s session in both Superbike and Supersport were lost to rain, but the afternoon sessions ran without a problem.
Four Moto2 riders are to join the factory MotoGP riders for a tire test at Phillip Island at the beginning of March. Dunlop issued the following press release on the subject:
Dunlop to evaluate new tyre options at Australian Moto2 test
Since being resurfaced in 2013, Phillip Island’s abrasive circuit surface has warranted bespoke development for tyres for top level Moto classes.
For Moto2, Dunlop is taking nine specifications of rear tyre to test at the Australian track with a goal of finding the best two race options for all riders in terms of suitability for the surface while maintaining the improved pace of 2013. Testing will take place over three days commencing 3rd March.
During the winter period, Dunlop’s designers have created tyres with new low heat generation and heat resistant compounds as well as new tread constructions. New belt materials have been used, although the cord itself is already proven in Dunlop's latest race products. The new solutions have already been extensively tested by Dunlop’s own test team at both the company's Mireval Proving Grounds in France and also on high speed durability testing equipment. All the tyre specifications have shown a significant improvement in durability.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
On his first day on the job, Alex Lowes tops his first timing sheet. The British Superbike champion, and twin brother of Sam, the World Supersport champion, recorded seven 1'31 laps on his Suzuki GSX-R1000. Marco Melandri, on the newly liveried silver Aprilia, adapted quickly to his new machine ahead of Davide Giugliano and Tom Sykes.
Without his rival of last year, Sofuoglu showed why he's a favourite for the title this year, setting the fastest time, two-thirds of a second faster than the rest of the field, as soon as conditions allowed, setting the fastest lap just ten minutes into the session. As the only rider to get a 1'33 lap, and several of them at that, pole position is well within his grasp.
Kev Coghlan, second fastest, was able to record a few consistent 1'34s together while Rafael De Rosa in third was only able to get one lap faster than fourth-fastest Michael Van Der Mark, another rider with consistent quick laps.
As the weather in Australia dampens both the track and the teams' enthusiasm, very few riders were able to get a lap that was worth anything in. At the end of the session, as conditions allowed, a handful of riders set out and recorded times that just show that their data loggers work, and very little else.
The opening Free Practice session for World Supersport ended with only four riders recording a complete lap. The rain ensured most riders just stayed in their garages.
Previews of this weekend's World Superbike season opener from the series organizer and some of the teams:
Press releases from the teams and series organizer after the final official World Superbike test at Phillip Island:
Tom Sykes seized control of the World Superbike test at Phillip Island, topping the timesheets on the second day of the test with a lap just five thousandths shy of Carlos Checa's pole record around the Australian circuit. The reigning world champion set a time in the morning which nobody could get near, signalling his intention to fiercely defend his title.
Alex Lowes set the second fastest time, continuing an impressive start to his World Superbike career. The Voltcom Suzuki rider improved his time from Monday by half a second, getting within three tenths of the Kawasaki of Sykes. Marco Melandri made a big improvement to move up to 3rd, while Davide Giugliano continued his strong showing the factory Ducati to take 4th, just ahead of Melandri's Aprilia teammate Sylvain Guintoli. Guintoli ended the day at the head of a close group of riders, Suzuki's Eugene Laverty, Pata Honda riders Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea, and Kawasaki man Loris Baz all covered by just over a tenth of a second.
Kenan Sofuoglu's quest to regain the World Supersport title got off to a strong start at Phillip Island, the Turkish Mahi Kawasaki rider topping the timesheets on both days of the last official test before the season starts. Sofuoglu was fractionally faster on Tuesday, having spent most of the second day running race simulations and pronouncing himself satisfied.
American rookie PJ Jabobsen made a stunning impression on the second day of the test, improving his time from Monday by over a second and grabbing the 2nd spot on Tuesday. The Intermoto Kawasaki rider slipped ahead of Pata Honda's Michael van der Mark, the Dutchman taking 3rd overall. After a day filled with technical issues on every part of the MV Agusta F3, Jules Cluzel finally posted a fast lap, blitzing to 4th in the standings, ahead of Moto2 refugee Ratthapark Wilairot on the PTR Honda and an impressive Kev Coghlan on the Panavto Yamaha R6.
Irishman Jack Kennedy did not ride on Tuesday, after fracturing the talus bone in his heel in a crash on the first day of the test.
Day 2 times: