The FIM have finally released the provisional calendar for the World Superbike series for next year. The 2015 season will see WSBK travel to 14 rounds, returning to all of the venues which hosted races in 2014, and two more overseas rounds added, in Russia and Thailand.
The chances of this being the definitive calendar appear to be slim. Three rounds are marked as still subject to contract: Portimao, Moscow and Qatar. Both Portimao and Qatar look likely to go ahead, but whether WSBK will actually return to Moscow remains to be seen. The 2014 round was canceled due to the political instability in the Russian Federation and the overflow of conflict in Ukraine, which affected various partners of the series. The political situation has only deteriorated since then, with the EU and US imposing sanctions on Russia, making the race there almost impossible. The teams and riders will be hoping for the round to be canceled: the race was a logistical nightmare to get equipment to and from, and for both the fans and riders to attend and find accommodation for.
Press releases issued after the two-day test for the World Superbike teams at Portimao:
Sykes ends official test at Portimao on top
Portimao (Portugal), Tuesday 22 July 2014 - The two day official DWO test drew to a close today at Portimao’s Autodromo International do Algarve with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) the quickest rider thanks to his 1’42.719s lap time set this morning. The reigning champion and his teammate Loris Baz mainly focused on fine-tuning their ZX-10R as well as testing new items, whilst KRT EVO peer David Salom tried out new parts developed for what will be next year’s Kawasaki machine.
Tom Sykes: “It was a useful test. In the first day the track was not in perfect conditions but we managed to make some progress with the ZX-10R anyway. We started the second day a bit late, we had still some items to try but we had not enough time. Anyway we tried different geometries and improved the overall feeling on the bike. We could make changes that were impossible to do during the race weekends. The lap times were not our biggest concern but it is always nice to finish on top. Now I am going to enjoy the summer break back in the UK and hopefully sort out my hand/wrist problem. I feel we have the right package to be competitive in the final part of the season.”
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes leaves the two-day official World Superbike test with his authority firmly stamped on the WSBK field. The Yorkshireman was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, and nearly four tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz. Marco Melandri was six tenths off the pace of Sykes, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies setting the fifth and sixth best times.
Neither Sykes nor Baz had much to work on besides further perfecting set up of the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The development work was handed to EVO rider David Salom, who spent time developing the 2015 version of the bike Kawasaki will race next year. Despite the rule changes coming next season, the Kawasaki is still more closer to a Superbike than an EVO bike, Kawasaki manager Guim Roda told German website Speedweek.
Rain is the great leveller, with some bikes that lack power or traction suddenly being just as rideable as the ones at the sharper end. Suddenly, being on a Fireblade or a GSXR isn't the handicap it would otherwise be, and the Panigale looks like a contender. It won't put the Evo bikes to the front, but if you're in the top ten, having the right bike is suddenly no longer as important.
Press releases from the series organizers, World Superbike and World Supersport teams after Sunday's races at Portimao:
Sykes pulls away and wins race 1 to extend points lead
Portimao (Portugal), Sunday 6 July 2014 - An enthralling 20 lap race 1 saw Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) emerge victorious at a cloudy and overcast Portimao to claim his 7th win of the season and the 21st of his WSBK career.
At the start it was Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea that took the holeshot, leading for the opening three laps before Sykes and Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team) overtook him into turn one at the start of lap four.
By half distance the constant swapping of positions had allowed reigning champion Sykes to stretch his lead to 3 seconds, before seconds later the white flag was waved to indicate that rain was beginning to fall.
Behind the leader five riders that included Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team), Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team), and Sylvain Guintoli, Leon Haslam on the second of the Pata Honda’s slowly began to close the gap, giving the fans a six rider group battling for the podium places.
Leon Haslam collided with Chaz Davies, both riders able to remount with Davies later retiring. Haslam eventually finished 11th.
With rain pouring from the sky, the umbrellas were put to their proper use. Along with wet-weather tyres, everyone softened their springs, reduced their damping, put on the double-wide knee sliders and slotted clear visors in their helmets. The race was reduced to eighteen laps and everyone got wet.
The weather continued to look threatening for the start of the World Supersport race.
Grey skies loomed over the grid as most of the bikes lined up, with the EBRs starting from the pit lane with new engines ahead of their home round in Laguna Seca. The temperature was down on yesterday even if the wind wasn't.
After the light-hearted fun and games on Twitter yesterday, with Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty poking fun at Tom Sykes and his stated dislike of the hills at Portimão, the serious business of qualifying settled all the disputes.
Qualifying was done under the same warm and windy conditions as World Superbike.
Qualifying for tomorrow's race took place in a warm and windy Portugal.
Tom Sykes was quicker than the Suzukis of Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes in the untimed practice session.
Michael van der Mark is quickest ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu and Jules Cluzel. Sofuoglu fell with over ten minutes remaining in the session and was unable to restart.