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.
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.
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.
As the 2013 World Superbike season ended, the question was how the series, now owned by Dorna, could once more fill the grids. With some races rewarding every finisher with points, while the cheaper Supersport and Superstock championships raced with full grids, it was clear that more seats were needed.
One part of the solution was the new EVO class. Essentially Superbikes with Superstock engines, EVO bikes are much cheaper and, from 2015, will be the standard specification of all bikes, and over a third of the full-time entries in 2014 are EVO bikes, with familiar riders taking some of the seats. Another part of the solution was the addition of several new and returning manufacturers to the series. Alongside Ducati, Aprilia, Honda, BMW, Suzuki and Kawasaki, we now have MV Agusta, Buell and, hopefully, Bimota bringing the number of marques to nine.
Previews of this weekend's World Superbike season opener from the series organizer and some of the teams:
Cirjesa, the body which runs the Circuito de Jerez just north of the Spanish city, and GCJ, the company which organizes the events at the circuit, are under investigation by the Spanish tax authorities and the Spanish organized crime unit for tax evasion. According to reports in the regional Diario de Jerez newspaper, the investigations center around unpaid tax over undeclared income from ticket sales to general admission areas during races, including the MotoGP rounds in recent years.
Both the police and tax authorities have spent the last six months investigating the existence of a second, clandestine set of accounts which are alleged to include the missing income. The alleged fraud was made possible because the general admission areas (the so-called 'Pelousse') are accessible without having an assigned seat number, paying spectators sitting on the grass anywhere around the hillsides overlooking the circuit. Suspicions had been raised by the fact that the number of spectators in the general admission areas seemed to be larger than the numbers officially reported. But without numbered seating, it was impossible for anyone outside of the circuit organization to know the actual numbers of paying spectators.
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.
2014 World Superbikes Phillip Island Test Day 1 Times: Laverty Impresses Ahead Of Giugliano And Sykes
Near perfect conditions at Phillip Island saw fast times being set from the beginning of the first day of testing for the World Superbike class. The morning was especially good, with nary a breath of the wind which usually blasts across the circuit, whatever the weather.
Eugene Laverty took advantage of the conditions to set the fastest time, getting within a couple of tenths of the pole record and ending with a lead of two tenths. Both Suzukis started strong, Laverty leading while Alex Lowes ended in 5th, just under half a second behind his teammate. It was an impressive start for Lowes, riding at a track he hasn't seen before.
Davide Giugliano was 2nd fastest on the Ducati Panigale, two tenths behind Laverty and just ahead of the Kawasakis of reigning world champion Tom Sykes and Loris Baz. Giugliano's strong start looks hopeful for the Ducati, but Phillip Island is a track where Ducatis have always gone well, in all forms. Marc Melandri ended the day in 6th, six tenths behind the man he replaced at Aprilia, and fractionally ahead of Leon Haslam on the Pata Honda.
Dorna has revealed the pricing for its online video pass for the World Superbike championship. The price for a full season of coverage via the WorldSBK.com website is to cost €69.90, or around US $95. Included in the price is live access to all World Superbike races, as well as the ability to play them on demand after the race is over. There will also be access to a highlights package of each race, and rider interviews and exclusive features. There is also an archive of race and season reviews going back to 1993.
The online package is very similar to the one offered by Dorna for the MotoGP.com website, with suitably revised pricing. Since Dorna was handed the running of the World Superbike series by Bridgepoint, it was only a matter of time before WSBK would also be available via some form of online video streaming. Leveraging both the experience which they had gained in TV rights negotiations and in running the MotoGP.com video streaming platform, Dorna could put the World Superbike races online with relatively limited effort.
With the start of the 2014 World Superbike season less that two weeks away, teams are gearing up for their campaigns. As part of their preparations, Pata Honda team today released a video showing their progress on the way to the new season. Team boss Ronald ten Kate, World Superbike riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, and World Supersport riders Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti all feature in the video, discussing what has changed over the winter, and what they expect of 2014. The video appears below: