With MotoGP and WorldSBK sharing the track Jonathan Rea led the way for most of the day. We sought out three opinions on the differences between the bikes....
As the sun set on the third day of the Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with WorldSBK runners the big story was that Rea spent most of Wednesday leading the way.
The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships?
Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?
Low track temperatures and a circuit that doesn't place a premium on top speed certainly offered Rea the ideal opportunity to challenge the MotoGP riders but to say it was only this also dismisses just how advanced a WorldSBK machine is at the moment.
WorldSBK returnee Eugene Laverty was asked how the Aprilia RSV4 that he will race in 2017 compared to the Aprilia MotoGP bike that he tested last week. The Irishman was clearly impressed by his production based racer:
“The nice surprise was that the riding position was so similar,” said Laverty. “I expected to get back on a Superbike, that would often be longer for the rider, feel chunkier and all the rest, but the bike feels really similar. It's a proper little race bike, isn't it? It's always the tires which are the main difference, and of course the horsepower. You're going to feel that.
“The Superbike feels easier, because the horsepower is less. Around a track like this the thing is moving around and you're having to work hard. I was with Jack and we are pretty strong in braking compared to him. There are some areas where we can gain coming towards them on the front. So that's where we gain. The rest, from the mid corner to the exit, they get going. I'm surprised I can actually pull time on them on entry.”
Laverty wasn't the only rider able to offer a comparison between the series. With WorldSBK riders having filled in for injured Grand Prix riders throughout the season Alex Lowes also offered his opinion. The 26 year old was clear in his view that comparison isn't valid given the track conditions faced on a November day in Jerez when the MotoGP bike couldn't get into it's operating window. Even so he confirmed that the Pirelli tires, available for the public to buy, are a strong tire that works exceptionally well in cold track temperatures.
“The problem is that it's too cold for the Michelin tire here,” said the Yamaha WorldSBK rider. “In the cold temperatures our tire is a lot better and if you put the Michelin tires onto the Superbike we'd be a lot slower than today. I've raced the MotoGP bike and when the tire suits the track they're loads faster than the Superbike.
“The comparison between them is pointless at a cold Jerez with low track temperatures. You can't make a real comparison. The MotoGP bike makes their time up on a day like this because they're faster in the straight but they're a lot harder to ride and a lot harder to keep the heat in the tires. Getting the power down in a MotoGP bike is so much harder than a Superbike and they're more physical to keep the front down.
“On a day like today with the low track temperatures they wouldn't have a lot of grip. On a straight the extra power obviously makes a difference but they can't make up that much time under braking here because it's too cold to give them grip.”
For Lowes the comparison may not have been valid given the characteristics of the single make tire in both series but for Tom Sykes it was the “dumbing down” of regulations in WorldSBK that make it harder and harder to make the comparison. With split throttle bodies now banned in the production based series the former champion feels that the gulf will simply widen further between both series.
“I think that some people don't value the WorldSBK championship,” said Sykes. “The speed of all of us is there but every year there's rule changes to dumb down the class and amplify the gap between both chances. I think that it gives the two championships a false level but it's to give MotoGP all the glory. It works though because everyone thinks that the GP riders are a cut above and while I'm sure they're very, very good I think that we do here is just as impressive given the machinery and budgets that are available.”
When asked what it's like to share a track with the MotoGP machines the Yorkshireman laughed and smiled as he commented about the prototypes:
“It's always nice to be on track with the MotoGP bikes and I'll tell you what those MotoGP bikes sound good! Coming into the likes of Turn 1 they get into there so good and the engine on the overrun sounds great as they shut off the power. Looking at the speed traps they pick up a few k's on us and as the day went on they got faster and faster. Jonathan was the only rider that went for it today and he set an incredible lap time but I think that it shows the level of our riding ability is a lot higher than some people think.”
Three world class riders and three very different opinions on the differences between WorldSBK machinery and what we see in MotoGP. A MotoGP bike is the perfect balance of braking, turning, acceleration and top speed on two wheels. It is a machine crafted and developed to be at the cutting edge but the differences between it and a WorldSBK bike over a single lap aren't massive.
Regardless of the limitations facing a MotoGP bike at Jerez we saw again just how strong the level is in WorldSBK.
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