Motorland Aragon, Spain
Four rounds into the World Superbike season and the contours of the 2015 championship are starting to become clear. Some of the things we expected to happen have unfolded much as predicted, but there have also been a fair few surprises. Time to take a quick look at the state of World Superbikes so far.
New technical regulations have been put in place aimed at reducing cost and leveling the playing field somewhat. Their effect so far? Despite the protestations of the Kawasaki and Aprilia riders, all of whom have been complaining of a loss of horsepower, neither top speed nor overall lap times appear to have been affected much. Taking Tom Sykes as perhaps the best example, as he was on the Kawasaki ZX-10R both this year and last, his lap times were half a second slower at Phillip Island, half a second quicker at Assen, the only two tracks at which it is possible to compare. Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale was a second quicker at Assen, and eight tenths quicker in race one at Phillip Island, but in race two lapped just as fast in 2015 as he did in 2014. Overall, the Phillip Island track was a little slower in 2015, while conditions at Assen were definitely improved this year over last. The jury is still out on the new rules, but there are definite rumblings audible from the jury room.
Perhaps the biggest effect of the new rules is on the expectations of riders. The Kawasaki is among the most affected of the WSBK bikes by the new rules, with claims that the ZX-10R has between ten and twenty fewer horses than it had in 2014. That has had a bigger impact on Tom Sykes than on his new teammate, Jonathan Rea, Sykes struggling while Rea has come in and cleaned up. Sykes finds himself with a bike that is down on power to what he is used to, a development which is not good for a positive mindset. Rea has come off a bike which he knew to be incapable of winning a championship, and hopped onto one which has been proven capable of doing just that. It's easy to go fast when what you have is better than what you had, and you see opportunity looming.
Press releases after Sunday's WSBK round at Aragon:
The second World Superbike race at Moorland Aragon took place under higher temperatures, air temperature up from 12°C to 18°C and track from 18°C to 32°C, and while these temperatures pale in comparison to the ones at Buriram, the difference between the two requires setup and strategic changes.
Sixteen laps of Motorland Aragon without weather interrupting proceedings.
Eighteen laps of the five kilometre circuit, with everyone taking the same front tyre apart from Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes going for the softer option.
The layout of Motorland Aragon has been changed to the FIM standard, resetting all qualifying and race records, with the fiddly hairpin and chicane at the end of the track replaced with the same last turn as MotoGP, referred to as turns sixteen and seventeen but taken as a single double-apex left-hander.
World Supersport qualifying took place in 19°C weather with no major incidents.
A few days ago, rain was rumoured for Superpole, but the weather was not an issue for qualifying at Aragon.
In the untimed practice session, Tom Sykes put in the quickest lap ahead of Superpole, with the Aprilia pair of Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres half a second behind.
Kenan Sofuoglu set the fastest time in the morning's session, beating out Kyle Smith and Jules Cluzel. Qualifying is looking strung out as laptimes drop rapidly outside the top seven places and many riders have been unable to improve on their times from yesterday, including PJ Jacobsen whose time from yesterday is still the third-quickest of the weekend.
The entries for Superpole have been decided and Chaz Davies sits in provisional pole, with Jonathan Rea and Davies's Ducati teammate Xavi Forres filling out the top three spots. Kawasaki's Tom Sykes was the only rider in the top fifteen unable to improve on his best time from yesterday, but his time was good enough for him to split the Aprilias of Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres on the provisional second row.
Press releases after the first day of practice for the World Superbike series at Motorland Aragon:
Jonathan Rea, winner of three out of the four races this year, outqualified his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes by under two tenths of a second. The Ducati pair of Chaz Davies and Xavi Forres continue their morning's form with the third and fourth quickest times.