Phillip Island, Australia
The last race of the day was dry at 22°C.
The World Supersport race took part in a dry, 19°C day.
The first race of the season was dry, at 21°C
Now we have seen the new format for qualifying and the changes are not as drastic as they may have seemed on paper. Familiarity with the way the MotoGP system worked helped, as did the fact that the new format isn’t that different from the old one.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying for the season opener at Phillip Island:
World Supersport qualifying took a few minutes longer than it should, being red-flagged briefly.
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.