Toprak Razgatliogu ends the Portimao WorldSBK test as fastest, the Pata Yamaha rider a fraction faster on Monday than yesterday's fastest rider Scott Redding on the Aruba.it Panigale V4R. Loris Baz was third quickest on the Ten Kate Yamaha R1, over four tenths faster than Michael van der Mark on the second Pata Yamaha rider.
After the press conference part of Ducati's 2020 MotoGP launch, we got a chance to ask Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna a few more questions about the Italian factory's plans for the coming season. Dall'Igna expanded on some of the things he had told the press conference, such as his priority for the Desmosedici GP20, and how he expected the new Michelin rear tire to affect the racing.
But Dall'Igna also answered some other questions as well. The Ducati Corse boss talked about why he wanted more power from the GP20, the support on offer for Johann Zarco, how he sees rider contracts, and Ducati's thoughts on racing in Endurance. He even fielded a question about Marc Márquez, and managed to answer it by not answering it.
Corners or straights?
One of the main questions the media had for Dall'Igna was what his priorities were for the GP20. Ducati had brought a couple of new chassis and a new engine spec at the Valencia and Jerez tests last November, and at Valencia, especially, the bike seemed to turn better. At Jerez, that improvement didn't seem as significant.
Was the GP20 really better in the corners? "It’s difficult to tell you an answer," Dall'Igna said. "For sure we’re improving the bike. We have some ideas about improving the bike that can help us in that direction. But we have to test it before telling you something. Maybe after Sepang I can tell you something more."
A few days after packing up at Jerez, the WorldSBK paddock - or at least a large part of it - is back in action in Portugal, at Portimao. Prominent absentees are Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes of the KRT Kawasaki team, who are in Barcelona testing. With the weather having looked favorably at the Portimao circuit, the teams got in plenty of laps.
Scott Redding ended the day as fastest, the Aruba.it Ducati rider vastly less experienced at Portimao. Redding was under the circuit race record, and nearly six tenths quicker than second-fastest man Loris Baz on the Ten Kate Yamaha.
The WorldSBK riders got a little bit of dry running at Jerez on Thursday, or at least some dry-ish running. A couple of hours were enough for Jonathan Rea to believe it worth going out on track and laying down a time. But his best lap was still 2.7 seconds off the time he set at the November test in Jerez.
The first day back testing was something of a washout for the WorldSBK and WorldSSP teams. The track started wet, never really dried out, and heavy rain started to fall in the afternoon. The conditions proved treacherous, with a spate of crashes causing the test to be red-flagged four times during the day.
Testing resumes today at Jerez for the WorldSBK class. At least, it will if the track dries out enough to make conditions usable. Heavy overnight rain has soaked the track, and more rain is expected over the next two days.
The WorldSBK field will be hoping for dry track time for a lot of reasons, not least because it will be the first time that the Honda CBR1000RR-R will be seen at a public test. Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam have ridden the bike at private tests already, the bike getting a run out at Aragon and Portimao, and reports were that the bike was very quick, but the rest of the WorldSBK field will want to see a direct comparison with the bike.
Photos of the Honda CBR1000RR-R have already been floating around social media. Here is one photo, with some of the engine visible.
Besides the Honda, there are plenty of other things to keep an eye. At Kawasaki, Jonathan Rea will be continuing his transition to a thumb brake, working on getting used to that feel. Alex Lowes, meanwhile, will be trying to unlearn some of the things he learned about braking on the Yamaha, and find the limits on the Kawasaki ZX10-RR. Corner entry has been Lowes' biggest problem so far.
As the world of motorcycle racing starts to get into the swing of things, activity is starting to ramp up. The first of the MotoGP factory launches is due this week, Ducati to present their 2020 livery and (unchanged) rider line up in a 13th Century palace in the middle of Bologna. That event happens on Thursday evening, the 23rd January, and I will be attending to try to find out more about Ducati's plans for the coming season.
The other factories will have to wait. The three Japanese factories will be launching their bikes just ahead of the Sepang test. Repsol Honda go first, holding their launch in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on 4th February. The Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams will be holding their launches at the Sepang circuit on the 6th February, as will the Suzuki Ecstar team.
With the holidays coming up and no racing on, most people will have a little more time on their hands to do a bit of reading. If you are looking to read about motorcycle content across all disciplines with a focus on racing, then On Track Off Road magazine is the best possible way to pass the time. I have been proud to write a column for Adam Wheeler's magazine for the past four and a half years, adding my bit of MotoGP insight. You can find me alongside such fantastic writers as Neil Morrison, currently the best writer on MotoGP, stellar WorldSBK photographer Graeme Brown, WorldSBK guru Steve English, AMA specialist Steve Matthes, and Adam Wheeler, a man who has forgotten more about MXGP than I will ever learn.
As one more championship in WorldSBK has now run its enormously unexpected final course, the off-season gives us time for both reflection and plotting a path forward.
OK, that’s the reflection over, what about 2020 and beyond?
The WorldSBK series does not quite restart its new season preparations just two days after the old season, as it does in MotoGP. In those terms it took a bit over two weeks to get WorldSBK bedded in again, but most teams are already getting into 2020 mode after two days of tests at Motorland Aragon.
Riders discuss race, tyre and electronics tactics, but bladder strategy? Five-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea explains all in Mat Oxley's favourite 2019* interview
The Royal Automobile Club on London’s Pall Mall is almost certainly the grandest edifice in the world of motor sport.
The vast building – a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace – is peak British Empire, built in 1911 on the site of the country’s old War Office. Early Isle of Man TT races were organised here, amidst uniformed butlers, silverware and fine brandies.