World Superbike qualifying took place in a twenty-five minute session at 11am, before the weather really heats up, but was still hot enough to limit the longevity of the Pirelli Superpole tyre.
With the cooler temperature in the early morning, almost everyone set their quickest laps with Michael van der Mark holding off Jonathan Rea and Loris Baz, and four Yamahas in the top six.
As the weather hotted up and the laptimes rose in sympathy, Michael Ruben Rinaldi was the only rider in the top ten to improve on his morning's time, setting the quickest lap of the session ahead of Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista.
In what promises to be a hot weekend in Spain, the longest break in World Superbike finally comes to an end.
In a session that spend most of the time with Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Toprak Razgatlioglu at the top, Loris Baz set the quickest lap two thirds of the way through the session. Jonathan Rea was second quickest with Alvaro Bautista getting a decent time out of the new Honda to go third quickest. Scott Redding took his time to get up to speed, but he sneaked in above his teammate Chaz Davies in the last minute.
I feel my temperature rising
It's burning through to my soul
Elvis wasn’t singing about WorldSBK racing at Jerez this weekend when he covered Burning Love almost 50 years ago, but he might as well have been. During the course of this weekend’s races the rider’s will face an incredible challenge due to the conditions.
With air temperatures hovering close to 40°C in recent weeks the difficultly is in keeping a cool head and avoiding your core temperature be rising at an alarming degree. The moment that the body temperature starts to rise, even for an elite athlete, they are running on borrowed time. When a critical point is reached the body transitions into survival mode, and suddenly the typically razor-sharp racing brain takes a back seat to surviving until the end of the race.
To combat this we’ll see riders keeping cool with air blown into their faces while they sit in the shade with cold towels wrapped around their necks and wearing ice jackets. The aim of the game is to get your body temperature as low as possible before going into battle and then hope that you’re body can deal with the heat when the action gets underway.
"I was cooking!"
Our timing – eventually - was surprisingly good. The old racers’ Highland bike trip had been planned before the C-word virus came along to cast doubt on any of us even getting out of our houses before 2021 came around. As weeks then months on the calendar got crossed off, as the lockdowns endured, as the prospect of hotels and restaurants not being opened at all in the now relatively cautious Covid-clattered Scotland, the stars and public health officials all got into alignment just before an annual bike outing that is a highlight of each summer.
It was even nice weather right up there when the rest of the UK was drowning. Fortune favours the… Bravehearts?
Long story short, my old Caledonian mate from my ‘racing’ days, Iain Macpherson and I used to go on an annual bike trip ‘Up North’, in the wilds and wonders of Scotland. Then Iain expanded the adventure to include many of the old Scottish - and then other UK - racers that dominated the scenes in the 1980s and 1990s… plus tuners, mechanics and simply pals-of-pals, at times. And, as I had been there all along, me too - bimbling along as an oversized mascot, pathfinder, organiser and enthusiastic road rider who occasionally used to head north even on a 125cc bike as a learner rider, way back when. It's my manor, as the London contingent would say.
As the restart of the 2020 WorldSBK draws near, Dorna and the FIM have issued an updated calendar. In the previous version of the calendar, the British, Dutch, and Qatar rounds of the WorldSBK series were listed as to be determined. These three races, at Doningon Park, Assen, and the Losail International Circuit, have now been canceled due to the organizational headaches created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With those three rounds dropped, eight rounds remain on the calendar. The season restarts at Jerez on August 2nd, the week after MotoGP's second race at the track. The WorldSBK paddock then heads west to the Portimao circuit in Portugal, before taking two weeks off and traveling to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain.
A strange week in the rider market took another turn with the threat from Simone Battistella, manager of Andrea Dovizioso, claiming that his rider would sit out 2021 in search of the right opportunity the following year.
It’s a brave gamble to take, but with Dovi set to be 36 years old by the time the season starts in 2022, it looks like a hollow threat. If Dovi sits out a year at this stage of his career, he would find it very difficult to get back on a competitive bike in the MotoGP field.
As things stand who has more leverage? Ducati, with Jack Miller under contract - not to mention having Johann Zarco, Pecco Bagnaia and a host of other riders waiting in the wings - or a 34-year-old veteran threatening to call time on his MotoGP career?
Youth vs experience
The answer seems pretty much self-evident. Speak to MotoGP managers about riders, and they will tell you that age is a big factor, preferring youthful potential over age and experience. This is one reason managers give when you ask them about signing riders from the WorldSBK paddock: they are too old, is the general consensus, with teams preferring to take a risk on a young rider from Moto2.
Press releases from some of the WorldSBK teams and the Marc VDS Moto2 team present at the Barcelona test:
REA FASTEST OVERALL AT CATALUNYA TESTS
Jonathan Rea has ended the Barcelona WorldSBK test at the top of the timesheets, after a battle of wills with Ducati's Scott Redding. The pair chased each other to impressive heights during the morning session, throwing new tires at fast times until Redding decided that focusing on used tires was a more productive use of his time than continuing to chase Rea's fast time. "It was fun, it was spicing up the day, but I said, OK, one of us is going to end up with a big crash, because we keep going faster and faster and faster!" Redding commented afterwards.