Two men born just a few miles and a few months apart stamped their authority on the first official World Superbike test of 2010. Johnny Rea and Eugene Laverty, both from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, ended the three day test under the lap record time, Laverty beating the race lap record while Rea shattered Ben Spies' qualifying record set on soft tires.
Laverty and Rea are the tip of a British resurgence in the World Superbike series. The Brit revival is most obvious in the World Superbike class, where the top four times were set by British riders, James Toseland missing out on making it 5 out of 5 by just two hundredths of a second to Michel Fabrizio. While Johnny Rea's top time was unsurprising, given the Ulsterman's strong end to the 2009 season, few had expected Leon Haslam to show quite so strongly. His talent was not in question, scoring two podiums last year on the privateer Stiggy Honda, but the Alstare Suzuki team struggled in 2009 and the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 is not generally regarded as a race-winning machine.
Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, continues his meteoric rise. After winning the World Supersport title last year - which he would have done comfortably were it not for a couple of silly and expensive mistakes - the young Briton has made a very strong start to his World Superbike career, running close to the front in every test so far. Crutchlow had been looking to move to Moto2 for 2010, but on his form so far, he may not regret having to stay in World Superbikes.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the test was the performance of the old guard. Noriyuki Haga had just a single strong session, on Sunday morning, but spent the rest of the weekend languishing in mid-pack. There he found himself in the company of Max Biaggi, the Aprilia yet to capitalize on the year of development the bike has already had. Like the two Italian manufacturers, BMW and Kawasaki were also disappointing. Despite the level of technology in the BMW, neither Troy Corser nor Ruben Xaus have been able to get the S1000RR to run at the front. Meanwhile at Kawasaki, no matter how hard the Paul Bird Motorsports team work, the ZX 10R remains the least competitive bike on the grid - a fact underlined by the trouble that Team Pedercini's Roger Lee Hayden and Javier Fores were solidly at the rear of the field.
While British riders look to have the World Superbike class wrapped up for the moment, the World Supersport championship looks like being a more international affair. Eugene Laverty underlined his class this weekend, but he spent his time battling for supremacy with Spaniard Joan Lascorz and the Italian Michele Pirro. Pirro looked particularly strong, and given the fact that he will be joined at Ten Kate by Kenan Sofuoglu, once the Turkish rider has recovered from his broken ankle, the title is likely to be a four-way affair.
The rider who showed the most improvement is surely Miguel Praia. The Portuguese rider, who lives just a few miles from the Parkalgar circuit where the test took place, and which sponsors the team which includes Eugene Laverty, struggled to break into the top 10 last year, but was consistently close to the front group this weekend. Whether this is down to Praia improving his fitness and skills or the benefits of local track knowledge will become clear at the next test at Phillip Island on February 21st and 22nd, a week before the World Superbike season kicks off.
Overall times for the World Superbike class:
|1||65||J. Rea||Honda CBR1000RR||1'42.270||Sunday|
|2||91||L. Haslam||Suzuki GSX-R1000||1'42.557||Sunday|
|3||67||S. Byrne||Ducati 1098R||1'42.877||Sunday|
|4||35||C. Crutchlow||Yamaha YZF R1||1'42.960||Friday|
|5||84||M. Fabrizio||Ducati 1098R||1'43.137||Sunday|
|6||52||J. Toseland||Yamaha YZF R1||1'43.157||Sunday|
|7||3||M. Biaggi||Aprilia RSV4 1000 F.||1'43.364||Friday|
|8||41||N. Haga||Ducati 1098R||1'43.417||Sunday|
|9||76||M. Neukirchner||Honda CBR1000RR||1'43.471||Sunday|
|10||50||S. Guintoli||Suzuki GSX-R1000||1'43.508||Sunday|
|11||7||C. Checa||Ducati 1098R||1'43.629||Sunday|
|12||2||L. Camier||Aprilia RSV4 1000 F.||1'43.749||Sunday|
|13||11||T. Corser||BMW S1000 RR||1'43.931||Sunday|
|14||77||C. Vermeulen||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'44.108||Sunday|
|15||66||T. Sykes||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'44.365||Friday|
|16||111||R. Xaus||BMW S1000 RR||1'44.570||Friday|
|17||23||B. Parkes||Honda CBR1000RR||1'44.751||Friday|
|18||31||V. Iannuzzo||Honda CBR1000RR||1'45.348||Sunday|
|19||95||R. Hayden||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'46.990||Sunday|
|20||12||J. Fores||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'47.293||Friday|
Overall times for the World Supersport class
|1||50||E. Laverty||Honda CBR600RR||1'45.104||Sunday|
|2||26||J. Lascorz||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'45.292||Friday|
|3||51||M. Pirro||Honda CBR600RR||1'45.587||Friday|
|4||117||M. Praia||Honda CBR600RR||1'45.834||Friday|
|5||37||K. Fujiwara||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'45.988||Friday|
|6||7||C. Davies||Triumph Daytona 675||1'46.610||Friday|
|7||99||F. Foret||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'46.836||Sunday|
|8||25||D. Salom||Triumph Daytona 675||1'47.054||Sunday|
|9||40||J. Di Salvo||Triumph Daytona 675||1'47.773||Sunday|
|10||9||D. Dell'Omo||Honda CBR600RR||1'48.098||Sunday|
|11||5||A. Lundh||Honda CBR600RR||1'49.332||Sunday|
|12||16||S. Charpentier||Triumph Daytona 675||1'49.452||Sunday|
|13||33||P. Cazzola||Honda CBR600RR||1'49.553||Sunday|
|14||8||B. Chesaux||Yamaha YZF R6||1'49.627||Sunday|