A small and select group of World Superbike riders have decamped from Portimao and headed across the Iberian peninsula to Valencia, for two more days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
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Just how big is the British invasion of the World Superbike series? It's easy to overlook just how many British riders are on the provisional World Superbike and World Supersport grid, but sit down and count them and you see 7 Brits in WSBK out of 26 entries - that's over a quarter of all riders. Exactly how much of a factor they are going to be is obvious from the video below, which was made during a Motorcycle News photoshoot, and filmed by Redwing Media, the press agency for Honda in the World Superbike series: 6 of the 14 factory riders are from Britain, with only Shakey Byrne forced to look to a private - though heavily supported - Ducati ride.
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.
Johnny Rea ended the final session of testing for the World Superbike class at Portimao where he had spent so much of the weekend: On top of the timesheets, just ahead of Leon Haslam. Althea Ducati's Shakey Byrne rounded out another British 1-2-3, a couple of tenths ahead of Ducati's Michel Fabrizio.
The two Sterilgarda Yamahas ended the day in 5th and 6th, Cal Crutchlow fractionally ahead of MotoGP returnee James Toseland. Last year's runner up Noriyuki Haga finished the final session in 7th, ahead of the second Ten Kate bike of Max Neukirchner.
Eugene Laverty finished the final session of testing with a bang, setting the fastest lap of the session and of the weekend with just a few minutes of the session left to go. The Parkalgar Honda rider finished ahead of his chief rival for the weekend, Joan Lascorz, the Motocard.com Kawasaki nearly three tenths slower than the Irishman. Michele Pirro underlined the wisdom of Ten Kate's decision to sign the young Italian, finishing the session and the weekend in 3rd, ahead of an outstanding Miguel Praia.
With the weather rapidly improving on Portugal's Algarve coast, the World Superbike riders took to the track at the Portimao circuit en masse, unlike their World Supersport counterparts who had elected to stay in their pit garages earlier this morning. At the end of the two hour session, it was once again Johnny Rea who topped the timesheets, staking his claim as a favorite for the 2010 World Superbike championship.
The World Supersport riders arrived at the Parkalgar circuit to find a soaking track, and most of them decided to sit the Sunday morning session of testing out. Just five men took to the track, and Ten Kate's Michele Pirro came straight back in again, without setting a time. The lack of competition was a fillip for Swedish rider Alexander Lundh, ending the session on top, and ahead of championship candidate Joan Lascorz.
As the aftermath of the global economic crisis rumbles on, sponsorship for motorcycle racing teams is spread pretty thinly on the ground. So it helps to have contacts in the upper echelons of large companies who are sympathetic to motorcycle racing. It helps, for example, if the team is on good terms with the CEO of a large international company.
The track continued to dry out at Portimao, but the World Supersport class still ran their afternoon session on a damp surface. Michele Pirro continued his strong debut with the Ten Kate Honda, beating Kawasaki's Joan Lascorz by over three tenths of a second. The two Parkalgar Honda riders - sponsored by the Portimao circuit - Eugene Laverty and Miguel Praia finished in 3rd and 4th, while Chaz Davies was first the Triumphs in 5th. Despite the drying track, times were a couple of seconds down on Friday's times.
Times from the second session from Saturday for World Supersport:
The track is still wet at Portimao, but the World Superbike class managed to take 6 seconds off their times from this morning. Once again it was Ulsterman Johnny Rea who was quickest, mastering the wet conditions ahead of Leon Haslam on the Suzuki, while this Troy Corser made a big leap forward in the wet, taking nearly 8 seconds off his time from this morning.
Saturday afternoon times for the World Superbike class:
Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty was the fastest rider in this morning's damp World Supersport session, finally getting some practice in the rain, something the Irishman complained of lacking all last season. Laverty finished ahead of Triumph's Chaz Davies and the sole Ten Kate rider at the test, Michele Pirro - Kenan Sofuoglu is still recovering from a broken ankle he suffered while training. The session was red-flagged 12 minutes before the end, when Swiss rookie Bastien Chesaux crashed out.
Times from the morning session for World Supersport:
Rain moved in to cover Portugal's Algarve coast on Friday night, drenching the Portimao circuit and limiting action on the track. For some of the teams, the action has moved indoors, where crews are hard at work mopping out flooded pit garages, in the hope of better whether.
Of the riders how went out this morning, Johnny Rea was quickest, putting his Ten Kate Honda ahead of Leon Haslam's Suzuki, while the unsurprising name of MotoGP's rainmaster Chris Vermeulen has moved into third spot on the timesheets, the Australian fast as ever in the wet.
After Garry McCoy's shock replacement in Triumph's World Supersport program, the Australian issued a statement on his website saying that he was shocked at what had happened, and inviting the media to get in touch to find out his side of the story. We took McCoy up on his offer, and sent him a list of questions, which he responded to. Here's McCoy's replies to us:
MotoMatters: Was your contract with Triumph, or with BE1?
Leon Haslam continues to lead the charge of the Brit Brigade on the first day of testing for the World Superbike field at Portimao. The young Briton took a quarter of a second off his time from this morning, but remains out of reach for the rest of the field. Another young British upstart finished the day 2nd fastest, Cal Crutchlow doing a sterling job of filling Ben Spies' shoes at Yamaha. The reigning World Supersport champion edged out Ulsterman Johnny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda by less than a tenth, making a British 1-2-3.
At the same time as they announced the provisional entry lists for World Superbike and World Supersport, the FIM also released a revised calendar for the series. The revisions consist of a single change: The British round at Donington has been moved to Silverstone.