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.
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. The Portuguese rider struggled for top 10 finishes in 2009, but has been a consistent feature in the fast group at this first test.
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:
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:
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?
Garry McCoy: My contract was with BE1, I never had a contract with Triumph directly.
MM: You told Michael Guy of MCN that you'd been negotiating the contract since the end of last season. Had you spent a lot of time meeting with them? Did they give any indication that they were not going to sign you?
The FIM today officially released the provisional entry lists for the World Superbike and World Supersport championships for 2010. The lists had been released unofficially last week, when a programming error meant they were available on the official WSBK timing site with a little bit of CGI parameter tweaking.
The new lists see 3 extra riders added to both the World Superbike and the World Supersport grids, bringing the numbers up to 26 and 21 respectively. One name shown in the leaked list is missing from the official World Superbike list, however, as Matteo Baiocco, who was down to ride the DFX Corse machine, is listed as being TBA (To Be Announced). There is much speculation that the DFX Corse ride will be filled once again by Regis Laconi, the French veteran who was injured so badly at last year's South African round of World Superbikes at Kyalami.
Joan Lascorz finished the first day of official testing for World Supersport comfortably astride the timesheets. The Spanish Kawasaki Motocard rider continued his form from this morning's session, extending his lead over the surprise of the day, Michele Pirro. The Italian has put on a very strong showing on his first outing with the Ten Kate Honda team, after showing much promise on a Yamaha last year. Pirro beat out another surprise rider, local boy Miguel Praia on the Parkalgar Honda. Praia finished ahead of his team mate Eugene Laverty, the man who was runner up in last year's Championship, the Portuguese rider coming within a few tenths of his pole time at last year's race here.
Times from the first morning session of practice for the World Supersport class:
The World Supersport field needed a boost. At just 18 riders, the grid of one of the cheapest classes in international motorcycle racing was looking pretty thin. And so the confirmation that Triumph's ParkinGO and BE1 Racing squads would be expanding their effort from 3 to 4 riders, news which we reported earlier this week, provides a welcome increase to the grid.