Previews of this weekend's World Superbike season opener from the series organizer and some of the teams:
Phillip Island the stage for 2014 WSBK opening round
Barcelona (Spain), Thursday 13 February 2014 – The eni FIM Superbike World Championship is set for another exciting season of racing that will officially kick-start on February 23rd at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Australia, following a two-day official test scheduled on 17-18 of the same month. The Victorian Circuit, a riders' favourite, is also the most visited in the history of WSBK, as the 2014 edition will be the 24th held on the Island.
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit features a fast and flowing layout and produces the fastest average speed lap in WSBK (and MotoGP). At the end of 2012 the track was completely resurfaced, making it faster than ever.
The QBE Round will witness the introduction of several changes on both the technical and sporting sides of the series, along with the arrival of new manufacturers, teams and riders.
The 2014 edition will feature the new Superbike EVO class to run alongside the machines we have seen developing over the past seasons. In essence, the EVO machine is a road-based Superbike machine with its chassis and engine strictly regulated, its engine being similar to what we already have in Superstock. Ten riders will be using EVO bikes this year, while in 2015 all machines will be EVO-spec.
Pirelli, Official Tyre Supplier for the Championship for the 11th consecutive year, in the light of the introduction of the Superbike EVO, has taken a special focus on developing solutions for the new class in order to balance the performances of the field.
A new Tissot-Superpole and a revised time schedule will also add some fresh challenge for riders and teams. From the second round onwards, WSBK Race 1 and Race 2 will start at 10:30 and 13:10 respectively. Due to TV broadcast needs and the time difference between Europe and Australia, the Phillip Island event time schedule is different: Race 1 at 12.00, Race 2 at 14.40.
After being revealed last year, in 2014 each and every race in calendar will be opened by the sighting lap of the new Official Safety Car of the Superbike World Championship, the stunning Alfa Romeo “4C”.
Reigning Champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is more motivated than ever to begin his title defence campaign after an encouraging winter testing schedule that helped him improving his feeling with the ZX-10R and evaluating new parts and solutions developed by the team for the upcoming season. Sykes has though never accomplished at Phillip Island the type of results he had on other tracks, having scored so far only one podium finish in 2012, in Race 2. Last year he was twice fifth, in a weekend that was fully dominated by Aprilia and their official riders. With Loris Baz once again alongside the Englishman and David Salom selected to develop and race the EVO version of the ZX-10R, the Spanish-based factory effort by Kawasaki is looking to build on the success of 2013.
The Aprilia Racing Team has changed half of its rider line-up with the arrival of WSBK multiple race winner and former 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri. The 31 year old Italian has joined confirmed Sylvain Guintoli, who is still not 100% following a recent right shoulder surgery he underwent last month. The Frenchman joined back the team for a two-day private test last week at Jerez and showed some good signs of improvement. Not even Melandri is fully fit, but the right ankle problem did not bother him on-board the RSV4 in the last outing. On the privateer side of Aprilia, Team Red Devils Roma will continue the fruitful partnership started last September with former Moto2 Champion Toni Elias.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki embarks in its 2014 WSBK campaign with a new main sponsor and a brand-new duo of riders that already showed some great speed in private testing. 2013 runner-up Eugene Laverty and reigning BSB Champion Alex Lowes are both hungry for results and the 2014 GSX-R 1000 appears to be on a different level than its predecessor, thanks to the massive effort put in by the Verwood-based squad over the winter.
Big changes also on the WSBK effort by Ducati, as Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano are the ones chosen to race the Ducati Superbike Team's 1199 Panigale R machines. Ducati will also be represented in the EVO class by Althea Racing Team and its sole rider Niccolò Canepa.
No differences on the Pata Honda side, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam riding the new CBR1000RR SP and hoping for a drastic change in results from a difficult 2013.
Following the realignment of BMW official support in World Superbike, the BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team is back to its roots and will field an EVO-spec BMW S 1000 RR for two-time and reigning STK1000 Champion Sylvain Barrier.
Two new manufacturers will enter the series in 2014, making an impressive total of 8 marques, and will make their debut at the first Round in Australia: the Iconic MV Agusta is back to international racing with factory support to last year's World Supersport Championship winning team, Yakhnich Motorsport, still headed by Claudio Corsetti with Natalia Lyubimova as Team Manager. The MV Agusta Reparto Corse – Yakhnich Motorsport team will be contesting this year's WSBK edition with former MotoGP rider Claudio Corti on-board a full-Superbike spec MV Agusta F4 RR.
After several years of commitment in the American Superbike Championship, the Hero EBR Team lands on the international stage with all-American rider line-up consisting of Geoff May and Aaron Yates, riding the brand-new Erik Buell Racing 1190RX. The US brand's European headquarter is located in Northern Italy and the team managed by Claudio Quintarelli and Giulio Bardi.
The 2014 edition of the FIM Supersport World Championship has plenty of reasons to be one to watch, given the high level of competition that teams and riders will once again provide to the series. Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) will be part of the show for the 7th time, with the aim of taking back the title he missed last year in the battle against Sam Lowes. He is currently the most winning rider in the history of the series, with 3 titles and 26 race wins under his belt.
The 29 year old Turk will have to deal with a field full of keen opponents, starting from returning Jules Cluzel, who in 2012 was 21 points short of the World Supersport title despite an incredible second half of the season, in which he took the battle to Sofuoglu but failed to come out on top. The Frenchman will ride the MV F3 675 fielded by MV Agusta Reparto Corse – Yakhnich Motorsport Team, with Russian Vladimir Leonov as team-mate.
The Pata Honda World Supersport Team will return to action with the same rider line-up as 2013 and the goal to win back the ultimate prize that was last achieved by the Ten Kate outfit in 2008. Both Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti will tackle their second year in the series.
After an impressive rookie season, Irishman Jack Kennedy joined one of the two PTR teams, CIA Insurance Honda, and he is confident in making another step forward to the top of the field. The other PTR squad, CORE PTR Honda, will line-up former 250cc and Moto2 rider Ratthapark Wilairot
Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki has decided to invest on young talents by signing American Patrick "PJ" Jacobsen and Dutchman Tony Covena, whilst promoting Frenchman Florian Marino to full-time rider status. Former Kawasaki squad DMC Racing, helped by new main sponsor Panavto, made the switch to Yamaha to put two R6 in the hands of confirmed riders Kev Coghlan and Alexey Ivanov.
Italian outfit Team Go Eleven Kawasaki is aiming high this season following the deal with with experienced Roberto Rolfo to join confirmed rider Christian Gamarino, who was promoted to WSS after a great year in the Superstock 600 European Championship.
A last minute addition saw Rivamoto Honda Team re-entering the competition after signing a deal with former STK1000 and MotoGP rider Bryan Staring, who is going to make his WSS debut in front of his home crowd at Phillip Island.
The first race of the season for the Supersport World Championship will also witness some one-off appearances, as home rider Ryan Taylor will tackle the event with the OZ Wildcard Racing Team, whilst British-based Smiths Triumph squad will take on another One Event World Supersport participation (the first ever at Phillip Island) with Aussie Billy McConnell and Englishman Graeme Gowland.
HASLAM AND REA SET FOR FIRST ROUND SUPERBIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ACTION
The opening round of the FIM Superbike World Championship will shortly take place at Phillip Island in Australia, on Sunday 23 February, with two strong official Honda entries ready to race after the recent two day official championship tests on 17 and 18 February.
Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) and Jonathan Rea will team up for their second year on the latest CBR1000RR, with Rea now heading for his sixth straight season with Honda in SBK racing.
Haslam will embark on his second season with Pata Honda a little bumped and bruised after a big crash on the second day of testing but he escaped complications to his 2013 leg injury. Leon was eighth in the combined times after official testing, one place ahead of his team-mate Rea.
Each rider is keen to get back to the circuit on Friday to make final set-up changes and tyre evaluations, with the Phillip Island track surface notoriously hard on tyres, especially in the hot afternoon conditions experienced at these tests.
The 4.448KM Phillip Island circuit in Australia will host the Superbike World Championship for the 24th time in the 27-year history of the championship, but it will be a new-look championship in some key regards this coming season.
A host of technical regulation changes have arrived in time for the 2014 season, including capping the costs of suspension and brake components, limitations on gearbox internals and limits on the total number of engines used over a season to eight per rider.
There is also a whole new SBK Evo class for 2014, which will run alongside the full SBK machines. Evo machines will feature full SBK chassis specifications, but will run Superstock engines and electronics packages. There is an engine limit of six per rider per season in the SBK Evo category.
After the completion of the opening weekend there will be a long wait for the second round of the series to get underway, on Sunday 13th April, at Motorland Aragon in Spain.
VAN DER MARK AND ZANETTI LEAD THE HONDA SUPERSPORT CHARGE ONCE AGAIN
As the 2014 FIM Supersport World Championship gets underway shortly Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) and Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) once more team up to challenge for the second year in succession. The opening round takes place alongside the FIM Superbike World Championship class at Phillip Island in Australia, on Sunday 23rd February.
The Pata Honda team’s intense off-season preparations were completed with a two-day test at Phillip Island on 17 and 18 February and van der Mark and Zanetti are now fully ready to race, leading the hopes of several top Honda entries in the 2014 championship fight.
Van der Mark was fastest of the Honda riders at the official Australian tests, in third place overall. New Honda rider, and former Moto2 pilot Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda) was impressive in fifth place in the pre-season testing order as he now goes about carving a career path in the WSS class. Raffaele De Rosa (Core PTR Honda) has remained with Honda for 2014, but has changed teams.
Jack Kennedy (CIA Insurance Honda) has also moved teams in 2014, but has again remained with Honda. The Irish rider was fast in the early tests at Phillip Island but fell and broke his right heel later on day one. He has already undergone surgery to try and get himself back into contention for the race weekend. Young Spanish rider Nacho Calero (CIA Insurance Honda) is back in the overall PTR Honda team set-up again as he starts his second season of WSS competition.
The Lorini Honda team has had a radical change in readiness for the 2014 season, with Riccardo Russo (Team Lorini Honda) and former Superstock 1000 rider Marco Bussolotti (Team Lorini Honda) joining the Italian squad. Fraser Rogers (Com Plus SMS Racing) makes his WSS full season debut in 2014, after taking a one of ride with his new team in 2013.
Bryan Staring (Rivamoto Honda) was a late call up to the Rivamoto squad that ran Jack Kennedy last year, with Staring – a recent MotoGP rider - heading for his first season in the WSS class. He is an old hand at Superstock 1000 FIM Cup racing, so the Superbike paddock is a familiar one to him. He also won the Australian Supersport championship in the past. He was 13th in the official pre-race test rankings at his home circuit.
HONDA RIDER COMMENTS:
Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team)
“The tests went well at Phillip Island until I had a big highside on the first lap of the afternoon session today. In not so grippy track conditions, and with a new tyre fitted, the traction control did not work as we hoped it would, so I had a big one at turn 11. I am happy I walked away from it although my backside is a bit sore after landing on it so hard. All in all we made good progress this morning working on race runs and race set-up. This afternoon was going to be a long distance run but we missed the session. I honestly think we can challenge for the top spots here even through we are still in a catch-up mode. We are trying to bring our electronics package to where it needs to be but up to this point we have been making small but correct steps. Now we are working on chassis set-up, which we have not been able to do for a while now, and every session we are making the right steps and the right progress. We have two more days of track time before raceday itself, and we are not a million miles away.”
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team)
“We are in much better shape than we were in last year but we still have work to do to be competitive. We have been going well up until turn ten, and in the final two corners. That’s where I seem to lose all the progress we have made during the lap. At the slow turn ten I really struggle with engine braking and throttle connection, then in the final corner – where I think we are losing the bulk of the time - it is mostly losing feeling with the front. I do not feel confident through the last corner and then when I get on the gas down the straight I feel I am getting held back a bit by the electronics. We will see on Friday if we have more ideas for the race. The team know what I am speaking about and we can see it on the data. I did a race run today so I know how the tyre behaves towards the end.”
Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team)
"I am ready for the race because our tests went OK. I got a tyre that worked well over race distance and compared to last year, and the work we have done in the winter tests, I am really happy with the bike. It is really easy to ride. I am sure we can find some improvements for race weekend and if we can get the full race distance on the tyre we should have a good pace for the race. It is easier to approach this first race of the season in my second year in the championship, and in my second year with my team. I needed only three or four laps to remember all the parts of the track. I am happy to continue on the same bike and in the same team. Last year we scored three podiums and in the winter tests we made a big step. It will be difficult with Kenan Sofuoglu, but if we can close the gap to Kenan I think we can fight for the win.”
Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda World Supersport Team)
“The final morning of the tests was not so bad and I arrived with a good lap time, same as my best lap time from last year. I tried a new race simulation on a new tyre from Pirelli but as soon as I started there was a red flag and then I had a little problem and then a crash. I hope to have no problems in race weekend. The most important thing will be the durability of the tyres.”
Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda)
"We have been working on a good way since we got the bike here and it has been quite difficult for me because I stopped half way through the previous Moto2 season. So the first day was difficult here to adapt to the Supersport bike and then also the track, because I had forgotten some parts of it. We had good information from these tests and we also did a long run. We are working well and I hope we can go to the top. My first target on the race weekend is to finish the race and understand how WSS is. I would like to stay with the front group and learn.”
Riccardo Russo (Team Lorini Honda)
"It is a good feeling in my new team and the Honda is a very good bike which feels very fast. I really think it will be possible to be in the top five on the weekend if it all goes well. On my first race weekend on the Honda I expect to be inside the top ten at least but I hope to be closer to the first ones. The feeling is good already even though I have never ridden at Phillip Island until now. There are some very fast corners but I love the track.”
Bryan Staring (Rivamoto Honda)
"My feeling with the bike is great so I am a little bit disappointed that we dropped down the list a bit at the end. Our consistency is quite good and we still need to find a little bit more. But we are consistently close and I think we are a lot stronger than our current situation of 13th shows. I am happy how the team works and how we have improved so if we can keep chipping away like this I am confident we can have a good race on Sunday.”
Marco Bussolotti (Team Lorini Honda)
"This is my first time on a WSS bike after riding a Superstock 1000 for so long. It is also my first time here in Australia, so the test was not the best but I hope we can do better during the race. I just have to improve the feeling with the 600cc bike.”
The Ducati Superbike Team all set for Phillip Island season opener
Recent test results bode well for the upcoming race weekend
Riders Davies and Giugliano fighting fit and ready for the first races of the 2014 season
Phillip Island (Australia), Wednesday 19 February 2014 – Having concluded testing at the Australian track of Phillip Island only yesterday, the Ducati Superbike Team and riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano will return to the same circuit on Friday, ready to take part in the first practice sessions of the opening round of the 2014 Superbike World Championship.
This week’s testing on Australian soil proved to be an extremely useful experience for both of the squad’s riders, Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies, providing the entire team with the chance to make final preparations ahead of the opening race weekend of the 2014 championship. Results proved to be positive; with times dropping steadily throughout the sessions, Davies closed tenth, with a best time of 1’31.087, Giugliano recorded the fifth fastest overall time (1’30.644).
At last year’s Phillip Island event, Davies narrowly missed out on a podium spot in race 1 when he finished fourth while Giugliano’s best Island result so far was a sixth place finish, scored in race 2 in 2013. Both will be trying their hardest to improve on those results in this weekend’s races, scheduled to take place on Sunday 23 February at 12pm and 2.40pm local time.
Quotes ahead of the race weekend:
Chaz Davies – Ducati Superbike Team #7
“Last year’s race 1 was one of my better races here at Phillip Island I’d say. It’s always been a little difficult for me in Australia for some reason but, having said that, I do enjoy riding this track. I think my Panigale is suited to the track, the bike is doing certain things really well, then there are a few other things I’d like to improve, but judging from Carlos’ Superpole result last year, it’s evidently a good track for the bike… All things considered, I’m feeling fairly confident.”
Davide Giugliano – Ducati Superbike Team #34
“I’m really looking forward to the first races of 2014, even more so after our positive experiences testing earlier this week. Phillip Island has never been the easiest track for me but I must say that with the Panigale I am feeling a lot more comfortable here than I have in previous years and I’ve already been able to record some faster times in the recent tests than I have done in the past and this is clearly a positive. This should be a good track for us, and we’ll our best to make the most of this opportunity this coming weekend.”
Ernesto Marinelli – Ducati Superbike Project Director
“The tests that we’ve completed were extremely important and together with the riders and the entire team we have carried out many tests in order to start with a good base on Friday. Phillip Island is a unique circuit and we have to be careful not to put the rear tyre under too much stress. The results achieved up until now are satisfying and have provided us with the base we were looking for. Both riders have improved on their best lap times from last year as well as ducking under last year’s fastest lap time set during the race. Our rivals have also been working hard though so we still have a lot of work to do. We will harness all of our determination.”
Althea Racing Preview
The opening races of the Superbike World Championship will take place at the Australian track of Phillip Island over the weekend of 21 – 23 February 2014. The Phillip Island circuit was constructed in the 1920’s when, close to where today’s track is located, the first car races were held on unsurfaced roads. The first motorcycle race was held in 1931 and in 1985 the track was modernised to be able to host GP and Superbike world championship races.
After the positive results obtained during testing on Monday and Tuesday, tests that saw rider Niccolò Canepa head the group of Evo riders, team Althea Racing is extremely pleased with the work carried out and is ready to start the 2014 championship in the best possible way.
Length: 4.445 km
Pole Position: left
Straight: 835 mt
Left-hand turns: 7
Right-hand turns: 5
Superbike – lap record: 1,31,168 – Eugene Laverty – 2013
Superbike – best lap: 1,30,239 – Carlos Checa – 2013
Niccolò Canepa: “I really like this circuit. I have already raced here with MotoGP and with Superbike and I can’t wait to race the Evo version of the 1199 Panigale R now. I’m pleased with how testing went and I immediately found good feeling with both my bike and my team. The Evo is a completely new category and so I don’t yet know enough about my competition to be able to make any predictions. But I can say that my team and I will be giving our all over this first race weekend to be able to make the best possible start to the new season.”
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki positive for 2014 opener ‘Down Under’
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki prepares to line up at Philip Island in Australia this weekend in a positive mind-set as the team embarks on the opening round of the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes head into the weekend buoyant after a successful two-day test at the Australian track earlier this week. Completing the test second and third overall, both racers are eager to come out fighting for the season's inaugural race on Sunday 23rd February.
Laverty has a flourishing history with Phillip Island – taking two podiums on his last outing here, the second of which saw him victorious - and is aiming to continue his form this weekend on his new Yoshimura-powered machine. Lowes, a rookie to the championship, is looking to start his season strong after gelling well with the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in pre-season testing. Both racers are hoping to capitalise on their positive showings in the official test to kick off the 2014 championship as serious contenders.
A favourite among many world-class racers, Phillip Island is a demanding, fast and flowing 4,445m circuit. Set on the cliffs overlooking the spectacular Bass Coastline, the 12 high-speed corners and 900m final straight test the riders to their limits throughout, with the changeable weather and strong costal winds increasing the challenge.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki takes to the track for the first of this weekend’s three qualifying practise sessions at 11:45 local time (00.45 GMT) on Friday 21st February as it begins the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship, in readiness for Sunday’s two races which are scheduled to get underway at 12.00hrs local time (01.00hrs GMT) and 14.40hrs local time (03.40hrs GMT).
“We have had two good days testing here with the team so far and it would be nice to start the season strong. I have a good history with the track having won here last year, but having moved manufacturers I wasn’t expecting to be as fast as I was on Monday straight away. It’s Sunday that is important so I’m looking to concentrate on some long runs in practise over the next two days and work on my race pace with the Suzuki GSX-R for the opening round. It would be a dream come true to win again here, but the competition is so high I’m not taking anything for granted.”
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Obviously it is my first race with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team and I’m a little bit nervous, but only because I want to do well and I think we have a chance of fighting at the front. I’ve never competed in a flyaway race before so it’s all new to me, but I love the track and I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. I’m looking to improve further over the practise sessions and see how we get on at the weekend.”
Great anticipation for the new season in Thursday's press conference
Phillip Island (Australia), Thursday 20 February 2014 - The traditional and inaugural press conference of the year took place today at Phillip Island involving some of the protagonists of this year's eni FIM Superbike World Championship. The event was a chance for the riders to talk about the official test performed early this week and their thoughts about the upcoming weekend, as well as the 2014 season. The riders then moved onto the spectacular Australian track for a special photo shoot with surfboards and then hopped onto their respective bikes to pose for pictures for the attending media. Here are a selection of quotes from some of the riders who attended.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team): "It’s been a good start for sure but now we need to work on race performance. I like the new qualifying format and I think it will level the playing field as we won't need to worry about who is holding back on tyres for example."
Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team): "It's been good so far. It's kind of a familiar surroundings with the Feel Racing crew, I feel at home and I got comfortable on the bike reasonably quickly. Judging by Carlos' lap from last year in Superpole it's obvious that the bike works pretty good around here. We made improvements, not quite as quick as I was hoping over the couple of days of testing, but I think we know what to do."
Aaron Yates (Team Hero EBR): "It's a really big step for EBR, we are really excited to be part of World Superbike and to bring the Hero EBR Team onto the international scene. We will try to do the best we can but we know it's going to be a big task. We will figure out what we need to make it go."
Claudio Corti (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport): "I'm really happy because I never had a full season in World Superbike. I'm happy also to race with a brand like MV Agusta, an iconic marque both in Italy and worldwide. Being the sole rider is a difficult task and I also crashed at turn 11 during the test, which cost us some important track time. It will be hard but the guys believe in this project and so do I."
Sylvain Gunitoli (Aprilia Racing Team): "Surprisingly I feel good and this put a smile back on my face. Being back on a bike after 4 months is great and straight away I felt at home on the Aprilia – I’m a happy man."
Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki): "We have definitely made progress since the first test in November and it’s nice to see how far we have already come. I didn’t expect to be as quick as we were on Monday. Having won the last 2 races of 2013 it would be a dream come true to win on the Suzuki in race one and make it 3 in a row but I'm not getting ahead of myself."
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike): "Last year we tested from zero with all new electronics but in the last test in Jerez we left with our heads held high as we were right on the pace. I am so proud of my team, they have all worked so hard. On Monday and Tuesday it was encouraging to be so close but the field is so tightly stacked this year anyone of ten guys could win."
Bryan Staring (Rivamoto Honda, WSS): "(The deal) was set at the last minute. I'm really happy to be in World Supersport with Rivamoto and to be back inside the WSBK paddock. The adaptation to the bike has been really good. It is a lot fun to ride and to be back on a 600cc again, the test was certainly a bit of a challenge to work out the little tricks to make a lap time out of it."
Other riders attending the press conference were Aussie riders Ryan Taylor (Oz Wildcard Racing Team Yamaha) and Billy McConnell (Smiths Triumph) who are both wildcarding this weekend. Despite not contesting the round following his testing crash Frenchman Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team) took to the stage through the pain much to the appreciation of those gathered. His position within the BMW Motorrad Italia squad will be taken by Australian Glenn Allerton, who also made an appearance explaining to everyone about the 6am call he received asking him to ride.
On track action resumes tomorrow with the first free practice sessions for both World Superbike and Supersport Championships.