It doesn’t seem that long ago that the ticker tapes and confetti had settled on the 2013 WSBK Championship celebrations in Jerez, but here we are back at Phillip Island in Australia for the kick off of the 2014 season.
I picked up media credential number 15 on Monday morning and got straight to work at the official Dorna test session, direct from arriving in Melbourne at 6:30am that morning I may add. It was strong coffee all the way to get through the day.
Testing was the usual mix of thrills and spills with some heavy casualties. Both Sylvain Barrier (BMW) and Luca Scassa (Kawasaki) damaged their pelvis in falls with Scassa coming off worse, suffering a double break and a couple of months on the sidelines. Others to put themselves on the back foot straight away were Jeremy Guarnoni (Kawasaki), Michel Fabrizio (Kawasaki), Peter Sebestyen (BMW) and Leon Haslam (Honda). Only Haslam looks likely to start the race weekend but he had Honda PR and Press men checking etiquette to see if they could use ‘arse’ in a quote….cheeky.
This year will see the opening of a new chapter in WSBK racing with the introduction of an EVO class. Effectively a Superbike chassis with a ‘Stock’ engine in an attempt to control costs. Only 3 manufacturers are represented at the moment with Kawasaki, BMW and Ducati but already grumblings can be heard that some bike are more ‘EVO’ than others.
We also see the introduction of two new manufacturers on the grid, EBR and Bimoto. The latter is not represented in Australia whilst homologation matters are taken care of but The EBR was on track in the hands of American’s Aaron Yates and Geoff May.
At the sharp end, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) started where he left off. With the number one plate freshly adorning his Ninja ZX-10R he finished at the top of the time sheets but with a mix of new and old snapping at his heels. The old being Eugene Laverty, runner up last year, but on a new machine, the Suzuki GSX-R1000. The other ‘new’ in the combination was WSBK rookie, and Laverty’s team mate at Suzuki, Alex Lowes, ending the test 3rd fastest.
The gloves come off for real on Friday 21st February with Free Practice 1 which will be timed for qualifying, another innovation for 2014.
I will be back on track supplying pictures to Kawasaki and Honda, and a handful of magazine clients.
Season no. 15 for me is underway then. Here’s hoping I can last the pace.