Yamaha’s return to world superbike in 2016 was officially kicked off, while the 2015 world champions, Kawasaki, worked on their 2016 spec bike, at a two day WorldSBK test at Spain’s Jerez circuit this week.
Just four World Superbike riders were present – Yamaha’s new squad of 2014 title winner Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes; Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes who already rode the new bike in Aragon last week, and world champion Jonathan Rea. Rea missed the first morning session due to a late arrival caused by dense fog delaying UK flights – and not due to the timely arrival of his new son Tyler! In fact, Tyler arrived perfectly on time, with Australian mum Tatia giving birth last last week – a brother for Jake.
At Jerez, eyes were focused on the new official Yamaha team, as the Japanese marque makes its return to wsbk for 2016. The collaboration between Yamaha Motor Europe and Crescent Racing saw the all-new YZF-R, with Pata sponsorship, take to the track. Although lap times have not been released from this private test, it appears both 2014 World Champion Guintoli and 2013 British Superbike Champion Lowes are satisfied with their progress. The Briton recorded 68 laps (a total of 121 over the two days) despite a late lowside at Turn 2, while Guintoli’s 41 of Wednesday took his final sum of the week up to 100.
After his Aragon test for Kawasaki, Sykes continued to develop the Ninja ZX-10R at Jerez, now virtually running to its full 2016 configuration as opposed to the ‘Hybrid’ version seen at MotorLand. The Briton focused on finding a centre of gravity suitable to himself on the new frame, while enjoying the all-new engine which features less inertia, enabling Sykes to make the most of his ‘stop and go’ riding style, particularly under braking. Rea, on the other hand, started his Jerez test with the ‘Hybrid’ version of the bike before switching to a configuration set up almost entirely for 2016.
Rea managed some track time Tuesday afternoon, but on his his second day with the new bike, he crashed at Turn 5. Although the Northern Irishman was able to ride back to the pit lane on the service road, some two and a half hours of track time were lost as the Kawasaki Racing Team cleaned up the bike, which itself sustained little damage as Rea had managed to drop it before reaching the barriers. In total, he managed 52 laps on Wednesday which adds up to 106 for the whole test, putting in a best lap time of 1’40.6.
Sykes also suffered a crash Wednesday, as he lost the rear end between the rapid Criville and Ferrari corners at approximately 3pm. Miraculously, the bike remained on the race track and did not head into the gravel trap, meaning the title winner of 2013 was able to ride slowly back into the pit lane. His best lap time came in the form of 1’40.0, while his total laps for the test became 113 after putting in 69 on Wednesday.
KRT and Yamaha’s next appointment will be at MotorLand Aragon on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 November. On that occasion, Nicky Hayden will make his World Superbike test debut with Honda as the 2006 MotoGP World Champion switches series for 2016.
“My first go on the YZF-R1 and I absolutely loved it! We’ve got a lot of work to do but the potential of the bike is really good. There is a lot that I need to learn and change with my style, so I have a lot I need to improve myself, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. The bike has a lot of potential already as I’ve said so I’m looking forward to getting out in Aragon already – if there wasn’t so much work for the boys to do I’d want to go there tomorrow! I really enjoyed riding the YZF-R1, it’s been lots of fun and it’s nice to get the project started so successfully.”
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha R1)
“Well, a very positive first contact with the YZF-R1! We’ve managed to do quite a lot of work but most importantly the base of the bike – the chassis and power delivery – feels really good. It was a positive test overall and I’m looking forward to carrying on the progress in the next practice in Aragon and Jerez. I really enjoyed riding it – it reminds me a lot of the M1 from 2007, I can see and feel the same philosophy behind the bike – so yes, a very positive first impression and it’s nice to feel such a good atmosphere with Yamaha.”
Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Yamaha R1)