Kawasaki Racing Team pairing Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes got reacquainted with the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve over a two day test that finished on 18th April, with both riders gaining valuable information about the current and future potential of the Ninja ZX-10RR.
The 4.592km circuit near Portimao, in Portugal, will make a return to the WorldSBK calendar in 2017 and as such this was an important private test, for two main reasons. First was to make preparations for what will be the tenth round of the championship itself, in September, and the other was to unlock more performance from the Ninja ZX-10RR away from the busy demands of a regular race weekend.
After a recent single day test in Motorland Aragon, held immediately after the previous round of the championship, Rea and Sykes posted strong lap times and race pace, and that upward trend continued at Portimao.
Only four bikes were on track during these tests, which meant that the grip from the asphalt only slowly improved as the two days came to a close. Even then Rea set an impressive 1 minute 41.4 second best lap when using the latest generation of qualifying rear tyre. The 2017 version offers less outright grip than the previous ‘Q’ but should give the riders more than one chance to make the most of the available extra grip.
After still suffering the effects of a stomach problem that was evident at the Motorland round Sykes has not quite regained his normally peak of physical fitness and had to reduce his expected lap count at this test. Tom did get the chance to use the new qualifying rear tyre late in the second afternoon and he set a best of 1’42.3, even after a small front end slide held back his best possible pace.
Sykes’ performance on used race tyres was still strong even on a less than ideal track surface for outright grip. Sykes completed first 40 and then more than 50 laps over the two days in Portugal, learning much that will help him in the short and long term – starting with the next round at the end of the month.
With the latest tests now successfully concluded, the fourth round of the championship takes place at Assen in the Netherlands between 28 and 30 April, with Rea already leading on points and Sykes in position overall.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It has been really nice to test here in Portimao, especially to continue on from our positive test in Aragon. We worked in a calm and methodical way. The track was really dirty and because there were only a few bikes on track we never had perfect conditions on the ground. In saying that, the weather has been amazing and we were able to make a lot of laps, analysing some new parts. We also made a good step forward with our chassis set up, improving that in some key areas. We were able to draw some positive conclusions from doing two full race simulations, when my pace was strong. I also did a lot of practice starts and now I feel a bit more consistent in that area. After we ticked all the items off the list of work we had to do I used a Q tyre and we were able to make a really fast lap. I’m really thankful to Kawasaki and all the staff for making this test happen. It comes at a good time to try to keep the momentum we have build up as we move forward now to Assen.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “Trying to ride a Superbike really fast in my current condition was not ideal as I am still feeling the lingering effects of a stomach complaint I had at the Motorland Aragon round. I am recovering now and this is where I start building back up for the next round at Assen. This test was very useful as we confirmed a few things but my pure performance is not quite there yet. On the first day we stopped for lunch a bit early, as I was not in good physical form, so we narrowed down our test items and got started again in the afternoon, in a good direction. Overall we achieved some strong key points and the ingredients are definitely there for the next race. I am happy about that and I am looking forward to it now. On race tyres we were definitely in the ballpark and that was nice to see, as I am certainly not myself yet on the bike. Thanks to the guys as they were always working hard and we have to be happy with this test, all things considered.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea, stated: “It was a very positive test. We finished after Jonathan had done 85 laps on day one and nearly seventy on the second day. On the first day we focused on setting up the bike for the track layout, thinking about the race weekend we will have here in September. We made some longer runs, took some information, set up the bike, and everything was good. Today we made a test plan thinking more of the future development of the bike, new parts on the chassis side, suspension, and things like that. We had good and clear information about that so overall we are pleased. We are also very happy with the lap times. There was only our KRT team riders and two other bikes on the track, so there was not too much rubber on the track. Despite that we were able to make very fast laps; with race tyres, during long runs and with the new qualifying tyre. When we did the best lap time the track temperature was around 42°C, and it is a little bit more difficult to do when the track is this hot. We did two long runs, which were much faster compared to the previous years. Johnny was always on the pace, fast in every lap he did.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Tom Sykes, stated: “It is hard to judge things when the rider is not 100% fit but from my side I am quite happy with the initial speed and also the race pace. We were a bit limited in this test because of Tom’s condition but the main target was to get familiar with the track because we will race here again this year. So this test is very valuable. We kept it steady and did not make too many laps over these two days. We made some fundamental tests after the previous Motorland round. We improved during the Aragon test and here in Portimao we had a couple of things we wanted to do and we got some useful information. So we reached our target and now it is time to get ready for the next round at Assen. What we wanted to try we did try at this test and we are ready for the next race.”
2017 KRT Rider Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015 and 2016
2017: Races 6, Wins 5, Podiums 6, Superpoles 2
Career Race Wins: 43 (28 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 94 (52 For Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 10 (6 For Kawasaki)
Tom Sykes: World Champion 2013
2017: Races: 6, Wins 0, Podiums 4, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 31 (31 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 88 (87 For Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 38 (38 For Kawasaki)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
4 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Sykes 2013, Rea 2015 & 2016), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
2 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016)
2 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015 & 2016)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 96 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 317 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 65 – second overall