The 2009 World Superbike race season is almost upon us, and it’s going to be interesting. Ducati’s competent 1098R V-Twin is very competitive in power and rideability, and Yamaha’s MotoGP-derived crossplane crankshaft-equipped YZF-R1 offers a whole new level of controlled power to riders. Aprilia is even fielding a V-Four, the RSV-4. And let’s not forget BMW’s entry, the S 1000 RR. But how well do these bikes work with real racers?
Over the weekend of January 23-25, the factory and satellite teams met at the 2.8-mile Portimao circuit in Portugal. The riders and teams battled rain and wind while squeezing the best times out of new bikes and tires, leading to incredibly close times. British Superbike champ Shane Byrne wrung a fastest overall time of 1:43.294 out of his Team Sterilgarda Ducati 1098R, but the slowest rider was less than four seconds slower. American Ben Spies, on a Team Yamaha YZF-R1 was nipping at Byrne’s heels with a 1:43.484, with Ducati/Xerox rider Nori Haga lagging three-thousandths of a second behind Spies with a 1:43.487! Is it the spec tires? Or just the result of the best racers on the best sportbikes?
BMW and Aprilia fans can rejoice. Troy Corser’s S 1000 RR was just .4 seconds behind, parking him in sixth position, although teammate Ruben Xaus didn’t fare as well. “The BMW is very strong,” said the Spaniard after Sunday’s testing. “I must learn how to best ride it so that I can get the most out of it.” Shinya Nakano and Max Biaggi, riding Aprilia’s new RSV-4, were neck-and-neck and secured an 11th and 12th position, respectively.