A Winter test session at Jerez ended earlier this week with Kawasaki WSB champ Jonathan Rea setting a lap time on his superbike that was quicker than the lap that took pole during the MotoGP race earlier this year. The MotoGP pole was awarded to Valentino Rossi aboard his Yamaha, but Rea eclipsed that lap time during the Jerez test that just ended. Rea was using a WSB qualifying tire when he set the fastest lap.
This was a joint test involving WSB riders and MotoGP riders, although the very top MotoGP riders were missing (Repsol Honda, Factory Ducati and Factory Yamaha). Rea’s lap time is not the fastest-ever lap at the circuit … Jorge Lorenzo holds that record – set on his Yamaha MotoGP bike during the Bridgestone tire era.
Although the top MotoGP riders, had they been present at the test, would likely have beaten Rea’s lap time, we can learn a couple of things. First, the changes Kawasaki made to its homologated superbike platform this year seem to have improved the bike’s performance (see the comments from Rea and Sykes in the press release below), second, top WSB riders (Ducati’s Chaz Davies was also very quick during the test) could certainly compete in MotoGP, and third, the current WSB Pirelli tires are very, very good.
After a week of testing at Jerez in Spain Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes set impressive lap times as they shared the circuit with some of the main 2017 rivals and several top MotoGP runners. Riding the 2017-spec Ninja ZX-10RR Rea set the fastest individual lap time of the tests on a dry track on Thursday, with Sykes the third fastest WorldSBK rider and the fifth fastest rider overall.
After two tests in quick succession – at Motorland Aragon last week and Jerez this week – the KRT squad has completed the 2016 sector of its overall winter test plan in positive fashion.
KRT was joined by several KHI staff at Jerez to help properly evaluate the new WorldSBK specification chassis and engine materials, which have been adapted for the recently launched ZX-10RR. Each rider had two machines to test, to allow for meaningful back-to-back comparisons.
The Jerez test for KRT featured three dry days in the middle of the week, bracketed by two wet days on Monday and Friday. Neither of the riders took to the track on Friday 25th, as conditions had deteriorated so much. Rea left Jerez with a track best of 1’38.721 while using a qualifying rear tyre with Sykes setting a 1’39.461, again on a ‘Q’ rear tyre. Rea was even more pleased with the 1’39.5 lap time he set on race tyres than his best-of-test flying lap of 1’38.721.
Rea had completed his pre-planned schedule by Thursday afternoon but a crash for Sykes earlier the same day lost him some track time just as his crew had fitted all the most promising new parts and settings to his number one machine. He still managed to complete a fast lap time on his spare machine and enjoyed consistent pace over distance.
A break in track action now begins for the team, with the winter test schedule restarting at Jerez on 24th January 2017.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It has been a very successful test with three days of very consistent weather. We also got a morning of wet conditions in which we confirmed a few things, especially a new Showa rear shock. I have to thank all at KRT for giving us this long test and KHI for bringing some extra engineering staff. Thanks to Showa for continuing to develop new parts for us and bringing them to the track. We did two race simulations on Thursday that we were very happy with. We can go into the winter in great shape and with a lot of confidence for next season. Having the new Ninja ZX-10RR has let us fix some of our weaker points, as our engine is a little bit stronger than before, with some extra RPM. That is always an added bonus. We can be optimistic for 2017. Looking back on 2016 it has been an incredible year to finish off here with a successful test I want to say thanks to all my team and all my crew, everyone inside KRT and KHI for these last few days.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “During the Aragon tests and also here at Jerez I feel we have been doing good work. For sure we have still not hit the nail on the head but the good thing is we are doing a lot of trial and elimination. Even here, where I was not entirely happy with my feeling, we managed to put in good lap times. Both myself and Jonathan seem to be able to do consistent lap times, which is promising. I had a crash on Thursday that stopped me using my preferred machine but still we were able to continue testing. We know we can do what is required on whatever set-up we have, but now we are going to have a few weeks to relax, refresh and recharge the batteries. I am confident that with the information we now have we can put the jigsaw together in January and start testing again from there.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea, stated: “Always in the winter time we try to follow all the items we have that Japan has prepared. Chassis engine, suspension, everything. We focused not to set the bike up for the racetrack; we focused to try out the parts. I know the potential of Kawasaki as a manufacturer, Johnny, the team, everybody, but still it has been so positive here. With a Q tyre we made a big, big step forward. With a race tyre our target was to improve the durability in the second part of the race. It seems like we have made another step. I can say that we reached our targets for the first part of the winter tests. We are very pleased to be in the shape that we are in and with all the information we have.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Tom Sykes, stated: “Jerez was more complex for us than the recent Aragon test. The bike is harder for Tom to manage because of his unique way of riding and we have had to compensate for this by improving the chassis performance. We made some very fundamental steps on the bike set-up, with some good and not so good results. We have enough data to really study in the winter break and we will be able to bring all the good points together before we start testing again in January. We have a lot of information from the last five years, and three more tests before we go racing at Phillip Island. I am sure we can give Tom a proper bike set-up before the first race in Australia.”
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