Four-time back to back world superbike champion Jonathan Rea returned to work at the first world superbike test of 2019 this week, and it was business as usual as the Ulsterman topped the time sheets after two days at Spain’s Jerez circuit.
Rea’s best time of 1:39.160 was just over two-tenths of a second quicker than the impressive Alex Lowes but, ominously, the world champion was reported to have set all of his best times on durable race tyres, while his rivals dabbled with softer (and faster) qualifying rubber.
Lowes had led the way after the first day of testing and continued to impress on the steadily improving Yamaha YZF-R1. “My best lap today was done on a qualifying tyre,” the 28-year-old rider from Lincoln confirmed. “I managed a 1’39.8 with the race tyre, so I found half a second on the qualifier, which is quite good because I think there’s not as much of a gap as there used to be. This afternoon we worked on the front of the bike and, at the start, we went a little bit in the wrong direction, but then came back and found some improvement, so a proper testing day.”
Rea’s Kawasaki team-mate, 2018 British superbike champion Leon Haslam, continued to adapt to the sophisticated electronics employed in the world series but showed that he will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in 2019, finishing third overall – 0.348 seconds behind the world champion
Much of the interest in the test focussed around the new Ducati effort. This season will be the first without any two cylinder machines on the grid. Historically the Italian company has led the way with its booming V-twins, but 2019 sees the old 1199R Panigale replaced by the much vaunted Panigale V4R.
Factory Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista posted 103 laps on his way to the fourth fastest time, despite admitting that he was still trying to find a good base set-up for the machine and was still tweaking his riding position, while world number two Chaz Davies struggled with back problems and was only able to record 58 laps, as he set the 10th fastest lap time.
The new BMW world superbike team was also on track, with former world champion Tom Sykes 14th overall on an S 1000 RR that is still in the infancy of its race development.
The world superbike teams will remain in southern Europe and make the short trip of Portugal’s Portimao circuit for a further two days of testing next week, before flying out to Australia for the official test and opening round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship.
Jerez Day Two Unofficial Times:
- Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’39.160
- Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1’39.372 +0.212
- Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’39.502 +0.348
- Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’39.620 +0.460
- Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) 1’39.942 +0.782
- Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha Team) 1’40.075 +0.915
- Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1’40.145 +0.985
- Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha Team) 1’40.469 +1.309
- Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) 1’40.540 +1.380
- Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1’40.621 +1.461
- Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) 1’40.794 +1.634
- Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) 1’40.879 +1.719
- Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) 1’41.066 +1.906
- Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’41.206 +2.046
- Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’41.231 +2.071
- Alessandro Delbianco (Althea MIE Racing Team) 1’42.353 +3.192