A few short weeks away from the opening of the World Superbike season, most of the teams have arrived safely in Australia, where a number of top riders are taking advantage of private test days before the official IMS test February 20-21. Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Skyes proved to be the man on top in early private practice, setting a blistering pace of 1.33:0 laptime on the opening day of private testing. Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) was a close second with a time of 1:33.3, while Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) also set a 1:33.3, one-tenth faster than BMW Motorrad rider Marco Melandri. Max Biagi (Aprilia Racing) and Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) set identical times of 1:33:7’s, while Brett McCormick’s Effenbert Liberty Racing teammate (and roommate, apparently), Jacub Smrz scored a 1:34.0 following a lengthy trip from Europe.
According to a press release from the Effenbert Liberty Racing team, the squad took off from Malpensa airport in Italy on Thursday at 9pm. With a stopover in Dubai, they landed in Melbourne around 9am local time on Saturday. They continued by car, driving some 150km to Phillip Island, where they rented 4 houses to accommodate the whole team of 32 members of staff. Racing protagonists, Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrž, Maxime Berger, Federico Sandi and Brett McCormick are ready to embark on a new mission to fight with other contestants, some already well-known and some novice, coming from various championships.
Effenbert Liberty Racing team riders will have the opportunity to try their new bikes during a private test in the course of the following 3 days, 13-15 February, priot to the official FIM test taking place February 20-21.
Other news from the private test saw American and Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider, John Hopkins ran into some more bad luck. Hopkins suffered a broken hand in a crash during the private test, following a corner-entry high-side. According to Hopkins, “This feels so devastating because I was feeling really comfortable on the bike right from the start. I was running the 2011-spec bike with just small modifications to the engine and the new Yoshimura exhaust and hadn’t yet got on the full 2012 bike. But I felt that the GSX-R had already been improved in the areas it needed to be.”
Hopkins will fly back to the USA tomorrow morning to see his hand surgeon (some will recall Hopkins underwent surgeries in 2011 on his hand, which also saw the removal of part of his finger), before deciding if he will be able to return to Australia and race at the opening of the World Superbike Championship in Phillip Island.
The race and official start to the World Superbike Championship season will take place February 24-26, 2012 at Phillip Island.