Summer isn’t over yet, but the wait for MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship action is. After six weeks away which saw many of the World Superbike riders swap bikes for the beach, it’s time for them to zip up their leathers and head back out on track.
Three weeks before returning to Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for the Nolan Portuguese Round, WorldSBK teams head out to Portimao for the Official Test, with their minds set on making as many improvements as possible before the end of the season – whilst also keeping an eye on 2019. Four rounds remain on the calendar: this is the most critical moment of the year, where titles are won and lost, so everyone will seek to be at their sharpest for September.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) approaches his return to his ZX-10RR at the strongest moment of his season so far. His four consecutive wins since that Race Two DNF at Brno have lifted the Northern Irishman to a healthy 92 point lead in the championship standings. For his side of the team box, the goal will be to tweak any remaining issues with the ZX-10RR but also – and perhaps most importantly – hope that any momentum was not lost during the break.
Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK teammate Tom Sykes will be forced to miss out on the Portimao test after suffering an injury to his right ankle earlier this month, whilst out training. Eight races remain for the Yorkshireman with the Provec Racing squad, and he will hope to be back to full fitness as he sets his sights on another victory to end his time in green on a high.
Fresh off their impressive Suzuka 8 Hours win, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) face the Portimao test with their future in the Pata Yamaha family confirmed for another year. It was a step that proved how valuable both riders are to the Japanese manufacturer, and will ensure that they can concentrate solely on extracting the best out of the R1 throughout the official test.
For the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team, the focus will kept exclusively on the remaining eight races with the Panigale R. Reliability has been a missing piece in the puzzle all season, as reliability has become an issue from track to track. That will need to be resolved if the Ducati is to remain in contention for any championship – riders or manufacturers – from here to Qatar.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team will be perhaps the most active team at Portimao, having planned a two day private test in Portugal before the official one. Bringing an all new bike to the track, it will be a key week to end their season on top form. Earlier this month, Honda’s WorldSBK Operations Manager Chris Pike hinted at some of the areas that will be worked on, including electronic upgrades, a new exhaust system and an untried engine specification.
Meanwhile, the Portimao test arrives at a sweet moment for Milwaukee Aprilia. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) has managed to put his RSV4 onto the podium in the last two rounds, while Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) has also managed some promising results throughout the year. Some fine-tuning this week could lead to both riders challenging for more through September and October.
With several other riders looking to refine their machines this week in Portugal, including the likes of Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) or Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), there’s guaranteed to be plenty of on-track action as we turn towards the final stretch of the season.