The boys are back in town - WSBk 2010 kicks-off with pre-season test at Portimao
BY ZOE BURN
JONATHAN Rea got his 2010 campaign off to a flying start by clocking the fastest time in the three day Infront Motor Sports official Superbike test session at Portimao in Portugal.
The Northern Ireland rider led an all British top four as the the chequered flag fell on the official test.
And the HANNSpree Ten Kate rider's fastest lap of 1.42.270secs was faster than 2009 champ Ben Spies' Polesetting time of last season.
The 22-year-old enjoyed a close scrap with Leon Haslam who ended the test second overall, ahead of fellow Brits Shane Byrne and Cal Crutchlow.
Rea's Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade looked strong throughout the three days, leaving him confident and upbeat as the 2010 season approaches.
"These three days have just been part of our preparation for the new season - preparation that started almost as soon as last season finished," he said.
"It was good to see P1 on the pit board for a lot of laps here and we know we have a good package to take to Australia now. We've got something that won't be so hard on the tyres, which was a problem there last year.
"I'm feeling in great condition and feel that my focus and concentration have improved on last season. The bike itself is now just clicks away, rather than having to change lots of different things."
Haslam, who this season joined the Suzuki Alstare team, finished just three tenths of a second behind Rea.
"It's been a really positive test, we managed to test the Suzuki for the first time in the rain and intermediate conditions," he said.
"We had a few issues at the end of the day but ended up second and I was really happy with that. Every test I've been to so far - this is our fourt - we've not been outside the top two. Hopefully we can continue progressing and I can take it to Phillip Island."
The Brit domination continued with Byrne bringing his private Althea Ducati 1098 across the line third quickest.
"This is my third year riding the Ducati and I honestly thought I knew everything there was to know about these bikes, but this year Genesio (Bevilacqua, team owner) has put together a fantastic team and we have two very good bikes," he revealed.
"I have a strong team-mate, everything about the team is very good, the bike is so different from last year, and we made some really good progress in three days."
2009 World Supersport Cal Crutchlow emerged the strongest of the two Sterilgarda Yamaha new signings, as he finished fourth.
His team-mate, two-times World Champion James Toseland - who returns to Superbikes from MotoGP - finished sixth behind Ducati Xerox' Michel Fabrizio.
While most of the leading riders used to final stages to test the soft tyres normally reserved for Superpole, Aprilia Racing's Max Biaggi was the only man who opted to stay on the harder compound, winding up seventh overall just a head of Ducati Xerox 2009 runner-up Noriyuki Haga, who was forced to slow due to a technical problem during his quick lap.
Surprisingly, the least impressive Brit peformance came from 2009 British Superbike Champion Leon Camier, who was only able to manage 12th quickest.
The 2010 Superbike winter tests will conclude at Phillip Island the week before the start of the season in Australia on February 28th, although several teams including BMW, Aprilia and Ducati, will be heading to Valencia for some extra testing over the next few days.
Portimao Official Test - final times:
1. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1'42.270;
2. Haslam L. (GBR) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'42.557;
3. Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 1'42.877;
4. Crutchlow C. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 1'42.960;
5. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'43.137;
6. Toseland J. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 1'43.157;
7. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 1000 F. 1'43.364;
8. Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 1'43.417;
9. Neukirchner M. (GER) Honda CBR1000RR 1'43.471;
10. Guintoli S. (FRA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'43.508;
11. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1'43.629;
12. Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 1000 F. 1'43.749;
13. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1'43.931;
14. Vermeulen C. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'44.108;
15. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'44.365;
16. Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 1'44.570