Things to learn from Phillip Island WSBK

Aprilia dominated in Phillip Island

Photo: World SBK

So the racing season finally began at the weekend, or at least a taster to the racing season and it was perhaps the most exciting race all year, fans so eager to watch it they stay up all night and exhaust themselves. World Superbikes didn’t disappoint those who stayed up, as we were treated to two good races. You can read the race reports here (Race 1) and here (Race 2), however this blog will discuss what we can take away from Phillip Island. What have we learned?

The first, and most obvious observation to make from Phillip Island is that the Aprilia RSV4 is bloody fast. The V4 machine at the top of the time sheets in the form of Michel Fabrizio from the very start, two Aprilias on the front row of the grid beaten only by Carlos Checa and Guintoli actually made it 3 Aprilias in the top 5 for superpole too. A 1-2-3 for the Italian machine in Race 1 followed by a 1-2 in Race 2 shows that the RSV4 was almost unbeatable on the Island. However, I’ve seen comments suggesting people may be worried about the speed of the RSV4, is it going to be the next Ducati? Is it going to be unbeatable? PaddockChatter doesn’t think so. The reason the RSV4’s dominated at Phillip Island are actually a combination of things, firstly the fact that the fast, flowing nature of the circuit is quite suited to the fast, powerful Aprilia. Secondly, Aprilia have hired some bloody decent riders. Thirdly, Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri, who PaddockChatter believe were the only true threats to the Aprilias at the weekend crashed in Race 1, Checa wasn’t in Race 2 and Melandri was struggling with the shoulder. In-line fours often struggle at Phillip Island, so PaddockChatter would suggest not to read too much into the Aprilia domination.

The second thing to take away, is Michel Fabrizio. What the hell? If you aren’t going to vote him for our rider of the month award, why? Fabrizio, former factory Ducati rider, former fast Factory Ducati rider who even beat the one and only Troy Bayliss on occasions has had nothing but an awful two years, so to see him top not just one, but three of the timed sessions prior to superpole was quite the surprise. After the last two years many had written off the Italian. Aprilia is the fourth manufacturer he’s ridden with in as many years and to be completely honest part of the lack of expectation could also be down to the team, Red Devils Roma not stunning anyone with their Ducati and former MotoGP rider Niccolo Canepa last year. If Fabrizio can keep it up, it’ll be one hell of a comeback.

The seven week gap in between races will play quite nicely into PATA Honda’s hands, the team having numerous issues over the two weeks riding in Phillip Island with both Rea and Haslam complaining, do not be tricked into thinking the Honda will not, at some point be competitive this season although it’s probably not best to tip it for the title at this point. Suzuki’s Camier made it quite clear to be fast it would be important to get a drag down the straight, indicating that Suzuki’s lack of power issue still remains in some form albeit improved, Camier showed he has got pace and there will be races where he’ll display this.

Many didn’t notice that Tom Sykes brought his ZX10R home in 5th place twice and therefore stands in 4th place in the championship. This is what Tom did last year to end up 0.5 points from the title, he is consistent. Sykes made it quite clear prior to Sunday that he wouldn’t be pushing too hard having fallen and broken his wrist in the private test at the Island the week before. Again, not someone to write off after 1 round – especially 1 round injured.

The Ducati Panigale is actually fast…

Photo: World SBK

The Ducati Panigale is fast, there’s no doubt about it. Checa’s pole time would have put him third on the MotoGP grid (yes, there has been a new surface so that won’t be the case come October when the elite class visits) but it is one way to silence the critics of the V-twin machine. If Checa hadn’t chucked himself down the road a few times I think it’s almost certain he could have spoilt the Aprilia party and he’s definitely one to watch out for.

Finally, World Superbikes is in trouble. Worst case scenario, WSB could be run over 9 rounds in 2013… it’s incredibly unlikely but there are four rounds with question marks over now. Imola and Portimao are still subject to contract, however PaddockChatter thinks these rounds will go ahead. Silverstone is as good as cancelled but may well be replaced with Istanbul and the unannounced June 23 round also looks set to be removed from the calendar, the only certainty it would seem is that the Indian round will now definitely go ahead in November… But what’s the problem? Silverstone want to cancel WSBK because they aren’t making money from it, the high sanction fees from race organisers mean the circuit have to set high ticket prices therefore customers aren’t buying the tickets. It’s a real issue, especially for a circuit which is struggling for money anyway… Silverstone have recently said that WSBK attendance has been dropping for years and Dorna are even suggesting the MotoGP may not be at the circuit much longer, so for Silverstone at least it may not just be a WSB thing, but the rest of the calendar needs cementing soon – the season has started!

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