BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Phillip Island, Australia, 24/02/2016, FIM Superbike World Championship
Out of the European winter, into the Australian summer: The two BMW teams in the FIM World Superbike Championship (WSBK), the Althea BMW Racing team and Milwaukee BMW, completed their pre-season preparations with two days of testing on Phillip Island. The wait is now over: this weekend, the island to the south-east of Melbourne hosts the first races of the season.
For both teams, the test provided a good opportunity to take to the track one last time before the season-opener. Althea BMW Racing was thus able to test itself against the opposition – in the winter, the Italian team had spent time testing alone in Vallelunga, while the rest of the WSBK field was in action in Spain. Milwaukee BMW completed four days of testing with the BMW S 1000 RR in the winter, and was able to use the time on Phillip Island to further familiarise itself with the bike.
The teams, together with the experts from HP Race Support, are working hard to ensure that the RRs are prepared for the start of the season. They have been fine-tuning electronics, the chassis and set-up, and have made good progress over the course of the test.
The conditions at the Phillip Island Circuit were not particularly summery, however – nor were they consistent. The teams were greeted at the other end of the world by unsettled weather. Monday, the first of the two test days, was cloudy with repeated spells of light drizzle. On Tuesday morning, temperatures were a friendly 20 degrees. Over the course of the afternoon, the weather then went from one extreme to another: the sun heated the air to 30 degrees and the asphalt to over 50 degrees. This resulted in the grip on the track deteriorating dramatically.
The two-day test was also dominated by many crashes, with the riders repeatedly forced to slow down by red flags. The BMW riders did not avoid incidents: all four of them each suffered a highsider. Milwaukee BMW riders Karel Abraham and Josh Brookes were caught out on Monday, while Markus Reiterberger and Jordi Torres of the Althea BMW Racing team came unstuck on Tuesday morning. The good news: none of the four were seriously injured, although both Reiterberger and Torres are sporting large plasters on their left elbows.
One thing is certain after the tests: the BMW teams are heading in the right direction. Torres caught the eye on his Althea BMW S 1000 RR as early as Monday. For a time, the Spaniard was actually ranked second and ended the day with the fourth-fastest time. On day two, Torres was tenth fastest after his crash.
While Torres was already familiar with the Phillip Island Circuit, the coastal circuit was new territory for his team-mate Reiterberger. The double IDM champion clocked the 11th fastest time on Monday – just 0.8 seconds off the top time. “Reiti” then really found his rhythm on Tuesday afternoon, setting the fifth fastest time of the afternoon session. “This result is another big boost before the start of the season,” said Reiterberger.
At the Milwaukee BMW team, which is new to the WSBK, the priority for the riders was to get to know the bike better and to develop the trust required in order to be able to really push hard. Brookes, the reigning BSB champion, consistently set times in the top 15. Abraham’s crash on the opening day meant he was only able to complete a limited number of laps. On day two, the former MotoGP rider, together with his technicians and the experts from HP Race Support, adapted the RR to better suit his requirements.
The wait is finally over this weekend, as the opening races of the 2016 WSBK season are upon us! The top Superbike class will follow a new itinerary. Up until now, both races at an event have been held on the Sunday. There will now be one race on the Saturday afternoon and one on the Sunday afternoon. The grid positions for both races will be determined in the Superpole early on Saturday afternoon.