Fast times at WSB High


Jonathon Rea fastest at Portimao

With only a couple of seats left to fill, the World
Superbike field is ready to go for the 2010 contest, having completed its first
group test of the season at the fabulous Portimao circuit in Portugal January
24. The top 10 riders were all within a second, which bodes well for the
competition this season.

Fastest over the three days (which featured a mix of clear
and viciously wet weather) was Irishman Jonathon Rea on his Hannspree Ten Kate
Honda, recording a time faster than Ben Spies’ pole time from 2009. Next up was
Brit Leon Haslam, who picked up the cherry Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000 ride after
his Stiggy team from last year collapsed, and behind him was yet another U.K.
rider, Shane Byrne on the Althea Racing Ducati 1098R.

Fourth was the first "rookie" in the series, Cal
Crutchlow (also from the U.K.), who took Tom Sykes’ spot on the Yamaha
Sterilgarda team as a reward for winning the World Supersport (600) title in
2009. His team-mate James Toseland, who basically swapped his MotoGP seat with
Ben Spies, was sixth. Toseland, who has two WSB titles to his credit (2004 with
the Ducati factory and 2007 with the Ten Kate Honda team) will be looking to
prove to himself and the world that his disastrous foray into Moto GP wasn’t a
permanent reflection on his abilities.

The factory Ducatis of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga
were fifth and eighth, both riders professing themselves pleased with the
changes to the bikes that surely would have been the 2009 world champion if Ben
Spies hadn’t shown up to play. 

The Aprilias of Max Biaggi and Leon Camier were seventh and
12th, posting the highest trap speeds of any of the bikes,
unofficially 320+ km/h. Aprilia is being sponsored this season by the Italian
airline Alitalia, which is amusing for two reasons: first, the airline is
bankrupt, and Italy is already in trouble with the EU for supporting it;
second, Roberto Colaninno, the head of the Piaggio group that owns Aprilia,
also owns a big chunk of Alitalia and is a good friend of Italian prime
minister Silvio Berlusconi. Pure coincidence, no doubt.

Kawasaki, which has vowed a serious factory effort in WSB
this season with Chris Vermeulen (another Moto GP exile who has a great history
in WSB) and Tom Sykes, who never really showed his abilities on the Yamaha team
in 2009. Fourteenth and 15th in the initial test on factory bikes
was no big deal, but the team is starting from a long way back. Roger Lee
Hayden, youngest of the Hayden brothers, has landed a Kawasaki ride in WSB as
well on the Team Pedercini bike, and was 19th in his first run on
the bikes and first time at Portimao.

The BMWs of Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus were also well down
the list, in 13th and 16th.

The first race weekend of the season is set for Philip
Island in Australia, February 28.

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