WSBK: 2009 Imola test results

Neukirchner injured again

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jul. 17, 2009
Jonathan Rea set the top time at the two-day World Superbike Championship test in Imola, Italy, July 15-16.

The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider recorded a lap time of 1:48.670 in the second session on July 16 to lead all riders.

“It’s really motivational coming to a new circuit and finding your feet,” says Rea. “Our approach was a bit different than normal in that we forgot about setting up the bike and getting me up to speed first. Now we’ve had a lot of time on the bike the package is very strong and finally I’m happy after we went round in circles a bit at Donington. The team has put a massive effort into it, so a big thanks to them for everything. I put my fastest time in on a qualifier, but we’ve been consistently fast on both days, in the top five, and I did a long-run and the tire was pretty good so hopefully they can bring that for the race.”

Jonathan Rea set the fastest time at the WSBK test at Imola.

Championship contenders Michel Fabrizio and Ben Spies were second and third, respectively. Ducati Xerox’s Fabrizio was the only other rider apart from Rea to break under 1:49, running a best time of 1:48.847. Fabrizio was faster than Spies in all four test sessions, with the Yamaha rider setting his quickest time in the second Wednesday session.

“Both today and yesterday we have worked really well, despite the excessive heat. All in all, I am very happy with what we’ve achieved here,” says Fabrizio. “As planned, today we did a good test of the three new Pirelli tires and all seemed to perform well, even with these extreme conditions. In the afternoon we made some set-up changes, particularly testing a different fork, but unfortunately it didn’t give me a particularly good feeling and so we went back to that which I’ve always used. I’m happy that I was one of the fastest here this week and now I have to replicate this performance each race weekend from now on!”

Despite not being on top of the timesheet as he has so often been this season, Spies says preparing for the actual race, scheduled for Sept. 27, was the main goal.

“It’s been a really good couple of days testing for me, we’ve not been out there trying to be the fastest guys, but have been focused on working through the set up of the bike to make sure we have everything ready for when we race here and also just to shake it down,” says Spies. “It’s been really hot so I’m looking forward to getting away from the track now and relaxing before we go to Brno next week.”

Points leader Noriyuki Haga did not take part in the two-day test as he continues to recover from a broken arm suffered in a crash at the Donington Park round.

Max Neukirchner's comeback came to a halt with a crash at Imola.Also on the injury front, Suzuki Alstare Brux’s Max Neukirchner returned to action at Imola after breaking his leg in a multi-bike collision at Monza. Neukirchner’s comeback was short-lived however he was injured in another crash on an Italian circuit. Initial tests revealed four broken vertebra. With five rounds remaining in the 2009 season, these new injuries may mark the end of Neukirchner’s season.

“I am not sure why I crashed, but I have injured myself some more and so I must start the recovery process all over again,” says Neukirchner. “Yesterday was not so bad and I showed that I could ride the bike OK after some weeks away. I was looking forward to a second full day on the track, so it was a big pity that I fell. It seems that I have cracked or damaged some vertebra and so I must go back to my hospital in Germany and get everything checked out. Once that is done, my doctors will work out a program for me and I will start treatment and rehabilitation. I have done this before, so I know I can do it again.”

American John Hopkins had an impressive test for Stiggy Honda, recording the sixth fastest time despite sitting out the final Thursday session after a near-crash earlier in the test. There was concern the incident may have aggravated Hopkins’ injured hip but a medical examination found no further damage.

“I feel like I have completed a good two days of testing here at Imola. It’s my first time here and I used the first day to learn the track and find the right set-up for the machine. My confidence is growing on every lap and the bike really feels the way I want it to be,” says Hopkins. “We only had one set of tires to test here, but I have been able to lower my lap times on every outing. Unfortunately, the machine lost grip this (Thursday) morning, and when it came back it threw me back in the seat in a hard way. I had to get some x-rays of my hip and decided it would be best to skip the afternoon session.”

The 2009 WSBK season resumes July 24-26 at Brno, Czech Republic.

2009 WSBK Championship Imola test top ten lap times
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Time
1st Jonathan Rea Honda CBR1000RR 1:48.670
2nd Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1198R 1:48.847
3rd Ben Spies Yamaha YZF-R1 1:49.262
4th Lorenzo Lanzi Ducati 1198R 1:49.309
5th Tom Sykes Yamaha YZF-R1 1:49.422
6th John Hopkins Honda CBR1000RR 1:49.443
7th Ruben Xaus BMW S1000RR 1:49.467
8th Leon Haslam Honda CBR1000RR 1:49.555
9th Shane Byrne Ducati 1198R 1:49.577
10th Shinya Nakano Aprilia RSV4 1:49.645