Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is at full strength as the team heads for southern Europe this week to conduct the valuable first pre-season testing of 2014 in readiness for this year’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship, with new signings Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes eager to get down to work.
A new year, new rules and a new-look team finds the UK-based outfit immersed in preparations before travelling to Almeria in Spain and on to Portimao in Portugal as the pre-season testing window opens ahead of the first round of competition in a few weeks’ time. New racers Laverty and Lowes will take to the southern Spanish track for two-days before travelling to the Portuguese circuit for a further two-days on-board the Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-Rs. As a championship rookie, Lowes is new to both tracks, while 2013 runner-up Laverty has knowledge of both, coaching at Almeria in 2009 and standing on the podium four times at Portimao; three of which were victorious on the top step.
Almeria is the first port of call for the shakedown tests, on January 16th and 17th. The challenging clockwise 4,025m-long circuit comprises 14 corners, a chicane and high-speed back straight, affording ample opportunity to trial the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and further develop the team's progress and synergy found at Jerez in November. A championship regular since 2008, modern Portimao is a 4,592m-long, undulating track and has been described as both a roller-coaster and a favourite by many riders. The 15 corners, changes of direction, blind crests and high-speed final straight will provide a demanding test for both rider and machine.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki will complete testing at Portimao on January 19th and 20th before returning to their UK headquarters for final preparations ahead of the official World Superbike pre-season test and first scheduled race event at Phillip Island, Australia on February 23rd.
"The winter break was welcome following a hectic 2013 season, but now I'm itching to get going again. We had a quite tough debut test in November and so our aim at the upcoming tests is to be nearer the sharp end. My focus will be on improving our electronics package and traction control in particular. We'll begin in Almeria before moving on to Portimao where we'll face our rivals on a track where I've won during the past two seasons and that should give us an idea of where we're at. The team have been working flat out lately and they've done a fantastic job to deliver updates in a short space of time. I can't wait to get back to work on track in a few days' time."
“I’m really looking forward to getting back on the bike after the winter break and working with the team to build on the progress we made at the end of last year. I really like the Voltcom Suzuki GSX-R and enjoyed it the first time I rode it. I cannot wait to start riding again and begin work in 2014. I feel comfortable already on the bike and the chassis works very well. The electronics are all new to me, because in BSB there are none and I need to continue to change my style to get the best out of the Suzuki. I know there is a lot to learn, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
More, from a press release issued by Kawasaki Racing Team:
Busy Re-Start For KRT Riders
Newsflash, 15 January 2014
With the winter testing ban about to be lifted, the official Kawasaki Racing Team duo of Tom Sykes and Loris Baz will soon be back on track at Almeria on 16 and 17 January for the first test of 2014.
Reigning champion Sykes and proven race winner Baz are each raring to go again after an enjoyable but long mandatory winter break from track action. The overall preparations for all in the official Kawasaki Superbike World Championship effort have, however, continued at a high level over the ‘off-season'.
Several track sessions after the end of the 2013 season, at Jerez and Motorland Aragon, have already allowed Kawasaki to make the relevant changes to suit the new 2014 technical regulations, while simultaneously working on an overall improvement in performance.
With a month and half before the first race in Australia, on 23 February, the countdown to the 2014 Championship has firmly begun and no-one is leaving anything to chance as Sykes goes to retain his world title and Baz looks to step up to be a regular winner and podium finisher.
After the forthcoming Almeria tests conclude there will be one final European track-based session before the team packs up to head to the first round in Australia. Jerez will be the host venue for these tests, on 5 and 6 February.
Tom Sykes: “Almeria has definitely done us well in the past because it helped set us up for a great season last year. We still have items to test and we can do our job at Almeria. I am looking forward to getting back out there, stretching our legs and re-evaluating things to make our forthcoming season as competitive as possible.
“We will be getting ourselves ready for Australia and round one at these Spanish tests. I am very excited to be defending my world championship in 2014 and I would say that I am possibly even more motivated than I was at the start of last year. In 2013 the pressure was on to achieve. Last year was massive in many aspects of my life, so I was proud the way I handled myself.
“A lot of weight is off my shoulders with the championship victory and becoming a parent after the birth of our first child, so I feel much more relaxed this year. I am with a great team, Kawasaki is a great manufacturer and I know where I stand. I am very excited and motivated to get back on track.”
Loris Baz: “I cannot wait to get to Almeria and get on the bike for the first time in a month and a half. The break has been good because I have been able to spend time at home and see my friends. I have been training a lot and also doing a lot of Supermoto riding but there has also been some time to have fun with my friends. Now I am looking forward to the tests in Spain but even more so the race in Phillip Island because it has been some months since I was on the grid for a race after my injury last year. I missed the real competition.
“The Almeria test will be important because although we improved a lot in the last two tests at Aragon and Jerez in 2013, there are always more improvements to be found. We need to make another little step to be really sure with the bike set-up. I feel good now and I am sure we can make some long runs to simulate race distance on the bike and make an even bigger step in that area of performance.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager: “New year, new goals for us. We start now in Almeria with a test to ‘warm up’ the riders. This gives them the opportunity to ride, with no pressure and no timekeeping equipment, on a track we normally don't race at. After the test ban period we spent two days with the KRT riders in Barcelona for medical and physical tests, to know their starting points and help them keep their maximum performance all through the year. KHI has been working hard and we are also working to improve in some areas.
“We will continue to evaluate our potential under the new Evo rules that will be coming in to the championship, using the services of David Salom.
“Let me use this starting point of the 2014 season to say thank you to Kawasaki, Motocard, ELF and all the sponsors and suppliers behind this project… and especially to the wives of all team members.”