Round four of the Bennetts British Superbike championship started well for the Airwaves Ducati team at Oulton Park today. Leon Haslam was 2nd and 1st and Gregorio Lavilla recorded a 6th and 4th place finish, in the day's two free practice sessions.
In first practice Greg and Leon had only completed a few laps when the session was halted due to a red flag. When they returned to the track both Airwaves Ducati riders lapped consistently and quickly improved their best times. With 20 minutes left in the session Greg went into 1st position with a time of 1:36.617; this remained his best lap and eventually resulted in a 6th position finish. In the closing minutes of first practice Leon took the lead with a 1:36.394, however this was bettered by Jonathan Rea in the final minute pushing Leon into 2nd place.
In second practice Greg and Leon both completed a full race run with Dunlop race tyres. The 50 minute practice session saw Greg complete 26 laps and Leon 25. It was a closely fought session, with the top 6 riders all setting times within half a second of each other. Leon improved his best time on 3 consecutive laps to take the lead towards the end of practice; he set the fastest time of the day, 1:35.871 on lap 20 to finish in 1st place. Greg finished 0.29 seconds behind his team mate in 4th, having recorded his best time of the day, 1:36.161 on lap 23.
After practice Greg commented, "My focus today was to complete a full race run so I could test some tyres. I finished 4th in the second session which is not too bad, but we know that the weather is going to be changeable this weekend so we have to keep working to make sure we are ready for that. I am feeling good and I am sure we will be competitive this weekend."
Leon is also feeling confident for the weekend saying; "I am feeling good at the moment; I was worried my crash at Silverstone would affect my season and my performances, but I am feeling fine. I am taking some painkillers for my leg as there is some nerve damage but it is not affecting my riding. Today we were testing different tyre combinations to establish the best one for the race. Obviously the weather will play its part so I plan to do another race run tomorrow, wet or dry! I am looking forward to the races and confident we will do well."
"I think I could've gone a fair bit faster but was held up by traffic on quite a few laps; but that isn't a major concern, I still managed some useful testing on my Rizla Suzuki.
"We tried a couple of minor changes to the engine management and the air bypass system to help with the braking. I've also tried three different Dunlop tyres for race pace. I've asked my mechanics for some additional rear braking power to help control wheelieing over Oulton's high-speed crests and that should help tomorrow."
"We tried a few new settings on my Rizla Suzuki, including adjusting the ride height and rear shock absorbers. It came together towards the end of the day and although I didn't make it into the top 10, I think my bike is better than where we started from.
"I have the feel I want from the rear of my GSX-R but could do with more consistency and control at the front - that's what we'll be aiming for tomorrow."
- 1: Leon Haslam (Ducati) 1:35.871
- 2: Jonathan Rea (Honda) +0.003
- 3: Shane Byrne (Honda) +0.140
- 4: Gregorio Lavilla (Ducati) +0.290
- 5: Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda) +0.473
- 6: Tom Sykes (Honda) +0.502
- 7: Tommy Hill (Yamaha) +0.620
- 8: Karl Harris (Honda) +0.782
- 9: Cal Crutchlow (Suzuki) +1.030
- 10: Leon Camier (Honda) +1.044
- 11: Chris Walker (Suzuki) +1.740