THE first and only official preseason WorldSBK test came to a close last week with a familiar name at the top of the time sheets, but not without pressure from some new faces.
The entire 2021 paddock took part in the final official test at the Montmelo Circuit de Barcelona in Catalunya in a truncated preseason testing program thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two day trial gave teams their first opportunity to pit themselves against a full compliment of riders and gave fans their first chance to see riders in their new colours.
Ulster-man Jonathan Rea topped the first day of testing on Wednesday with a blistering lap of 1m40.793s within the last hour of the day.
Fellow Brit Leon Haslam ended the day in second with American sensation Garrett Gerloff in third.
Day two was the turn of GRT Yamaha rider Gerloff, now in his second year with the Italian run squad to lead the field after he turned in a spectacular 1m40.790s despite a crash at turn 7 early in the day.
Gerloff, along with team mate, WorldSBK rookie Kohta Nozane have upgraded to the 2021 spec Yamaha YZF-R1 this season after a year of working on season old machinery, with the American Gerloff clearly adapting to the new bikes characteristics.
The American’s time would stand until a flyer from Gloucester born Aruba.it Ducati’s Scott Redding dropped him down to second, before Rea snook his record lap with half an hour to go.
The KRT team were testing their brand new ZX-10RR, an evolution of their title winning 2020 machine with brand new aerodynamics and factory engine upgrades.
Kawasaki’s reigning champion Rea will be keen to secure a record breaking seventh consecutive title whilst team mate Brit Alex Lowes, still sore from a shoulder injury gained during training, will be taking part in his second season with the Japanese manufacturer.
Lowes finished the two day test in seventh after completing a total of 75 laps aboard the ZX-10RR.
The Aruba.it Ducati squad complete a strong Barcelona test, with Redding ending the test in second with team mate Michael Rinaldi in fifth.
Redding will be competing in his second season on the factory team after a strong debut campaign in 2020, with Rinaldi making the jump to the factory team after a year on the satellite GoEleven Ducati.
Trading places with Rinaldi was Welshman Chaz Davies, who arrives in a new look GoEleven team eager to put an injury laden 2020 season behind him.
Davies would finish the test in ninth with a respectable 1:41.317 as he got to grips with his new team.
Surprise of the test was the German veteran Jonas Folger on the Bonovo Action MGM BMW.
The former GP rider took his new S1000RR to fourth in the standings in front of the two factory BMW riders as he made his preparations for his first full time campaign after a wildcard appearance on a Yamaha in Catalunya last year.
Yorkshireman Tom Sykes was using the Montmelo test to further develop the brand new BMW S1000RR M-Sport and better understand how the relatively new bike stacks up against its rivals.
Sykes left the test happy with progress, citing the Shaun Muir run team’s work on engine performance pushing him to a respectable sixth position by the end of the two days.
His brand new team mate, Dutchman Michael van der Mark joins the German factory after two successful years on a Yamaha, finishing 14th after 62 laps.
The Pata Yamaha team had mixed fortunes in Barcelona after a strong outing in the private test at Misano last month, with new signing Andrea Locatelli moving up to the premier class from WorldSSP.
The young Italian put in a 1:41.258 in only his third outing in the YZF-R1.
Ahead of his second season with the Pata Yamaha team, Toprak Razgatlioglu put in a stellar sixth on day one before a positive COVID-19 test on Thursday cut his trip short.
The HRC Honda team occupied opposite ends of the timesheets, with British star Leon Haslam rounding out the top ten, however team mate Alvaro Bautista, still banged and bruised from a recent motocross injury, could only manage 20th on the CBR1000RR-R.
The Japanese squad had a deep bag of parts to test including a new swingarm, exhaust, electronics and engine parts in a effort to develop the new bike, a goal that recently appointed team manager, Leon Camier is hoping for in his new role.
The riders and teams will now continue preparations behind closed doors before the first round in Aragon next month, with all eyes on the British contingent fighting to derail the six time world champion Rea.