Having taken considerable criticism for the past two seasons, since the World Superbike control tyre rule was introduced, for a lack of lap record improvements - Pirelli were justifiably pleased with the impressive 'MotoGP pace' shown during this week's Qatar test.
It could be argued that complaints about the failure of WSBK to beat most previous lap records is something of a dubious concern: MotoGP and Formula One have little problem in going ever faster each year - but that has simply meant that (expensive) rule changes have been made to slow them down again, largely for safety reasons (2.4litre V8 engines will replace 3.0litre V10s in F1 next year, while 800cc engines will replace 990cc in MotoGP from 2007).
There is no doubt that most racing riders like to go ever faster - due partly to the perception that greater speed means greater skill - but is it not harder to control a 200bhp machine with relatively low tyre grip than to control a 250bhp machine with much higher tyre grip... just as it is harder to ride in the wet than the dry?
Regardless of the 'more speed means more skill' argument, World Superbike's credibility would no doubt be enhanced by beating all the old lap records set during the free reign 'factory tyre' era before 2004 - and if the results of the Qatar test are anything to go by, WSBK could not only establish all new lap records in 2006, but hold its own against the pace of the MotoGP prototypes.
Ten riders from five of the six main World Superbike manufacturers - Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki and Foggy Petronas (Kawasaki was absent) - attended the three day Losail test, designed specifically to help develop next season's Pirelli tyres.
Series returnee Troy Bayliss
would finish the test fastest of all, on both qualifying and race rubber, after setting a best times of 1min 58.6secs and 1min 59.17secs respectively on his factory Ducati Xerox 999. It is reasonable to believe that reigning world champion Troy Corser, fastest on the first two days for Alstare Suzuki, may have bettered both of those times had he not been forced to sit out the final day due to a stomach virus.
Nevertheless, Bayliss's qualifying pace was a massive 2.644secs quicker than the fastest lap from the 2005 season opening Qatar WSBK event, with his race tyre best 2.722secs quicker than the fastest race lap from the same event... If Pirelli and the World Superbike manufacturers continue improving at that pace they'll soon be able to boost about the same 'how can we slow them down' problems suffered by MotoGP and F1.
Indeed, when the Qatar test times are combined with MotoGP lap times from October's Qatar Grand Prix, it can be seen that Bayliss would have qualified 13th on the MotoGP grid with his best test time - while all ten WSBK riders would be comfortably within the 107% qualifying time needed to make the race, even though only half tested with qualifying tyres.
In terms of race pace the WSBK riders were even more competitive with Bayliss and Corser a head turning eighth and ninth on the combined WSBK/MotoGP list (see below) - Bayliss also bettered Regis Laconi's Qatar WSBK race winning pace by 46-seconds during an 18 lap race simulation.