Max Neukirchner led the Suzuki challenge at the official Portimao test by clocking the sixth fastest overall time on his factory-backed Alstare machine, but admitted that the new 'K9' is no lap dog to ride.
Neukirchner, arguable the surprise of the 2008 season with his first two WSBK wins, concluded the rain-interrupted Portimao outing with a best lap time 1.3sec behind pace setter Shane Byrne, but had been second to the flying Brit during the trial Superpole session.
"Over the three days we've tried a lot of different things to do with chassis, traction control, wheelie control and engine and have learnt a lot about the new bike,” began Max. “For me, like all of us, the biggest problem has been the rain and the fact that we have not been able to do as many laps in the dry as we would have liked, but our understanding of the bike is a lot better.
“The lap times are very close, so this year's championship is going to be really hard and it's going to be important to be consistent. I think the 2009 bike handles better and I have a better feeling for it in the corners, but it's not really easier to ride yet because we are going much faster!” he admitted. “Overall I am happy because our knowledge is improving and I think we are in pretty good shape for the year ahead."
Team-mate Yukio Kagayama claimed twelfth overall with a best lap 0.8sec slower than Neukirchner.
"Generally I feel that the conditions have been difficult and I wanted more dry track time,” said Yuki. “The conditions changed many times and each time we made a change
“The track's grip level in the wet was not so bad, but this year I can push a bit harder in the wet because the 2009 bike is less hard work in the rain,” he declared. “This bike has good potential and all we need is more time to understand it better and then we will improve a lot. I am not happy about my lap times and the weather, but I am happy because of all the good work we've done and the progress we are making."