If this week's unofficial test times are anything to go by, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes could be capable of fighting for victory in next weekend's World Superbike season-opener at the Australian venue.
The Englishman, who took a wet win for the then PBM-run factory Kawasaki squad last year, steered his ZX-10R to the top of the timesheets on day one down under, then lapped just 0.1sec slower than reigning champion Carlos Checa (Ducati) on days two and three.
“Day three went pretty well. We tried out a lot of things again, in the hot conditions this time. We had good consistency and found a bit of a better bike balance for me” he said.
“Through all our tests we have explored a lot of areas, gathered a lot of information, but finally it looks like our base setting from winter testing is pretty good. This is the third or fourth race circuit, in a wide range of temperatures, that it has worked at. We did some fine-tuning and managed our lap times quite well.”
Both Checa and Sykes are believed to have set their best lap times on race tyres, but Sykes is taking nothing for granted.
“It is difficult to see exactly where our competitors are at in terms of set-up, but ultimately we have had a successful test and have set ourselves up nicely for the official tests next week,” he said. “Hopefully we will have two days of decent weather and that will prepare us for the beginning of the season.”
Team-mate Joan Lascorz was fifth quickest, 0.5sec from Sykes, but still has major set-up decisions to make.
“I have not decided my final settings and I need to test more at the sessions next week. We have two days to make a decision in which direction to go. I have two basic bike set-ups, both work well, but they are very different,” he explained. “One gives us a longer bike and one a shorter bike, so I need to make the decision which way to go.
“We only get to use the real race tyres at the official tests, not this test, to help me make the final decision. We have two more days on track next week and they will be very important.”
The official Phillip Island WSBK test will be held on Monday and Tuesday.