Tom Sykes has given a glowing report card after the first official winter test in Aragon with the new World Superbike-specification Kawasaki ZX-10R, with the team confirming improvements in braking stability and engine performance.
The opening three-day World Superbike winter test was stalled by rain and poor conditions at the Motorland Aragon circuit but the sun burst the clouds on the final day to give Sykes a full day of running, notching up 139 laps of the 5.077km circuit over the entire test.
The Yorkshire rider says he has already noticed a remarkable improvement in his feeling with the Kawasaki machine which helped his consistency on both fresh and worn tyres, producing a best lap time of 1m 50.6s despite not hunting outright single lap pace. For context, when World Superbikes visited Aragon in April for round three of the 2015 championship Aprilia's Leon Haslam grabbed Superpole with a 1m 49.664s.
“We are heading back in a good direction to something we know,” Sykes said. “We ironed out some teething problems and got a general feel for things on the opening days and then today, when the sun was out from start to finish, we got our heads down and worked through a whole book of tricks.
“The team worked overtime, parts in, parts out, all day. They all worked really efficiently and kept us on track for the maximum time possible.
“The overall performance of the Ninja ZX-10R at these tests is something that excites me. Overall the lap times were really consistent. The feeling was easier to achieve than I have been used to. It is still early days but this has definitely been a good start to our winter test programme.”
Sykes' Crew Chief Marcel Duinker also says the team is satisfied with the work achieved and it now has a clear 'three or four steps' of direction for the rest of winter testing.
“Tom pushed in the same way every time he went out on track and we were very happy to see the results,” Duinker explained. “He did more than race distance on one set of tyres and was a faster than the previous pace, so we have to be happy with the result. After one full day I believe we have already done around 50% of our winter test schedule.
“Tom did not do a full time attack but on fresh tyres, on his fourth lap, he did a best of 1'50.6. He did that kind of lap time several times.”
Ichiro Yoda, Kawasaki Racing Team Senior Engineer, says the team used a mix of 2015 and 2016 parts to uncover gains in Aragon and once it reconvenes for its second winter test in Jerez the focus will solely be on next year.
“We will look to the Jerez test to perform some more function tests,” Yoda added. “We used a mix of materials here, but mostly 2016 parts. Maybe in Jerez we can concentrate almost completely on 2016 material because we expect some other steps.
“After this first test it looks like engine performance and acceleration is better than in 2015. Braking stability was better also.”
Kawasaki now heads to the Andalusia circuit of Jerez on the 3-4 November where new WSBK champion Jonathan Rea will re-join the team after the birth of his second child.