Sylvain Guintoli has admitted his performance on the first day of World Superbike free practice at Phillip Island was 'quite a big surprise', after he lapped the seaside circuit 0.384s faster than the rest of the field.
In the current Yamaha YZF R1's first weekend in the championship in an official capacity, Guintoli and the Crescent Racing outfit were pleasantly taken aback by his speed, with the Frenchman commenting the machine felt 'so good' on his fastest lap.
The 33-year old, whose advantage over the field was at odds with the proximity of the second and 13th fastest times of the day, stated that although maintaining a consistent pace over race distance is a 'different story', the R1's chassis and turning ability around Phillip Island's fast curves is a real advantage.
“I think for us it's all quite a big surprise,” began Guintoli. “I've said from the start that we've got a strong base to work with. The bike feels very balanced. The engine character works in an efficient way.
“This is the pinnacle of Superbike racing and although the bike has performed very well in various national championships, the spec and speed required here is different. We all know that the competition is very strong and for this reason it's a big surprise.
“In the test it was successful to be so close. Today the R1 felt so good on the fast lap, a really good feeling. Tomorrow and Sunday is going to be another story, because it's race distance. It's a completely different story.”
The man who pipped Tom Sykes to the 2014 championship urged caution on Friday evening but acknowledged that there is still more to come from his current package.
“This track is a little bit different. It's opened some opportunities in the past, especially on one lap. We have to take this with caution. We are doing the homework for the race but it's nice to have this ultimate one-lap pace.
“I like the fact that we have a very strong chassis base, a bike that turns very, very well and it's a bike that wants to go into the corners, especially when the average speed is high, like here. This is a good finding for us.
“But I think tomorrow is going to be a different story. We still have so much more learning and so many more improvements to make. It's just nice to be able to do this straight away but there is much more to come.”
Speaking of improvements that he hopes to make on Saturday morning before the first race starts after lunch-time, Guintoli stated only small adjustments are needed to ensure he can fight at the front in both races.
“We now have a good base setting that I feel comfortable with. It's more about working on small adjustments with the pace. What is good is that the racing, the practice session, the racing tomorrow, this is going to highlight our strengths and weaknesses. The work then will be like a mid-term work where we can focus on our weaknesses. We have a strong base and very solid ground to work on.”