Track Record And Two National Champions On Pirelli Tires In World Superbike Winter Test

24-25th January 2009, Portimao (Portugal) - When newcomer and British SBK champion Shane Byrne finished his second day of testing and discovered that he had broken the track record on Pirelli DIABLO SUPERBIKE tires, a record set by world champion Troy Bayliss just this past November, it was his eye-opening initiation to the upcoming season. Byrne's new rival and 2008 AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, another recent addition to the Superbike paddock and new to Pirelli Tires, finished the same session less than 0.2 seconds behind on his Yamaha R1.

These new additions to the Superbike starting grid, along with Noriyuki Haga taking over for the retired Bayliss on the Ducati Xerox team, promises a season filled with talent and valuable new feedback for Pirelli tire development. The commitment from BMW Motorrad and Aprilia to enter the series with factory teams completes this rich and competitive environment, both manufacturers who have the experience and technical competence to compete for the title.

With the reconfirmation of its agreement with Infront Motor Sports for the supply of tires through the year 2012, the support from Pirelli will not waiver as the series' visibility on a worldwide stage increases. 2009 may very well prove to be the year of World Superbike.

For this preseason test, Pirelli offered approximately 4,500 tires with 40 different solutions for the two classes in participation, Superbike and Supersport, assembling a variety of racing-slicks, intermediate, full-rain and DOT tires, with the goal of combining ultimate performance, safety and durability. As is typical, on the first day Pirelli technicians do not use the newly developed tires but reviewed the best solutions selected from the previous season. The technical staff of Pirelli that is committed to improving lap times is comprised of team support staff, compound experts and dynamic modelling engineers (3D).

Pirelli technicians arrived to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve prepared to continue this season's development, which began in South African, on a track proving to be the ideal test environment, considering the challenging elevation changes, a new surface and variable weather conditions. The Superbike riders were given ample time on Saturday morning to utilize the various wet solutions which are often necessary at tracks like Donington Park and Magny-Cours, as the rain had been off and on since arrival to the track on Thursday. Anxious to work in these conditions, the two brand new BMW S1000RRs of Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus posted the two fastest times of 1'50.946 and 1'51.269 on Pirelli DIABLO RAIN tires.

Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Pirelli DIABLO SUPERBIKE tires were mounted and times were steadily decreasing until Shane Byrne ran his fastest time on the 15th lap of the session, breaking Bayliss's track record of 1'43.340 by just 0.05 seconds. Ben Spies, the lone American in the superbike grid and 2008 AMA Superbike champion, began his experience with Pirelli at the very top, having posted the second best time of the day. Haga nearly equalled Spies time with just three thousandths of a gap, having made a smooth jump from Yamaha to Ducati. Pirelli and Infront Motor Sports agreed last year to a modification of the Superpole process, in which the first 20 riders from qualifying, instead of the one-lap qualifying for Superbike grid, make three 12-minute qualifying sessions in 7-minute intervals, a method which is adopted for a more exciting television broadcast. The first session will eliminate four riders, and the second session will eliminate eight, thus accounting for the first five rows of competition. This shall require more tire-strategy calculations, as riders are permitted to change tires during the intervals between the three Superpole sessions.

This testing weekend offered the first demonstration of this new format, during which Byrne took the pole on his Ducati 1098R, almost besting his track record set the day before.

Max Neukirchner was up to speed, finding the right setting and taking advantage of the qualifiers with a time just 0.091 seconds off pace.

The second rule change affecting this season's racing structure is the new flag-to-flag procedure to be followed once the green flag drops. In this rule, a Superbike race will no longer be called on account of weather, thus requiring all riders to have a second bike prepared with rain setup, if weather is predicted to change at the start of the race.

Supersport is the class in which Pirelli is developing products dedicated to the end-user, having been able to transfer many the performance characteristics of the DIABLO SUPERCORSA to street products which are now fitted on bikes such as the Ducati 1198 and Triumph 675.

The Spanish Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz dropped his times by 4 seconds over the sessions from Friday, posting the best time of 1'45.214 just 0.5 seconds in front of former British Superbike rider Cal Crutchlow, now riding for Yamaha World Supersport team. Kenan Sufuoglu, world champion rider from 2007 HANNspree Ten Kate team, has returned to his 600cc bike and put in the third best time of the day with 1'45.397.