Honda riders Jonathan Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama have completed a three-day test at Phillip Island in Australia in preparation for the 2012 World Superbike championship, which opens at the same circuit on 26 February.
The Honda duo took advantage of warm, dry weather at the picturesque 4.5km circuit two hours south of Melbourne to test the 2012 version of the CBR1000RR Fireblade – the 20th anniversary variant of Honda’s iconic sportsbike.
The team took a host of new chassis and suspension components to test in Australia and continued the development of its electronic ride-by-wire throttle system introduced in the second half of the 2011 World Superbike campaign.
Rea starts his fourth season on the Fireblade and, following an injury-blighted 2011, the 24-year-old Northern Irishman is looking forward to a consistent title challenge this year. For 2012 he is partnered by Japanese ace Hiroshi Aoyama, 30, the 2009 World 250cc champion, who joins the World Superbike team following two years as a Honda MotoGP rider.
While no lap times were released by the team, manager Ronald ten Kate declared himself very satisfied with the development of the new machine. The team will return to Phillip Island for a two-day official test on 20-21 February before the opening round of the 2012 championship.
We’ve had a good three days, completed a lot of laps and tested a whole heap of new parts. We’ve also done quite a few long runs and race simulations which, to be honest, was really good – for the simulation we did today, we even used the lights! The full race-run allows us to see exactly where we are, even though the disadvantage of testing on your own is that you’ve got no-one to measure yourself against.
But the whole team is working really well and I’m really enjoying riding the bike again. Step-by-step we’re making things better and, although when you test this many parts you can end up going round in circles, I think we’ve got a bike with a good base setting to go into the 2012 season with.
I’ve really enjoyed the first test of the season on the new 2012 bike. I had some good feelings from the test in Qatar in December, but the feeling here at Phillip Island was quite different. We had to do a lot of work on the first two days but I learned a lot and on each day the feeling got better. We did a race simulation today and it was very interesting to experience the deterioration of the tyre.
We need to make some more steps and, if we can do that, it’ll be an exciting race next month! For sure, I need to ride a lot more to try to learn the bike and the tyres because everything is still very new. I’m sure I will need a couple of races to get familiar with everything.
Ronald ten Kate – team manager
We had high track temperatures here, which is something we struggled with during last year’s event, so it was a very useful test. The new chassis and suspension parts that we brought here were all working well and we were able to reconfirm some of the parts we tested before. The overall package as part of the 2012 Fireblade is definitely a step forward and the new fairing has improved stability. It was properly tested too, because there was a strong wind coming up the straight on the first day!
With both riders, the bike has been able to give them a single fast lap time, but the race simulations we did today were also encouraging. We can pack up tonight with a good feeling and we still have another month to come up with some more ideas back at the workshop. But, honestly, we couldn’t have wished for more from this test.