|Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK and the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team continued their preparations for the 2021 FIM Superbike World Championship with the first of two tests at MotorLand Aragón, with the Alstare Yamaha WorldSBK Supported Team also getting some mileage ahead of their championship return.
Of the Yamaha runners, GRT Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff went quickest, with his time of 1’49.439 good enough for third overall, while the five riders combined for 493 laps of the 5.344 km circuit.
American rider Gerloff has so far enjoyed an impressive pre-season, after strong performances in both the Misano and Barcelona tests, and that form continued at Aragón. The 25-year-old spent the opening day working on race set-up, trialling new shocks on his 2021 Yamaha R1 and laying down the groundwork ahead of the season opener here on 21-23 May.
After posting the fourth fastest time on day one, Gerloff continued to up his pace throughout the second day and set his fastest lap in the afternoon, while track conditions were at their best. Not only was his time good enough for third overall, but the Texan finished with the most laps of the Yamaha riders, with 125 completed.
At Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK, due to the cold temperatures Andrea Locatelli’s side of the garage elected to sit out the first morning of testing, meaning they could allocate another half-day of regulated testing for a later date. The Italian completed 52 laps in the afternoon, which included a small off at Turn 4, and the limited running meant he could only manage sixth fastest by the end of the day.
On the second day, Locatelli continued to get to grips with the tricky Aragón circuit, and he too improved his time late in the test, with the 24-year-old’s best effort of 1’50.257 putting him fifth overall, having done 118 laps across his one-and-a-half days of running.
GRT Yamaha 2021 newcomer Kohta Nozane had expected this test to be his toughest yet, owing to the difficult nature of the technical Spanish venue and relative inexperience of the WorldSBK-spec Yamaha R1 and Pirelli tyres. The Japanese rider made gradual progress and was ninth fastest after the opening day’s running.
An early fall on the second day knocked Nozane’s confidence, but he was still able to improve his pace by half-a-second, with a best lap of 1’51.277 seeing him end the two days in eighth. The reigning All Japan Road Race JSB1000 champion completed 118 laps of the Alcañiz venue and looks forward to more track time here at the upcoming second test (21-22 April).
With Toprak Razgatlıoğlu forced to miss the first Aragón test, after returning another positive Covid-19 result on Saturday 10 April, Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official rider and Yamaha WorldSBK rider coach Niccolò Canepa was called upon to step in at Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK.
Carrying an ankle injury from a recent testing crash, rather than chase outright lap speed and performance, Canepa completed some important development work on the opening day, and left the test with 38 laps on the board.
Alstare Yamaha also completed a successful test with their rider Christophe Ponsson, who ended the two days with the ninth best time on a 1’52.269 after 94 laps of the Aragón circuit.
Garrett Gerloff: P3 – 1’49.439 / 125 laps
GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team
“I am so happy with the amount of information that we now have. We have sorted out a lot of things which allowed us to improve with different temperatures and wind conditions. The wind affects the feeling you have around the whole track, because it completely changes the braking points, as well as how fast the bike can turn into the corners, making some of them feel horrible because you cannot turn at all. That’s why the experience of these two days is so valuable. I know I have a strong bike and I’m happy with how we are working as a team.”
Andrea Locatelli: P5 – 1’50.257 / 118 laps
Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK
“It’s a very strange feeling, because I had crashes on both days – but they were so crazy strange crashes! I felt sorry for the guys and the whole team, because we were unable to continue to work on track with these disruptions – having to stop and repair the bike or use alternative parts from the test plan. In the end, we were able to ride a little bit and improve, it was not so bad in the end. A very strange test here for me, but now we will see for the next test. We can analyse everything and the goal is to stay focused and to return here with a plan to improve again.”
Kohta Nozane: P8 – 1’51.277 / 118 laps
GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team
“As I expected, it was very difficult for me to adapt to this track. This morning, though, I started off with a very good feeling, but then I messed up and crashed in Turn 2, damaging the bike. The team worked hard to fix it, but the crash affected my feeling negatively. Overall, I did not have a good pace, I expected more. But, fortunately, next week we will test here again, so I will immediately have another chance to improve.”
Christophe Ponsson: P9 – 1’52.269 / 94 laps
Alstare Yamaha WorldSBK Supported Team
“I’m much more confident and comfortable in myself and on the bike than I was in Barcelona. I’m still not completely comfortable with my position on the bike, so we need to try something new for the next test. The Yamaha R1 is new to me too, I need to adapt to it and understand it fully, so I can see which area I need to improve. I’ve enjoyed riding this bike at Aragón, I’ve never really been that fast on this track so this is positive. First of all I need to adjust my riding style and make some other changes, and then we’ll see later what I can do.”
Niccolò Canepa: P10 – 1’53.348 / 38 laps
“I was not expecting to ride here in Aragon, and I feel sorry for Toprak, but for me it was a good chance to understand the level of my fitness after the surgery on my ankle. I was able to test something quite important, and even if I was not able to be at my normal level it was enough to work with the guys and make some quite big improvements. I was in some pain at the end of the day but even with that, it was great to ride the R1 WorldSBK machine and do some productive work.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“First of all, it’s sad that Toprak isn’t with us here in Aragón. We took the opportunity to do some development work with Niccolò and I must thank him, because he was still not quite fit. We got some interesting information for future development. This has been an important test for us because it’s a track we struggled at last year and I’m confident that what we have learned over these two days will be beneficial for the race. It looks like the development over the winter has given us a clear indication of where we’ve improved. We have time to further develop the package for the next test and the opener. Garrett has constantly improved the feeling with the bike on both the race and softer compound tyres, and I can see that there is more to come. Kohta is still learning, it’s another new track for him and again we’ve seen improvements, particularly with the softer tyre and to be fast also with the race tyre. Andrea has been working on the race pace and has given us some positive feedback. He lost time with the small off but it’s part of the learning process. Christophe is starting to understand the bike more and more, and we’re confident that with more experience he’ll be able to extract more potential from the Yamaha R1. These two days were a little cooler than what we expect in the next test and race, so what we’ve learned across these two days could be confirmed when the temperature is higher.”