Posted: 09 Mar 2014
With the World Superbike season in full swing and Qatar just around the corner for MotoGP, the 2014 British Superbike on-track action kicked off over the last week in Spain.
The main action could be found at Cartagena, where two of British Superbike’s top teams were on track with their new signings, including Tyco Suzuki, present with John ‘Hopper’ Hopkins making his return to British Superbike just two years after he missed out on the title by 0.006 seconds. Not only did the test mark Hopkins’ return to BSB but also his first outing on a racing motorcycle in over eighteen months, with the Anglo-American taking a hiatus from racing over the last year to recover from various injuries.
It didn’t take the former MotoGP racer long to get back into the groove of things, with reports suggesting the new-Dad was setting consistent times towards the end of the test. Alongside Hopkins was new team mate, Josh Waters, who is hoping to rekindle his successful past with Suzuki after a tough debut year in British Superbikes with Yamaha. Running similar pace to Hopkins throughout the test, the twice Australian Superbike champion is looking good so far.
With no timing systems at the circuit, unofficial times and comments from teams and riders is all we have to go off in terms of establishing an order but it would seem it was the Milwaukee Yamaha squad setting the pace in Cartagena. The test was Josh Brookes’ first chance to try out Shaun Muir’s Yamaha R1 and it would seem the twice British Superbike runner up got to grips with his new steed relatively quickly, the Australian claiming on Twitter that he was lapping within the 1’34 bracket by the end of the test.
Brookes’ team mate, Tommy Bridewell came out of the blocks as he meant to go on, after a strong finish to the 2014 season with the Milwaukee Yamaha outfit. 2014 will be Bridewell’s first full-year in a top BSB team and the fast west countryman is certainly looking to make an impression, setting the fastest time overall during the test. He fell unhurt from his Yamaha R1 in the morning session on Day three. Ian Hutchinson was also on-track on his FFX Yamaha.
Also present in Cartagena was Millsport Racing with new signing Jakub Smrz. The Czech seemed to be comfortable on his return to Ducati, with whom he had considerable World Superbike success. Coming close to the pace of Bridewell on the final day, it could be looking up for Ducati in BSB. Keith Farmer was also at Cartagena with PR Kawasaki.
British Supersport rider, Taylor Mackenzie and road racing rider William Dunlop joined their Tyco Suzuki team mates on circuit with MacKenzie suffering a huge highside on the first day of testing. Dunlop spent the time acclimatising to the Suzuki GSXR machines he’ll be riding on the roads this year. Martin Jessopp was also testing on his Riders BMW S 1000 RR, stating on Facebook that he’d “not felt this comfortable on a bike in a long time”. Alastair Seeley was also at the test with MAR-TRAIN Yamaha and Keith Flint's TTC Supersport team were also present with James Rispoli.
Further down the Spanish coast, Anvill TAG Racing were testing at Jerez with Richard Cooper and Mitchell Carr getting their first experience of TAG’s 2014 British Superbike spec Kawasaki ZX10Rs with both riders content with progress made.
Meanwhile, away from the Spanish sunshine, Halsall Racing took to Oulton Park where youngster Harry Hartley got his first taste of the Kawasaki he’ll campaign in British Superbikes this season.
Testing in Spain continues throughout the month, culminating with an official British Superbike test at Almeria 26-28 March.