Kawasaki Racing Team’s riders Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes had another new experience to add to their bank of WorldSBK knowledge on the new Ninja ZX-10RR thanks to a confidence-building two day test session at the Circuito de Navarra.
Although controlling their track time to save on their limited number of testing days available in 2021 both Rea and Lowes learned valuable lessons at the 3.933km long Navarra circuit in Northern Spain. These will prove useful when the championship itself visits a track that will be an all-new one on the WorldSBK calendar this year.
Rea concentrated on making sure both he and his Ninja ZX-10RR would arrive at Navarra for race weekend ready to put in the best performance possible, rather than pushing for a fast time at this particular test.
In his first experience of this relatively new circuit in Spain Rea found it challenging and fun to ride, with all kinds of corners and a greater change of elevation in some sectors than he had been expecting. After the first day he changed his riding approach and found benefits on a track neither he nor the team had any data for until this test.
For Lowes this ‘mid-season’ test was an important one to allow him and his technical crew to try some new things based on the experience of the first three rounds on the new Ninja ZX-10RR. He was able to set fast early times, but fell twice on day two. Unhurt, Alex’s confidence was not dented and he now looks forward to his home round in the UK in early July, and the return to Navarra to race there later this summer.
In the overall timesheets after day two Rea was third quickest with a best lap time of 1’36.970, putting him just 0.093 seconds from the fastest time. Lowes was fifth overall, with a 1’37.343 best lap.
After the first three rounds of the FIM Superbike World Championship and now this Navarra test have been completed the next points-scoring round will take place at Donington Park in the UK, between 2-4 July. It is the first home race for both Jonathan and Alex in two years, after the cancellation of the planned 2020 Donington event.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It has been a really positive two days. I learned the circuit and it is a very difficult circuit to go fast at, to be fair. It has lots of little intricacies and challenges. From a technical point of view it is very challenging. I enjoyed working it out. On day one I learned the track quite quickly but I wasn’t comfortable to keep pushing the bike. On day two I woke up after sleeping on all my feelings and the data we gathered on day one, and I was able to be quite fast straight away. I carried that rhythm through. We found a lot of valuable information that will be good for race weekend and it will definitely allow us to make a shortcut in our set-up time when we start out in free practice one. This track has some mixtures of everything. Some super-fast corners but also some very tight and twisty sections in sectors two and three. The race is going to be a nice one. The main priority here was to learn and I am looking forward to Donington now for our next race weekend.”
Alex Lowes, stated: “I really enjoyed the Navarra circuit in my first time there. I had a good feeling on the bike and I was able to try everything that I wanted to and with a couple of things we tried on corner entry we were partly thinking about Donington, which is our next race. This was also positive. Unfortunately today I had a couple of crashes; made a couple of mistakes. Apart from that, it has been a great test. I leave here happy with the bike, enjoying the Ninja ZX-10RR, and it was a really good test for us. That gives me some confidence going into the next round, which is my home round at Donington Park. So we are really happy.”
Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea, stated: “The test has been positive. Yesterday we did a half day on track. Johnny was learning the layout and where the most important places were. It is a very different track to ride compared to the ones we are used to. Also, technically, we started to collect information because this is an all new track for us. We had no data, nothing. We found the base but day one was not an easy day because it was a very different track, very bumpy. But we did the job. Today we kept focusing on the most important points and leave here with some base settings to start the race weekend in Navarra. Finally, Johnny was fast with the SC0 tyre and also on the SCX tyre he was strong. Considering we did a half day yesterday and a half day today I think we are in a good place to start the race weekend.”
Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Alex Lowes, stated: “This was the first time we had been to Navarra and the target was to learn the track as much as possible, and of course to prepare ourselves for the race in August. From the very beginning Alex was fast, one of the fastest on track, and he learned the layout very quickly. We also confirmed our base set-up was working well here. Of course we also tested a few items. After three rounds of the season we know more or less where to improve. So we did a couple of small tests on the bike which worked out very positively. On the second day Alex had two crashes, which can happen; it is part of the job sometimes. But we also reached our target of confirming our machine set-up for race weekend. Overall it has been a really positive test here. Now we can switch off for a couple of days and get ready for Donington and the next round.”