These days we always use the summer break to do development for the next season, the reason being it is longer than the winter break. This allows us to test any improvements we can make with the engine, chassis and electronic package. We also look at ways we can improve the running of the team. We have a great team unit but we must always be open to looking at ways to do things in a better, more efficient way.
Certainly with electronics we now have a lot to do and improve with the announcement that we can all use Mectronik ECU which is already used by Yamaha, MV and Triumph although the latter does not matter so much now since Luke Stapleford moved to Yamaha. We have been working hard since the last race in Misano and went directly from there to Rossi Racing to run the engine on Mectronik ECU for the first time. Mectronik were there of course and in two and a half days we went from nothing to the engine running efficiently and ready for testing on track. It does not end there though, we had a prototype wiring loom through Mectronik with a company called Techocable building a one-off loom. Of course, this was never going to be easy as we wanted to continue with Motec data logging as if not we would not be able to overlay all our previous data. It certainly gave my senior technician Stuart Millen plenty to think about. Even though they had our loom as an example, all the connectors were wrong so it made for a lot of work. After much conversation with Mectronik we now have the system up and running, although we did not have rear wheel speed for our test in Portimao on Monday and Tuesday together with Red Bull Honda who booked the track.
As a team, this test gave us the chance to work with Peter Sebestyen to find the best possible chassis balance for him and Kyle, and work for better tyre life and improved rear grip. Kyle concentrated on working with the new ECU so this ensured we got the most out of our test.
The weather was very hot, always above 30 degrees air and at times over 50 degrees track temperature. We also only had standard SC1 tyres as with no Pirelli presence, we took all our own tyres to the test. This was never about trying to break the lap record; it was about working with the new ECU and getting the bikes to the highest level possible going into the last four rounds.
I have to say I am pleased with how the test went for both riders. Despite no rear wheel speed, meaning we could not get full benefit from engine braking with the new ECU, at the end of the test Kyle commented that it was as least as good, if not a little bit better than our current kit system. It is also stronger in some areas of acceleration so to be at this stage so early in the development bodes well and we are all excited about the last four races and continuing to improve. We knew we had to look at this as a development over the rest of this year for the future, so to be where we are so soon in the program is indeed more than encouraging. Mectronik will be with us for the Portimao event and I am confident the problem with rear wheel speed will be solved quite quickly and we can make bigger strides forward. I think we can make a step up in Portimao and can’t wait to get started in FP1.
Peter continued to impress us all with his professional approach to improving. Although we have been running our bike a long time now and we have our working window as there is not much you can change chassis-wise, we had the time to find the exact point in the window that works best for Peter. We tried some settings with Ohlins that would not normally be possible in a race weekend as, in effect we only have two proper sessions before going into qualifying. Even then we all have to try to be in the top ten at the end of Friday to avoid being in SP1 and a shoot out to be the fastest two riders to go into final qualifying. Always a gamble as inevitably there are always surprises and fast riders in the sessions who are not expected to be.
Peter did crash at turn 8 with two and a half hours of day 2 left causing too much damage to get back out on track; but although he was very disappointed with himself, we all make mistakes and I told him not to worry about this and be happy with the progress he had made. I am confident he will be well inside the points come the race. Peter rode with the Honda kit electronic system as he has only just started to ride our bike and having too many new things to learn normally becomes a minus. We discussed this and all agreed together this is the best way. We will consider what is best for Peter for the rest of the year to get the best possible results for him and show his true potential which I truly believe will surprise quite a lot of people.
To summarise, we made good progress and came away knowing we have a better package for both our riders going into the final four races and looking towards 2019. Knowing that with a level playing field in electronics we will finally be able to put the myth of a ‘Yamaha Cup’ to bed and both Honda and Kawasaki will make the 2019 World Supersport Championship even more exciting than this year’s. With both World Superbike and British Superbike Championships looking like foregone conclusions with quite a lot of the season still left in both cases, it is great that World Supersport is producing such good racing.