I haven’t written a column for a while as we have been really busy working hard to improve the team overall and our bike. Big thanks to our full time staff; Stuart, Andy and George for the fantastic effort they have made to put us in a position to give our riders the best chance of success in 2019. Joining us this year as a chassis technician is Daniel Dadley who will be working with Stuart on the Jules Danilo side of the garage: “Welcome to the team Dan, here’s to a great season.” Andy will work with George on the Peter Sebestyen side. I can say with confidence we have built a better package and working with our riders, it is down to us all to achieve the results our bikes are capable of.
It was good news to be able to make the deal to keep Peter Sebestyen in our team after the good progression he made in the second half of 2018. We welcome Jules Danilo from Moto 2 and after the test we did with him in Portimão in January, he is aware he will have to work hard with us to achieve his and our ambition to be at the front this year.
So here we are at the end of the two days of testing at Philip Island ahead of the race weekend. We lost time with Jules on day one when he had to miss the first session due to an engine problem right at the start of the session. We have a fantastic reliability record but these things happen in racing and we will look at everything to avoid this during the race weekend and for the rest of the season.
That said Jules still had a lot of track time but struggled to get to grips with the bike on day one. In some ways this was harder for him than the Portimão test as he spent the first day comparing the feel to the Prototype Grand Prix machines he has ridden here before. Stuart worked with him to help him realise the fact that these road-based machines do not have the stiffness of chassis or the adjustability, so we can only do so much and then the rider has to make the difference with his position and riding style on the bike. On day two we have seen a good improvement from Jules as he shaved nearly one and a half seconds off his day one time to finish 16thoverall. We can see his potential to move up the order from here. He is a rider who seems to take time to settle in so this test has been good. Going into the event at the same track will stand him in good stead for the rest of the season when he will need to be on the pace faster. I know people always say this but I genuinely feel we will see a faster more competitive Jules Danilo this weekend. His longer distance runs were becoming much more consistent and we worked on a good setting for him over the two days. Now in reality we need to put the one-lap pace together for a good grid position to set Jules up for a good race come Sunday.
Peter was unable to test with us in Portimão due to the deal with his management team coming together late so this test was the first time on a bike for him this year. He has worked really hard on his fitness levels for this important year for him but there is nothing like bike time to get a rider really bike fit. This test has done that for him but we could see at the end of each day, whilst not physically tired he was a little mentally fatigued but he will be sharp for the race weekend. He also completed good race runs which is so important here as this track is so very hard on tyres as we have seen with numerous tyre failures on all makes of machines over the years. He completed long runs on both rear tyres we have with only a slight difference between the two which puts us in a confident position whichever tyre proves to be the best option for the race. We were pleased with the step he took well into the 34s after the first session on day two and could see his potential to make the next step to be in the battle from 6thto 10thgroup. Whilst he all but matched his time in the second session and did more laps in the 34s, that one-lap pace to put him into the top ten was not there. As I said before, a factor here in my opinion is the concentration needed for two full days of testing playing a part in him not being able to better his time at the end of the second session on day 2 after a long time off the race bike since the end of last season. That said one-lap pace is always difficult for Peter and with a very good base setting for him for the race and a good pace on race runs we can concentrate on that one special lap needed to give him a good qualification and the best chance to start the season on a high.
We are all looking forward to it so let’s see what we can do this weekend.