Positives taken from frustrating weekend at Portimao
Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, 15th September 2017
Milwaukee Aprilia delivered their best Superpole result of 2017 so far at Portimao, riders Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori taking P2 and P3 on the grid.
The team had shown promising pace all weekend and were consistently within the top ten in Free Practice. Both riders delivered in the pole shootout session, with blistering laps that put them on the front row together for the first time and behind only series leader Rea.
Race One proved more difficult for the team, as both Aprilia RSV4 RFs struggled with rear tyres that were losing grip throughout the race. Eugene and Lorenzo diced with Davies and Melandri for second, third and fourth, in the opening laps, defending well but ultimately lacking the rear grip to mount a serious attack or defence.
After slipping to P7 and P8 respectively, Eugene and Lorenzo were able to bring their bikes home for solid top ten points finishes and some invaluable race data for the team to analyse.
Race Two saw Eugene and Lorenzo start in good second row positions from P4 and P5. Eugene beat Van der Mark off the line to take third, and by lap three had moved to second after a strong pass on the inside of Camier. Lorenzo dropped to eighth on lap one, and engaged Melandri and Lowes in a hard fight for the position.
Eugene defended well against the rapid Davies in third, before being passed on lap six. As he struggled with rear grip again he lost third to Van der Mark, but a much-improved setup allowed him to maintain his pace and come home fourth for his best result of 2017. Lorenzo continued to fight hard, racing with Torres and Mercado for seventh. Rear grip issues affected his race again, but he passed Mercado on lap eighteen and like his teammate was able to consolidate his pace well, and took the chequered flag in sixth.
The team will test at Portimao on Monday after the race, and use the opportunity to build on the clear progress they have made this weekend as they head into the last three rounds of WorldSBK 2017.
"Saturday was a disappointment for us. We had a great qualifying result and proved to everyone and to ourselves that we have pace when we have grip. When we don't have grip the pace isn't there and the lap times drop off significantly, which Race One showed.
We can look at the riders but if we're not giving them the tools for the job then we won't get the results we're targeting, and to start P2 and P3 and finish P7 and P8 just isn't good enough.
We should be happy with what Eugene and Lorenzo did in Race Two, P4 and P6 is our best result of the year, but again we can't take much credit from it because we are still twelve seconds from the win. We get the same result whatever setting we try which is no grip, and from the halfway stage in the race we are there for the taking.
Each race we are moving closer towards the front but to be truly competitive, we need to work hard with Aprilia Racing to keep the pace over race distance. We have made steps forward again between both races and we will analyse the data from our riders and Mercado to see how the common complaint can be improved, and look towards Aprilia for the next step.
For Monday's test we have a busy programme to investigate some options based on the data from the weekend, but also to make some initial base testing on different parts in order to gain information in preparation for 2018."
Eugene Laverty #50
Race 1: Grid - P2 Finish - P7, 9 points
Race 2: Grid - P4 Finish - P4, 13 points
“Superpole was great and the bike was good for the whole session, and one lap in particular. We were really strong then and we knew we could be this weekend.
Race One was disappointing, and I knew from the start that it was going to be tough on the rear. The guys coming past me still had rear grip which made it difficult to defend, so that’s an area we had to improve on.
Race Two was definitely better for us. I was worried about the rear dropping off after a few laps like in Race One, but today but we put up a good fight and fourth was a good result.
The steps we made overnight were huge and morning warm up was fantastic. We lost a bit of pace and grip in the hotter conditions this afternoon, but I was much happier with today and we have a reason for optimism.
For Monday's test we'll be pursuing the same direction we've been following for the last few rounds. That has worked and is improving for us, and I think we will be in stronger position next time out at Magny-Cours."
Lorenzo Savadori #32
Race 1: Grid - P3 Finish - P8, 8 points
Race 2: Grid - P5 Finish - P6, 10 points
"The qualifying was good, and I was really happy with a consecutive front row start. We made some good changes to the setup from which clearly helped us in qualifying, but there is a big difference between one lap and a race distance.
I struggled with the rear grip in Race One which affected my rhythm, and it was difficult to make a pass or defend. I was OK for the first few laps, but by lap four it was losing grip.
I hope we can work on something tonight that will let us use the rear for longer and to let me push harder. For sure we have made some good steps this weekend, and we just need to keep working and I hope we can have a good result in Race Two.
Race Two was a better result for sure, but my feeling on the bike today was worse. I struggled with rear grip again. I lost a lot of time at the start, but from the middle to the end of the race my pace was quite strong and I could have challenged for P4 I think.
We did not make many big changes between Race One and Race Two, but for sure we saw an improvement in pace. Tomorrow's test will be very important for us, and we have a lot of new ideas to try before we head to the end of the season."