COR, IT SOON COMES ROUND TO THAT TIME OF THE YEAR, DOESN'T IT?! THE TIME FOR STANDING OUT ON A FORMER AIRFIELD WHITH THE WIND BLOWING THROUGH YOUR HAIR. OUR MOTORSPORT EDITOR, DAVE NEAL IS BACK FOR 2021 TO OFFER HIS VIEWS, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, IT SEEMS...
It was a blustery, cold time for the Bennetts British Superbike teams and the support classes to reconvene after the winter (even if it felt like it was still was!) and despite the meteorological conditions, the track action was red hot!
As is the way for testing, the bodywork on most motorcycles was on the whole 'disposable' (which is as good a word as any) although a number of the Superbike teams ran full liveries - and suitably brand new they looked, too, with a tip of the hat to FHO Racing who's livery looks outstanding courtesy of former BSB champ Tommy Hill with many others to be released before the season begins. The action on track didn't disappoint as the shorter National layout kept times as tighter than a camel's backside in a sandstorm.
Dropping 2 seconds in two days between session one and session eight around a sub-minute lap was progress indeed and for Honda Racing's Glenn Irwin to post the fastest-ever two-wheel lap of the National circuit is something particularly impressive. It's hard to glean too much information from a test due to the nature of the game but to peddle his Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR-R around Northamptonshire at that level will fill the effervescent Ulsterman with even more confidence (good luck keeping that bottled, Harv!). Japanese new boys Mizuno and Takahashi made a solid impression as they learned the circuit and the Pirelli rubber.
Looking down the timesheets we can pick out some more notable performances especially from the Suzuki riders at a track that REALLY suits that motorcycle. RICH Energy OMG Racing with Josh Elliott and Buildbase Suzuki with Kyle Ryde last year all know that the layout favours the GSX-R1000 and the test showed once again just how suited they are with both former Moto3 World Champion, Danny Kent, and interloper Luke Stapleford on the Superstock bike both topped a session each. Kawasaki has rolled out a new bike for 2021 with FS-3 in the hands of Lee Jackson and Rory Skinner, the former taking on the brunt of the development while his rookie teammate gets to grips with a superbike for the first time.
There'll be a battle royale for top BMW honours as no less than 4 teams - BMW Motorrad-backed SYNETIQ BMW, RICH Energy OMG Racing, FHO Racing, and iForce Lloyd & Jones will all run the new BMW M1000RR. Competition is already tight after the first round of testing with RICH Energy OMG Racing's Kyle Ryde taking the early plaudits with a commendable display on only his first days on the new machine however the rest of the Bavarian bunch were only a gnat's nadger away on overall time across all eight sessions.
Over in the Pirelli National Superstock class, yellowbelly Tim Neave 'won' the sole day on track aboard his Buildbase BMW Suzuki GSX-R1000 with a time that equated to the square root of bugger all from RICH Energy OMG Racing's Billy McConnell and reigning champion Chrissy Rouse. Knowing nod of the day goes to Aussie Brayden Elliott who is really starting to find his feet in the class after a couple of tough seasons bagging the fifth-fastest time.
British Supersport and GP2 have seen a shakeup in riders and teams and a strong new factory team joining the fray in the shape of Dynavolt Triumph. The Hinkley-backed squad, running in the capable hands of Simon Buckmaster, have not only a very good motorcycle but also two very capable riders in the shape of former World Supersport man Kyle Smith, the most Yorkshire Spaniard you'll ever meet and Daytona 200 winner and New Jersey's former Motostar Champion, Brandon Paasch. There's a conundrum over the 765cc Triumph power plant that will take some working out by World Superbike tech guru, Scott Smart; just how do you make it a level playing field - he'll be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't as he readily admitted to #GYND on Thursday as he was sharpening his pencils and charging his calculator!
Not long after he announced his health issues and whether he could ride this season, Ashcourt Racing's Lee Johnston topped the day from Harry Truelove and Supersport rookie, Rhys Irwin. GP2 honours were taken by Welshman Dan Jones on his IForce Lloyd & Jones Moto2 machine. The Dynavolt Triumphs finished eighth and thirteenth on their debut.
In the combined Junior Superstock/Ducati TriOptions sessions Dave Jones and current Ducati Cup champion Josh Day lead the times ahead of the fastest Junior Superstock rider, Jack Nixon. The former Motostar contender looked smooth on track as he fought off the efforts of McManus and Kade Verwey. The 600cc axe-murderers class will be one to watch for 2021 after dominant champion Ben Luxton moved on to the bigger Superstock class.
Finally, those bunking off school to spin laps at the home of MotoGP were allowed out to play for the day on Thursday as the Honda British Talent Cup shared track time with the HEL Performance Junior Supersport mob. BTC contender Evan Belford took the honours by just 0.002s which is about *holds thumb and forefinger together* 'that' close! The best of the Junior Supersport brigade was Ash Barnes (not the Burnley striker, obviously - he's far too heavy...and old!) a good 0.3 faster than James McManus.
Hostilities resume at Snetterton after the Bank Holiday weekend and #GYND will bring you a full round-up after the three-day event!