With media day at Phillip Island
The 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship switched up a gear today with the traditional pre-event media conference and official photos at the Phillip Island circuit, venue for this weekend's opening round, which gets underway with
practice and qualifying on Friday.
Given the interest in this year's championship, the press conference was a crowded affair. 11 Superbike and 7 Supersport riders took the opportunity to chat with the national and international media about their chances for this year and their thoughts on this weekend's race.
With the retirement of Troy Bayliss, his fellow Aussie Troy Corser has now, affectionately speaking, become the senior citizen of World Superbike and the Phillip Island lap record holder showed that he has lost none of the determination of his earlier years as he lines up for the debut season of German manufacturer BMW.
"Yes, who would have thought a few years ago that I would have been racing a BMW in World Superbike! It was a late start for us as I had to wait until my previous contract expired before I could test the bike, but we've made some good progress. Every time we've made a test, I've given them information and they've gone away and made some improvements, so fingers crossed we can keep doing that this year. Maybe for some people it's a bit of a gamble, but I think I've got enough experience to get to the front."
Max Biaggi faces a new challenge as well as he attempts to guide Aprilia back to Superbike success as the Italian manufacturer returns to the production-based series for the first time since 2002.
"The start of the season for me is different to last year and the year before that, because nothing was there when I started this new project with Aprilia. We had to make everything happen, and now we are trying to build this together. We have strong ambitions and want to try to make things happen this year. I love my team, they are great people, I pushed for them to come with me and be in the same team as years ago."
All eyes will also be on American Ben Spies, who will be attempting to transform his AMA triumphs into similar results on the world stage for Yamaha.
"The team is really good, the bike was a big change in switching to Yamaha from another manufacturer, and the tyres are new. Even for Yamaha the bike is new, so it's a big change for them too. It's been going really good so far, but it's going to be a tough year. There are a lot of fast guys around here and I'm used to racing pretty much one, now it's ten who can win the title so it's a really good series."
After many years racing a four-cylinder Yamaha, Noriyuki Haga this season switches to a twin-cylinder Ducati. The Japanese rider explained the differences he has encountered so far in pre-season testing.
"The biggest difference is of course the engine characteristics, in acceleration especially. Turning for me is not so different so far, but the riding feels more smoothly and more comfortable. Because the bike is already ready for winning, always I have big pressure because I have to win this season."
The opening round of the 2009 championship sees seven official manufacturers present and thirty-one permanent riders enrolled in the series, all racing on Pirelli control tyres. Local riders have won 23 of the 35 world superbike races held at Phillip Island over 18 years, with Corser leading the way on seven wins, followed by Troy Bayliss (six) and Anthony Gobert (five). The other Phillip Island winners in this year's field are Noriyuki Haga and Régis Laconi.