Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
The weather conditions were once again the main protagonist on the final day of testing for the World Superbike class at Portimao, with few riders managing to improve their times from the morning session. Only Noriyuki Haga and Eugene Laverty made any significant progress, moving up into 3rd and 4th respectively in the combined times from both of Friday's sessions.
The World Superbike riders now turn their sights towards Australia, and the opening round of the WSBK season at Phillip Island. Before that, though, there is a final test at the Australian track, to prepare for battle to commence in earnest.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spent a portion of his lunch break Thursday visiting with reporters at Daytona International Speedway, where his No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet was a respectable 11th fastest in the first morning session of a three-day test for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500.
This year's 53rd running of the Daytona 500 marks 10 years since his father, NASCAR's seven-time champ Dale Earnhardt, was killed on the last lap of NASCAR's biggest race. And while fans and the racing media are paying special attention to the sad milestone, Earnhardt said he thinks about his dad every day anyway.
"You think about your parents all the time,'' Earnhardt said, alternately bowing his head and then looking off in the distance, as he endured the inevitable questions. "I think about him and my mother all the time, especially getting back to racing.''
Earnhardt said his father would approve of the new $20 million pavement job gracing Daytona's 2.5-mile high banks. This week's test is the first time the majority of teams have tried the new surface. But Earnhardt didn't appear as concerned about the challenges of a new race surface as much as his desire to get out of a competition rut.
Earnhardt hasn't won a race in two and a half years and his 21st place finish in the 2010 standings was the second-worst of his career. The worst was a 25th-place ranking in 2009. Earnhardt will break in his third crew chief in as many years with NASCAR powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. Steve Letarte -- formerly Jeff Gordon's crew chief -- will now lead Earnhardt's No. 88 team, which will share a shop with teammate and five-time reigning Sprint Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson.
"I feel good about the position I'm in now and I feel pretty confident about it and I'm looking forward to going into the season and working hard for it,'' Earnhardt said. "We'll just see how it goes.
"When you're running good you can put up with about anything. It's not fun being on the radar when you're running like crap. But last year we sort of fell off the radar altogether.
Dale Jarrett inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame, credits Wood Brothers with ?defining moment? of his career
The track started drying out fast towards the end of the first session for the World Superbike class on the final day of testing, and it was Castrol Honda's Ruben Xaus who took full advantage, grabbing the top spot on the timesheets. Xaus had only Michel Fabrizio close, the Alstare Suzuki rider 1.2 seconds off Xaus' time, while the next man - former MotoGP rider Marco Melandri - was over seven seconds behind Xaus. The times are still a long way off the dry pace - Xaus' lap is over 5 seconds slower than the pole record held by Cal Crutchlow - and dark clouds are hanging ominously over the circuit, threatening more rain.
Testing concludes this afternoon.
The track remains wet at Portimao, but with temperatures climbing, most of the World Supersport riders present decided to brave the conditions and take to the track. Parkalgar's brand new rider Sam Lowes continues to impress, setting the fastest time of the session, ahead of PTR Bogdanka's James Ellison, a seasoned veteran, though not on a World Supersport machine. Ellison and Lowes were the only two riders to get under the two minute mark, BE1's Luca Scassa taking 3rd spot just shy of two minutes, with Kawasaki's Broc Parkes four tenths behind Scassa.