GBmoto Kawasaki signing Gary Johnson made a flying start to his preparations for the new international road racing season after completing two extensive pre-season tests in Spain.
The Broughton man clocked up the laps on the ZX-10R Superbike and Superstock machines he will ride this season at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix, participating in Barry’s Symmons annual Pro Test at Cartagena over four days before travelling onwards to Gaudix in southern Spain for a further three-day shakedown.
Double TT winner Johnson, who has also tied up a deal to contest the Supersport class this season with Ulster’s Mar-Train Yamaha team after losing his ride on the Smiths Triumph to Guy Martin, will benefit from factory Kawasaki backing this year.
The manufacturer’s commitment to the team’s roads quest was underlined by the appearance of highly respected engineer Ichiro Yoda at both tests, who was instrumental in Kawasaki’s World Superbike title success in 2013 with Tom Sykes.
“Although the team might not have any roads experience, I’m really pleased with how we’ve progressed and I’m already impressed with both the Superstock and Superbike machines,” said Johnson.
“We managed to work through everything we wanted to and I’m confident that the package we have is already strong but with two more tests planned before the North West we’re in a very good place.
“Having Yoda san in the garage was a real privilege and having his knowledge on hand has really helped us take a big step forward.”
GBmoto Racing is making its first foray into international road racing in 2015 and team principal Mark Smith-Halvorsen said ‘incredible progress’ had been made over the course of the seven days of testing in Spain.
“It’s been an extremely confidence inspiring seven days testing and our road racing team has made incredible progress,” he said.
“This is thanks to not only the huge effort the guys in the garage have put in, but also the knowledge and feedback Gary has provided.
“Both Cartagena and Guadix have proved to be the ideal testing ground to ensure we now have a strong base setting on both bikes and it was pleasure to welcome Ichiro Yoda into our garage, whose wealth of knowledge proved unrivalled,” he added.
“We will now take both bikes back to our base where they’ll undergo our usual level of preparation ahead of a further test at Donington in a few weeks.”
Johnson, who is among the star-studded line-up of riders set to attend Tuesday’s official launch of the Isle of Man TT races in Douglas, will have the chance for more track time on the Kawasaki machines at Donington on March 26 and Oulton Park on April 24 before making his race debut in the GBmoto colours at the North West 200.
Meanwhile, MotoGP rookie Eugene Laverty will complete the final pre-season test of the year in Qatar on Monday evening ahead of the opening round of the championship at the Losail International Circuit on March 29, which will be held under the floodlights at the spectacular desert venue.
The Aspar Honda rider was 18th fastest on day two of the test, lapping in 1m 56.342s as he finished 1.435s off the fastest time set by Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.
Italian rider Dovizioso, riding the new GP15 Desmosedici, headed the times from reigning world champion Marc Marquez, who was 0.184s in arrears, with Andrea Iannone third fastest on the second of the factory Ducati machines after leading the way on day one.
Under the guidance of Gigi Dall’Igna, the brand new GP15 machine seems to be cured of the notorious handling issues that have dogged Ducati in recent seasons and the iconic Italian manufacturer has made a big impression during pre-season testing, with Dovizioso and Iannone featuring prominently on the timesheets.
Movistar Yamaha pair Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were fourth and fifth fastest quickest respectively with Marquez’s team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, completing the first six.
British rider Cal Crutchlow was next on the LCR Honda.