It doesn't feel like a motorsport circuit. No hubbub of people, no cheers, no colours, no sense of occasion. There is the familiar howl of bespoke racing motorcycles and those distinctive noises of a throttle being closed, a popping and swoop into the turns. Grandstands that are normally full hypnotise with the seemingly endless rows of vacant identical seating.
This is a (vital) stage of motorcycle racing that very few see: testing. The post-and-pre season periods where teams and factories dissect analyse and prepare for the next competitive campaign.
The first FIM World Championship to switch off the red lights in 2018 will be WorldSBK in just under a month with the opening round of thirteen taking place at the phenomenal Phillip Island in Australia. The all-conquering Kawasaki Racing Team – a Barcelona-based crew that have claimed four of the last five WorldSBK titles thanks to current riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes – have set about their work away from public eyes to ensure they are in a position to be top dogs once more.
Testing seems a fairly mundane exercise. A unit of people and technical experts, an ethos and collection of equipment that has one purpose - to win races – functioning in a largely non-competitive environment. For Kawasaki though the tweak to WorldSBK regulations means curbing some of the potency of the ZX-10RR and some extra emphasis on optimising their ‘package’ for 2018. The winter has arguably been one of the most crucial periods for record-setting Rea (MBE and BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up) with a view towards a fourth championship in a row and an even bigger profile for the soon-to-be 31 year old who is already regarded as one of the finest motorcycle racers.