After a superbly combative and ever-changing 2017 WorldSSP season saw a new champion crowned in Frenchman Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), after some last round heroics from himself and five time champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), 2018 looks like it is going to be another belter in the middleweight class.
But is also looks like Yamaha territory for the most part, with the top four bikes in the two-day pre-season test at PI all being new R6s.
Last year Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha) was in WorldSBK for a while, and his new team were running Hondas in WorldSSP.
But leading the 24 rider field after the final tests, and just before the first round of 2018, is already an achievement for man, machine and team.
Next up in the test rankings were Mahias and his fellow works Yamaha rider, Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team).
Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing Yamaha) was a strong novice in the class, fourth, and local hero in Australia Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) piled in with fifth and best Kawasaki in a test where Sofuoglu struggled to go eighth on his official machine. West was over half a second behind the lead bike of Krummenacher.
Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing Triumph) continued his strong form in sixth, and the first MV Agusta home was seventh, belonging to Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag). Jules Cluzel (NRT Yamaha) was ninth and Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) tenth.
By Gordon Ritchie