GMT Yamaha have a busy season ahead of them as they are to contest the World Superbike series with David Checa and Sebastian Gimbert plus the two riders will team up with Woodhall Spa ace Steve Plater to challenge for glory in the Le-Mans and Bol d’Or 24 hour World Endurance races during 2008. Plater is also on stand by as a reserve rider in the World Superbike championship should either of the two riders suffer an injury.
Plater left England amidst flood warnings and heavy rain to be greeted at Almeria airport with bright sunshine and a temperature of 24 degrees. While his two teammates concentrated on set-up for their World Superbike challenge Plater was left to accustom himself with the new R1 Yamaha Endurance Superbike, Pirelli tyres and getting to know the team.
“I didn’t really expect too much time on the bike as with three riders you normally spend an equal amount of track time before making a joint decision on settings etc but with Checa and Gimbert concentrating on the bikes they are to use in the World Superbike campaign it was left to me to test the Endurance bike all by myself,” said Plater.
The first session was spent familiarising himself with the bike and trying out the Pirelli tyres. “I spent all of last year in the World Endurance campaign on Pirellis but with a different bike, not a Yamaha so was a little apprehensive. I instantly felt at home with the bike and the team but have to admit that tyre wear was an issue, not just for me but for every team who were testing at Almeria from Ten Kate to Craig Jones on his World Supersport bike,” he explained.
“I didn’t have to worry about set up and lap times in this test as the R1 will be around 8kg lighter at the next one with a further 10bhp and a different swing-arm fitted. However I was lapping within 1˝ seconds of the World Superbikes on worn tyres so was pretty happy with myself,” he continued.
The track surface was very abrasive towards the Pirelli tyres and by the end of the second of three planned days of testing most teams had run out of tyres and decided to call it a day.
“Despite losing the third day I am very happy with the race bike and also the team and am now looking forward to the next test at Le Mans where most of the teams will be present for the first official World Endurance pre-season test in March.”
As well as the World Endurance campaign, Plater will again contest the British Superbike championship for AIM Yamaha. He is to take on the role of team co-ordinator, a role he is looking forward to.
“I will look after the day to day running of the team leaving Steve Mellor to concentrate all his time into engine preparation. We have an extremely busy year at AIM Yamaha as both Ian Hutchinson and myself will also contest the major road races this year.”
Steve will contest the British Superbike championship in 2008 while Hutchinson will ride in the British Supersport championship for AIM Yamaha plus both riders will attend the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT races.