WorldSBK rookie Remy Gardner was inside the top ten on his GRT Yamaha and looking like he was already able to push on as Jerez testing concluded.
Coming from a MotoGP machine with much more power, and a completely race focused rolling chassis to a modified streetbike, may be a lot easier than going the other way around, but this still felt like a strong enough debut against the vast majority of his peers.
“It was good fun, very different from what I’m used to,” Gardner said after the first day at Jerez. “I think the tyres at the moment are the biggest thing, and understanding how much confidence and support the front tyre gives. I did lots of laps, like 80-something laps, which is crazy [he would post 162 after two days] but I think it was good just to understand what I need to adapt and change.”
As well as learning his new bike, Gardner is trying to unlearn some stuff. “I have some bad habits that I am still trying to kick,” the Australian half-joked. “I just need to ride easier and more fluidly. Last year [on the Tech3 KTM RC16] I had to ride like an animal every single lap, every single corner, to go half fast.”
Gardner reckons that the difference in the less stiff Pirelli front tyre shows itself, “…everywhere. Everywhere really. Braking is kind of similar, but kind of that turn-in, trail braking, and getting off the brakes as well, you can push on it so hard. You can feel where it’s at, which is very nice. There are different lines as well, as it is a different bike. I am trying to find a direction.”
About a second off after one day, he was pleased enough with that early showing. “I have been riding prototype bikes for the last seven or eight years of my life and never rode on Pirellis, so for me day one was okay.”
After an early issue with a front vibration that was fixed by changing to a new front tyre, Gardner continued the process of learning how to go fast on a WorldSBK and on day two he had already joined the top ten club.
Having moved from the blue ribbon class, Gardner was asked about his first impressions of his new team’s working philosophy, to which he replied in favour of the paddock switch and the Italian-based GRT squad.
“They are really very professional. I mean, I am going to say better than last year, much better than last year!
“From what I see at the moment. I feel like everybody is quite calm, which is good. The atmosphere is calm in the team, which is always a nice working environment and also the support from Yamaha is felt as well. Which is also very nice. Honestly, I can’t complain.”
Looking at his chances for WorldSBK success in 2023, Gardner was asked what he thought, and responded with realistic aspirations. “I mean this season, obviously I may not be fighting for a championship at the moment but hopefully we can gain experience and step by step move towards the front of the pack and obviously try to fight for a podium here or there. I think that would be the ultimate goals for this year.”
Gardner has also seen another difference between WorldSBK and MotoGP in that the rider is maybe more important to the result than the machine. Or at least can influence things more. Now that he has ridden a full WorldSBK properly in the dry, he said, “Yes, from what I have seen, and now I have started to ride a bit. Obviously there are better or worse bikes in all paddocks, basically, but maybe the rider can make up for that a little bit, for the missing material, let’s say.
“Compared with MotoGP nowadays, it is kinda going F1. I feel you have to have the right bike or don’t turn up on Sunday.
“I think the level in MotoGP now, everybody is really good riders, they are all really fast riders. That level that Marquez put from previous years, all us kids have grown up striving to that level and the top five guys in Moto2 are all extremely fast riders, same in Moto3, and every time they step up they learn something more. The level in MotoGP now is so close that in the end the material makes a difference.”