WSBK: EBR, Aaron Yates looking for more power and agility

Top speed actually slower than some 600 Supersport bikes at Phillip Island, but development on the fast track for Erik Buell Racing’s World Superbike effort

Erik Buell Racing's team debut in SBK has been difficult. Unsurprisingly so, some may add. Not only the competition on the world stage is fierce, but it also starts much earlier than, for example, in Formula One or MotoGP. The championship will kick off on Sunday in Phillip Island (Australia), before taking a six-week break and heading back to Europe. March will be crucial to move forward with the development of the EBR 1190 RX, but until then the team and riders will have to strive against their more experienced counterparts.

Especially Aaron Yates, who only managed to put behind Peter Sebestyen, a rookie who only recorded seven laps before injuring his shoulder. However, he does not look intimidated.

"It's a big step for EBR to move into the international scene, and I'm just excited to be a part of it," said the 40-year-old Georgia native. "It's a big challenge, but we're up for it. It's too early to speak about results though, we just have to go faster and faster every time we get out there."

In Australia, Yates was about six seconds off the pace, with a 1:36.662 lap that is about two seconds slower than his teammate Geoff May's best time. To this end, lack top speed seems to represent a major issue. Yates ranks at the far bottom in this category and, with a recorded top speed of 168 mph, he was actually slower than about a third of the 600cc Supersport bikes on track.

"We started the season with the engine specs we were using in the AMA, where we already faced a 20-horsepower deficit compared with some of our rivals," Yates observed. "We made a bit of progress but, on this track, top speed comes from a mix of factors. I haven't been able to steer the bike properly, and with so many fast corners, especially the last one leading on the main straight, it's important to be able to open the throttle as fast as possible to come out faster."

With only six hours of track time under his belt on a circuit he has never seen before, Yates still needs to iron out quite a bit of details.

"Phillip Island is quite different than the AMA tracks, which are generally much slower," he analyzed. "It took me a while to simply get adjusted and find a base setting. We're starting over pretty much all around. We used Öhlins forks in the past, but we were not allowed to utilize the same specs. The ones we received are a little soft and, with the Pirelli tires offering such a high grip in banked corners, it's really difficult to push hard."

The road ahead is tortuous, but not impossible to navigate.

"We already made significant changes in the geometry of the bike to improve its agility, but we need it to be even more responsive. Before and after this race, the plan is to move forward as fast as possible and pick up power in the engine. For sure we'll get better, but the team’s already done a fantastic job just to get ready for WSBK."