Sandro Cortese and his fellow first-timer WorldSBK GRT Yamaha squad did not quite threaten the likes of Rea and Lowes at the Jerez tests in Spain but they were a quiet sensation all the same.
As 2018 season WorldSSP champion for Kallio Yamaha, and a former Moto3 champion in 2012, Cortese arrives in the WorldSBK class with strong credentials and lots of important trophies in his display cabinet even now.
But finishing as the sixth fastest Superbike rider of all, in a field that was only missing the new Honda team from its ranks, was impressive for a rookie set-up – even if they are running basically the same spec of Yamaha as the official effort.
Even after a front end tuck and crash in on the second morning, Cortese and his team rebuilt and recovered well enough to get to within less than a second of champion Rea, despite sometimes-challenging track conditions on day one.
“At the end it was a very good test for us,” affirmed Cortese. “On day one we couldn’t really test anything as it took some time to find some grip on the new asphalt. On the second day we managed to do a lot of work. Unfortunately I also had a crash, which lost us some time, but at the end of the day we made some very big changes to the set up, mainly because I felt too much on the limit with the bike. In the last hour we improved a lot and it felt much easier to ride fast, so we ended on a high.”
On day one of the test Cortese, like the others, had been thrown a curve ball with all the track resurfacing. “We were starting from zero with the new asphalt and it took a while to adapt the bike to it. After we put it in a correct direction we worked quite well and at the end we were able to set a good lap time. The bike isn’t different to November because the new asphalt was so much slower so we didn’t touch the bike until the times were similar.”
Cortese arrived in Jerez knowing what he needed to concentrate on, “In November I knew that I needed to work on improving my braking performance and corner entry and the new asphalt actually forced me to make a change in mid-corner. I want to brake harder in a straight line and make the distance to the apex as short as possible for me and not carry as much lean angle. In November we had a bike that was built in a hurry because everything was late but now we have a fully new bike and everything felt positive.”
As part of what is clearly a four-man overall Yamaha effort in 2019, with new boys GRT closely aligned to the official Pata team, Cortese thinks he will start to draw on that combined knowledge base more and more. On day one he said, “I don’t look at the data of the other riders to be honest because my riding style is still so different. I know what I need to do to improve. At the minute comparing to the other riders I need so may different things because I’m braking, turning and accelerating differently to the other riders but overall I’ll try and look at their data in the future. I have a lot of areas that I can improve.” As his final lap times suggest, he made some of those advances on day two in Jerez.
Cortese showed up for action fit and ready to go, after winter training in a lot of different ways.
“Over the winter I spent the time training on an R1, a pitbike and even a go-kart!” he said. “I was with Jonas Folger and Jasko Raffin for two weeks in Spain and always riding every day. It helped for being able to just jump on this bike and feel comfortable.”