The ever-popular annual “Carlostrainingslager” test session at the picturesque Val de Vienne circuit in France last week, proved to be invaluable for all teams making the journey.
A mixture of British Championship teams, Grand Prix teams and various different national class crews totalling some sixty or more outfits enrolled for the week.
With the opening British round the second weekend of April, and the first World round at Le Man the following weekend, there were many new aspects to test and bed in.
Reigning British and former multiple world champion Tim Reeves and 2018 passenger Mark Wilkes were launching a brand new set-up, consisting of an Adolf RS German built chassis and a Yamaha R6 engine.
Never one to shy away from change, Tim was happy with his first impressions, and spent much time fine-tuning the set-up.
Another star crew moving to 600cc power, and present in France, with the intention of taking in both World and British rounds were former British Champions Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood.
Running again under the Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki banner, they worked hard to make the new bike feel like “home”, and were very pleased with how things went.
Sadly for them, a Swiss solo rider, who's aspirations clearly exceed his ability, cartwheeled his bike into their outfit in the paddock and damaged the plot to the tune of £6000.
Runners-up in Britain last year, Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clarke are full of optimism for the new season, but aspirations took a bit of a dent when after running fast laps in France, they had a heavy “off” into the barriers.
Whilst they were both shaken, they walked away with a few bumps and bruises.
The Santander Salt Kawasaki ZX10 needed reconstructive surgery at the Birchall Brother's LCR hospital in Nottinghamshire.
Thanks to their prompt action, Kershaw and Clark will be fighting fit for the Brands grid.
Reigning 600cc Cup Champions Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson had a successful test, as did Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde, with both crews circulating consistently, setting good times.
Ellis knows that defending his title will be tougher than winning it, but he is ready for the challenge, and has a full season's experience.
Val de Vienne blew any cobwebs away that might still be lingering, and he relishes the campaign ahead on his Santander Salt Honda.
John Holden, partnered with Lee Cain, will again combine world rounds with available British rounds, as well as his Isle of Man TT activities.
One of the great “all-rounders”, John became well used to the Barnes Racing 600cc long bike in 2017, so goes into the new season with a tried and tested set-up. He was happy with events in France, and is looking forward hugely to the opening battle.
Ninth placed in Britain in 2017, Rupert Archer brought new passenger Tom Bryant, and his new chassis from the Adolf RS concern. Identical to the chassis now being run by Reeves, the bike performed well and Archer was well pleased with how things went.
It is healthy to see rival chassis manufacturers making their presence felt in an arena so dominated by Louis Christen and his LCR product.
Making the long trip from the West Country, Dean Nicholls and Kenny Cole put the days to good use and gleaned important test data. Sixteenth finishers overall in the 2017 championship, this duo have ambitious plans to improve.
Now totally accustomed to the long bike, a top-ten finish is well within reach for them.
All in all, every team found the test session very useful, and now it's a case of final preparation at home before battle commences.