Phillip Island, Australia
It feels like a blessing to be able to start a report without having to discuss the weather and how it adversely affected the sessions. Here’s hoping that the rest of the year follows suit as 2012 may have provided us with entertaining weather, it did get a bit much at times, to the point of being dangerous.
The first weekend’s qualifying is over, with mixed results. Pirelli will be leaving the island under a dark cloud as Supersport tyres were reported to be suffering to such a degree on the new asphalt that the race on Sunday has had six laps lopped off it for safety. Five red flags and a premature ending to the first Supersport session set the tone yet as the weekend progressed, the incidents became fewer as survival instincts adjusted to the new dangers. It remains to be seen if the Superbike race will be impacted by dodgy rubber, but a few riders were capable of stringing together long runs on tyres that didn’t degrade too much.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the series organizer, after qualifying on Saturday at Phillip Island:
On Sunday, the World Supersport race will be reduced to a 15-lap race due to concerns over the longevity of the Pirelli tyres available on the resurfaced track. The final qualifying session was completed without any major incidents or stoppages.
This year, only 15 riders qualify for Superpole with three eliminated after the first of the three sessions. This is due to the switch to MotoGP-like three bike wide grids. There are three twelve minute sessions with three riders eliminated after each of the sessions with the last session determining the grid positions for the first three rows. As it was last year, each rider gets two Pirelli qualifying tyres to use across the three sessions.
The session was red-flagged when Leon Haslam's radiator hose split, and there were crashes from Marco Melandri and Michel Fabrizio. Melandri was able to finally get to the top of the timing screen, just before he crashed. Sylvain Guintoli was the only other man in the 1'30s, ahead of Carlos Checa and Tom Sykes. With the Superpole entrants already decided, riders were able to use the session to chase settings. Eugene Laverty, Michel Fabrizio, Leon Camier and Marco Melandri were able to peel off strings of 1'31 laps, with Laverty even recording 15 laps at that pace.
Sam Lowes topped the timing screen again, albeit not with as fast a time as he recorded in timed qualifying, and again Kenan Sofuoglu was the only man able to get close. Michael Van Der Mark shows once again that he was an inspired signing by Honda, while Vladimir Leonov demonstrated that Lowes isn't the only fast Yamana man. Roberto Rolfo again made an unexpected appearance near the top, behind Kevin Coghlan. Fabien Foret was absent from his usual region due to an early crash.
Leon Camier was the first rider to get a lap under 1'31, even though his Suzuki was slower in a straight line than his team-mate's, but his top spot was toppled four minutes from the end by this weekend's fast man Michel Fabrizio on a privateer Aprilia.
Tom Sykes, a man who has been absent from the sharpest end thus far, made an appearance in provisional third place, showing that it'll take more than a fractured wrist to slow him down. The factory Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli were split by Marco Melandri, all three of whom were under 1'31 by the end of the session.
Two Australian wildcards, Jamie Stauffer and Glen Allerton, qualified in the top 16, which would have earnined them places in this afternoon's Superpole session last year, but with only 15 going through this year, due to the three bike wide grid, Allerton just misses out.
Ayrton Badovini was unable to start as his crash yesterday left him with a broken foot, ruling him out for the rest of the weekend.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Press releases previews, complete with video, from some of the World Superbike and World Supersport teams from Phillip Island:
Michel Fabrizio took the top spot off fellow Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty at the end of the session. Marco Melandri and Leon Camier rounded out the top four, but it was very close for the top 12, right back to Carlos Checa. While the Aprilias of Fabrizio and Laverty were clear at the top, the next ten places were all within half a second.
Sam Lowes was over a second faster than second-placed Kenan Sofuoglu. While drops of rain threatened, riders were able to put in respectable laps while Kenan Sofuoglu posted a 1'33.664. Lowes, however, set about beating Joan Lascorz's outright record by recording a blistering 1'32.545 lap that gives him provisional pole and a considerable psychological advantage. In third place was an unexpected MV Augusta with Robbie Rolfo on the back of it, while Michael Van Der Mark filled the last provisional front row spot. Fabien Foret spent the majority of the session in his garage, emerging eventually to go 12th fastest.
The early stages were led by Sylvain Guintoli, Leon Haslam and the surprise package of Michel Fabrizio, while Marco Melandri was waiting in the wings. The session ended with Fabrizio clearly the fastest by half a second, with Haslam second fastest and Leon Camier sneaking in a fast lap at the end. Fabrizio was within four tenths of Carlos Checa's fastest time of 1'30.882 from 2011, a record that's certain to fall this weekend.
A session peppered with red flags opened the season. Riders struggled with the new surface as Gabor Talmasci, Vladimir Leonov and three others all took turns in stopping the clock and the session was finally laid to rest with just under two minutes left. Four riders stood out, even if two of them were late to leave their boxes. Reigning champion Kenan Sofuoglu was a late starter, as was Sam Lowes, dispelling all doubts of the Yamaha's speed, while the veteran Fabien Foret and newcomer Michael Van Der Mark posted fast times throughout the session. Sam Lowes ended the session at the top of the sheet with only Kenan Sofuoglu joining him under 1'34. Both Lowes and Sofuoglu were under Joan Lascorz's fastest qualifying lap of 1'33.847 that dates back to 2010.
Press releases and previews from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the final test at Phillip Island, and looking forward to the first races of the season this weekend:
Carlos Checa has removed any lingering doubts about the competitiveness of the Ducati Panigale 1199R, after controlling the second and final day of testing for the World Superbike class at Phillip Island, and ending the test as fastest overall. The Spaniard started the day fast, and ended the day fast, maintaining a strong pace throughout.
Checa was fastest in both wet - or rather, damp - conditions and in the dry. The second day of testing started out with a damp track, a number of riders choosing to stay in the pits instead of risking uncertain conditions on the newly resurfaced track, but the track soon dried out, and conditions improved greatly in the afternoon. Behind Checa, Marco Melandri took 2nd slot, the Italian finding a little more pace than on the first day. The BMW rider led a very close group, with just over a tenth of a second separating Melandri in 2nd from Pata Honda's Jonathan Rea in 5th. Kawasaki's Tom Sykes demonstrated that he will not be slowed too much by a cracked radius, grabbing 3rd slot, while Michel Fabrizio was the fastest of the Aprilia riders, putting the privateer Red Devils Roma RSV4 into 4th slot. The other Aprilia men occupied places 7 through 9, with just a few hundredths separating Davide Giugliano, Sylvain Guintoli and Eugene Laverty.