The second session of qualifying was much colder than yesterday, and like the World Supersport class, left a lot riders waiting in the pits for better conditions. But the track warmed a little as the session went on, and by the end of it, most of the field had improved their times from yesterday afternoon.
Michel Fabrizio was fastest again in the session, finishing ahead of the storming twosome of Leon Haslam and Tom Sykes. Yukio Kagayama also improved his time to finish in 4th, ahead of Ben Spies, who could not improve on his time from yesterday. Local hero Sheridan Morais put in another fantastic performance to finish in 6th position, nearly 1.2 seconds faster than his temporary team mate Broc Parkes.
Championship leader Noriyuki Haga cold only manage a 10th fastest time, shaving just under a tenth of a second off his time from yesterday, but remaining in 11th spot in the provisional grid. Fonsi Nieto, Karl Muggeridge, Steve Martin and Shaun Whyte will not compete in Superpole, due to start this afternoon at 3pm local time, which is 3pm CEST.
Final qualifying times after QP2 for the World Superbike class at Kyalami:
Regis Laconi's horrific crash at Kyalami's frightening Mineshaft corner (a fast left downhill kink) left the French DFX Corse rider seriously injured. Immediately after the incident, he was admitted to the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, where he was diagnosed with fractured vertebrae and cranial trauma.
After further checks last night, the team issued an update to his condition. Laconi has broken two cervical vertebrae (C3 and C5, the bones supporting the head), severe concussion and a contusion of the lung, and is being kept in a medically-induced coma. Initially, he was scheduled to have surgery to fix the vertebrae, but Dr. Maurizio Zorzi, a senior South African neuro-surgeon decided to postpone any surgery for a few days.
The Frenchman will have to remain completely immobilized for the next three weeks before a clearer picture of his condition can be obtained. A new medical update is expected sometime on Saturday.
Regis Laconi has been seriously injured in a crash at Kyalami. The Frenchman, riding for the DFX Corse team, had just taken to the track when he crashed in a fast left hander, suffering injuries to his head and torso. It was immediately clear that Laconi was badly hurt, and after the medics had stabilized his condition, he was taken first to the trackside medical center, where it was decided to fly him to the nearby Sunninghill Hospital in Sandton for further examination.
At the hospital, they found suspected fractures in 5 vertebrae, fortunately without any damage to the spinal cord, and a CAT scan showed a severe cranial trauma, though it appears that were no neurological complications. Regis Laconi was moving his limbs, and is currently being kept in a clinically induced coma, and for this reason he has been placed on the danger list. He is due to be operated on early this evening to have two plates inserted to support his cracked vertebrae.
In a press release, the team wished him a speedy recovery, to which we add our own best wishes. Laconi had started the season very strongly, taking three fourth places at Phillip Island and Valencia, and looked capable of improvement. Hopefully, he will be back riding soon.
The first qualifying practice for the World Superbike class saw Michel Fabrizio take provisional pole, the Italian Ducati rider continuing his run of form in practice. Unlike previous sessions, however, Fabrizio did not dominate the session entirely. Fabrizio stood atop the timesheets for the first 40 minutes, but with 18 minutes to go, Johnny Rea leapt ahead of the Italian, the HANNSpree Ten Kate rider the first man to dislodge the Xerox Ducati from the top spot.
It did not last, however, as 10 minutes later, Fabrizio was back again, and half a second faster than his previous best. Fabrizio would not be bested again during the session. Johnny Rea hung on to 2nd, but on his very final lap, Yamaha's Ben Spies shot up the standings from 16th to set the 3rd fastest time. The Yamahas had been languishing outside the top 10 for nearly all the session, but in the dying minutes both Spies and team mate Tom Sykes found a serious improvement. While Spies' time was good enough for a provisional front row, Sykes advanced from 15th up to 8th.
Leon Haslam occupies the last place on the provisional front row, the Stiggy Honda man much improved from Monza. Shinya Nakano heads up the 2nd row on the Aprilia, ahead of Xerox Ducati's Nori Haga and Jakub Smrz on the Guandalini Ducati, with Tom Sykes finishing up the row. Haga is still not at 100%, and has not yet made much of an impression during practice, but he still has two days to go before the race, and he is comfortably on course to make it into Superpole.
The replacement riders were a little more off the pace during the afternoon session, Sheridan Morais the best of them in 12th place, and well ahead of his temporary team mate Broc Parkes, while Gregorio Lavilla finished in 13th, 0.001 behind Morais.
Results of the World Superbike FP1 session at Kyalami:
The session got off to a bad start, with Regis Laconi crashing on the first lap, causing the session to be red flagged. Once the session got underway again, Michel Fabrizio picked up where he left off, almost immediately taking the lead with a big gap back to the next man, team mate Noriyuki Haga. Haga chipped away at Fabrizio's lead, but the Italian stood very firmly at the top of the standings.
It was only towards the end of the session that riders started to make an impression on Fabrizio, with Carlos Checa, Johnny Rea, and Leon Haslam all getting within 1/10th of a second of the Italian. Shane Byrne finally started setting results more in keeping with his status as BSB champion, the Briton finishing 6th fastest, just 0.431 off Fabrizio. The replacement riders did pretty well too, Gregorio Lavilla taking the 8th fastest time on Brendan Roberts' Guandalini Ducati, and South African rider Sheridan Morais putting the Kawasaki of Makoto Tamada 7th fastest, both men profiting from previous experience here.
The Yamahas are some way off the pace, Ben Spies never better than 5th fastest, and finishing the session in 12th, two places behind team mate Tom Sykes. But the field is pretty close, with less than three quarters of a second between Fabrizio in 1st and Ryuichi Kiyonari in 14th.
Results of FP1:
The World Superbike series returns to Kyalami in South Africa for the first time since 2002, and through no particular fault of Infront Motor Sport, the series couldn't have chosen a worse time to visit such a physical and technical track. A large part of the field is either injured or has been replaced due to injury, leaving the injured and unfamiliar to struggle to get the bike round the difficult circuit. What's more, Kyalami is located on the high plain of South Africa's eastern plateau, and the elevation takes its toll on both bikes and riders. At Monza, an injured rider could rest a little down the long straights. At Kyalami, that's virtually impossible.
The track is new to some, and all too familiar to others. The manufacturers designated teams tested here back in December last year, and a number of the veterans have raced at Kyalami in the past. Perhaps half the riders on the World Superbike grid will have ridden here previously, while a far smaller proportion of the World Supersport grid will have seen the South African track before.
With little previous form to go on, this leaves the race a rather unpredictable affair, apart from the pattern which has dominated the season so far. The races are likely to be shared between Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga again, Spies so far managing to maintain his 50% win ratio, while Haga continues to finish either 1st or 2nd. But Haga's mask of reliability slipped at Monza, if through no fault of his own.
The first-corner carnage at Monza had created a host of opportunities for replacement riders, with so many of the regulars injured. Kawasaki's Makoto Tamada was among the injured, fracturing a wrist bone and unable to ride at Kyalami this weekend. Unlike the other injured riders, Kawasaki had not planned on replacing Tamada, but a last-minute opportunity forced a change of heart.
South African Superbike champion Sheridan Morais will be riding the PBM Kawasaki bike instead of the injured Tamada this weekend, after the team reached a deal with Morais some time last night. The South African was already scheduled to ride at the meeting as a wildcard in the Supersport class, but that wildcard will instead go to his team mate Rob Portman.
Morais, South Africa's youngest ever Superbike champion when he first took the title in 2005, already has experience in the WSBK paddock, having previously ridden for Team Pedercini in the FIM Superstock 1000 championship. The South African managed a podium at Brands Hatch in 2008, a track he was familiar with from BSB, and so at his home track, a circuit he is very familiar with from racing in the South African championship, Morais should prove to be a formidable replacement.
Thanks to reader Bentley Mtafu for the tip off.
The World Superbike field for Kyalami just lost another regular. We reported earlier that Nieto, Lavilla and Laverty would be in for Neukirchner, Roberts and Harms, and just a few hours later, we learn that Troy Corser is to sit out the South African round of World Superbikes as well. The Australian was already riding with a hand injury, but the first-corner pile-up at Monza added a nasty bang to the head as well. After another tumble through the gravel in the restarted race one, Corser decided that caution was the better part of valor and sat out race two.
Now the team has decided that it would be better for Corser to miss the Kyalami round as well. "Kyalami is a very physical track, very bumpy in places and this would've not have helped Troy's hand get any better," the press release stated. Taking Corser's place will be World Superbike veteran, Le Mans 24-hour victor and BMW test rider Steve Martin.
Hopefully, this will be the last of the replacements, and the physical nature of Kyalami won't produce any more injuries. With two weeks between South Africa and Miller Motorsports Park, at least some of WSBK's regular riders may be fit enough to make a return.
Monza's Disney-style first chicane has decimated the World Superbike field after the multi-rider crash at the start of race one last weekend. Makoto Tamada seemed to clip Brendan Roberts' back wheel, sending the Australian's Guandalini Ducati up the rode to take out the Alstare Brux Suzuki of Max Neukirchner, while Tamada's Kawasaki veered off to hit Tommy Hill's Althea Honda, which in turn took out the BMW S1000RR of Troy Corser. After the dust had settled, Neukirchner was left with a broken femur and broken bones in his foot and ankle, Tamada suffered a fractured wrist, and examination in the local hospital found that Roberts had come away without broken bones, but was very severely bruised.
And so the World Superbike series heads to Kyalami with a host of new - or rather, different - faces filling a range of seats. For in addition to Neukirchner, Tamada and Roberts, Veidec Res Software's Robbin Harms didn't make it out of the first free practice session for the World Supersport class at Monza, and will also be missing in South Africa.
The biggest loss to the series is undoubtedly Max Neukirchner. The German was tipped as a prime candidate for the title before the season began, and entered Monza in 5th place in the World Superbike championship. The severity of Neukirchner's injuries will mean that in addition to Kyalami, the German is likely to miss the race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, and even a return at Misano in mid-June must be considered doubtful.
So far this year, the World Superbike races have followed an almost clockwork pattern: If Noriyuki Haga doesn't win the race, then the man chosen as Troy Bayliss' heir apparent at Xerox Ducati comes second to Ben Spies. And if the Yamaha Motor Italia rider doesn't win, then he either comes second to Haga or is involved in some bizarre incident which sees the American crash out or finish out of the points. With Haga and Spies having dominated the races so completely so far this year, the World Superbike paddock arrived at Monza expecting little to change.
Haga's team mate Michel Fabrizio had other ideas, though. The Italian was quickest in every session of practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday and was clearly the man to beat. Only another masterful qualifying performance during Superpole saw Ben Spies take his 5th pole in a row, a feat never before equaled in any form of motorcycle racing. With Haga only qualifying on the second row, the Japanese/American stranglehold on race wins looked like being broken for the first time at Monza.
Monza's notorious first chicane wreaked havoc at the start of the first Superbike race. Someone, most probably Makoto Tamada, clipped the back of Brendan Roberts' Guandalini Ducati as the bikes braked for the chicane, pushing the Australian off track and onto the grass, which flung him off the bike. His bike then slid onto the track and into the Suzuki of Max Neukirchner, breaking the German's femur and dislocating his foot, and putting the likable Neukirchner out of action for at least four weeks. Elsewhere in the mayhem, Troy Corser and Tommy Hill came together, flipping both Hill's Honda and Corser's BMW up in the air, causing Hill's CBR1000RR to catch fire.
World Superbikes Monza race 2 result and recap:
The first corner mayhem at Monza has proven very expensive for the talented young German, Max Neukirchner. Neukirchner entered the first chicane in 3rd place, but a pile up behind him meant that Brendan Roberts' bike slid across the track and slammed into the side of the German's Suzuki. Worse news was to follow, for after examination in the Clinica Mobile, Neukirchner was found to have a twisted ankle and a broken femur.
Neukirchner is likely to undergo surgery this afternoon to remedy the situation, but despite the rapid treatment, the German is likely to be out until the Misano round on June 21st, six weeks from today, and forced to miss the races at Kyalami in South Africa, and Miller in Utah, USA.
Makoto Tamada and Brendan Roberts were also injured in the crash. Tamada fractured a hand, and will miss next week's race in Kyalami. The extent of Roberts' injuries are as yet unknown, GPOne.com is reporting a suspected fractured leg, but no official word has been released. A leg fracture would be a major setback for the reigning 1000cc Superstock champion, as rumors have been swirling around the paddock that Lorenzo Lanzi could replace Roberts on the Guandalini Ducati.
Bikesportnews.com is reporting that Roberts is only badly battered and bruised. The Australian did not take part in either the restart of race 1 or the delayed race 2, but with only bruising to deal with, Roberts may be able to race at Kyalami next weekend.
Result of World Superbikes race 1 at Monza: