2013 Istanbul World Superbike Saturday Roundup: From Rain, Ruin And Red Flags
Carlos Checa, Leon Camier, Max Neukirchner, Loris Baz and Jonathan Rea will not be racing tomorrow. Istanbul Park and Nurburgring have sidelined five riders, leaving the grid diminished. Those who are racing, all but one of whom took part in Superpole, have missed out on track time due to poor track conditions or bad weather. And yet, the track is such a good track, and the qualifying so tight, that there is still a chance of a decent close race tomorrow, and the track looks to have been cleaned up by a combination of rain, oil, marshals, cat litter and race rubber.
The track suits the Aprilia, as can be seen by the fact that all four of them are on the front two rows, which could play into the hands of Sylvain Guintoli and his title aspirations. Tom Sykes, twenty-two thousandths of a second faster than him in pole position, will not have an easy first few laps, as four Aprilias try to take advantage of their speed down the kinked back straight, with the ultra-fast thirty-degree uphill right-hand turn eleven (nicknamed “Faux Rouge”) in the middle of it.
Toni Elias turned up having never raced a Superbike before and starts from the second row. The man he replaced in Red Devils Aprilia, Michel Fabrizio, will start from the last place of the fourth row. Elias was a bit bewildered by the Superpole format and had to rely on his engineers to tell him what to do. At one point, he was shocked the other riders suddenly dropped almost a second off their times until he was told about the qualifying tyres. An impressive debut for a rider many have called washed out, but there’s no doubt being on an Aprilia helped.
Ducati, however, are having no luck at all, and were the first team to send out a press release after Superpole, a trick made possible by simply not having any riders qualifying, in what is likely their worst qualifying performance as a manufacturer since the advent of the 851. Ayrton Badovini, the only rider able to ride, did not record a single lap of timed qualifying, but, as he was well within 107% of the fastest time and, as such, he is permitted to start from the back of the grid, which in this case is only sixteenth place. He will, however, only race if his ankle isn’t too swollen.
Marco Melandri, twice a winner here in MotoGP, felt that his seventh place start does not reflect his ability at the track and he will be trying to make amends in both races. Sitting in third place in the championship, thirty points behind leader Tom Sykes, two solid results are necessary to maintain his title hopes. Eugene Laverty, ten points behind Melandri in fourth, also needs a stellar weekend, especially as contracts for next year are still up in the air.
Jules Cluzel, sitting on the second row, alongside a brace of Aprilias, on his Suzuki seems to be the rider making the most of a machine that doesn’t suit the track. A sixth place start will help him continue to outscore his more experienced teammate, especially as the unfortunate Leon Camier is now recovering from seven broken bones in his foot, with screws and wires holding it in place.
In World Supersport, the fans got what they wanted. With their local track mothballed after financial issues, seeing it reopened to one of their countrymen fighting for a world championship must be a blessed relief. Kenan Sofuoglu stealing pole in dominant fashion, always having an answer for Sam Lowes, upping the pace at every step, he is in the prime position to cement his reputation in front of his fans, even if the title is slipping between his fingers.
A local man on the podium and two hard-fought Superbike races are all that Istanbul needs to make us forget about the insufficient time to kern the track, dirt, dust, rain and red flags. A good day of racing trumps an odd weekend of qualifying; here’s hoping that’s what we get.