2014 Aragon World Superbike Friday Roundup: Interesting Times
Thanks to the homologation agreements that have been reached, the arrival of Bimota brings the number of manufacturers competing in World Superbike to nine. Their bike is the usual blend of bespoke chassis and off the shelf engine, with a BMW S1000RR power plant being at the heart of their BB3 project. Needing only 125 bikes to be available for sale before the bike is eligible to score points, down from 1000, Bimota will still not be eligible to score points until that number is reached. Ayrton Badovini and Christian Iddon are able at least to run their EVO class bikes in the races even if they can't yet score points. It is estimated that they will reach the required 125 bikes in four months.
Aragon is a track with a straight. The long back straight is almost 900m long, and a fast bike helps, although agile bikes have recorded quicker laps today, it remains to be seen whether this will remain true once they start to race, with the faster bikes likely to close the gap once the nimble bikes clear the air for them at the end of the laps.
Jonathan Rea might not have the fastest bike on the track, but he was still able to dominate both sessions, losing out only 8kmh to Sylvain Guintoli's Aprilia on the long straight with a speed of 319kmh. With slightly less outright speed than the Aprilias and Kawasakis, Rea was able to use his bike's agility, due in part to chassis refinements, to record the fastest time in both sessions.
In the morning session, Marco Melandri was the rider that looked most likely to challenge Rea for the top spot, but in the second session, Tom Sykes and Loris Baz both put their Kawasakis near the top, with Sykes in 2nd and Baz in 4th. Baz was managing 320kmh to Sykes's 324kmh, faster than all but the Aprilias. Third fastest was another agile bike with Chaz Davies putting the Ducati Panigale in provisional third place, in spite of a deficit of over 10kmh.
The EVO class was led by Niccolo Canepa's Ducati, with Leon Camier, sitting in for Sylvain Barrier, second quickest EVO, a second behind.
The Bimotas fortunately didn't embarrass themselves in their first dusting off, beating the EBRs, still not finding their legs, and others comfortably with Ayrton Badovini fifth fastest, seventeenth overall, of the twelve EVO bikes.
In World Supersport, after a morning dominated by Kev Coghlan, Jules Cluzel and Michael Van Der Mark caught up, with the three riders standing apart from the rest of the field. Three different non-Kawasaki bikes leading the way is making qualifying interesting, especially when Jules Cluzel, leading the championship by what appears to be force of will alone, is standing on the top step today.
Aragon's character may play a part in the race, but in qualifying, there doesn't seem to be much stopping quick riders, regardless of ther bike, to show their skill.