Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes swapped places at the top again as the wet track dried out and the riders got within half a second of lap record pace. Lorenzo Savadori made a surprise appearance in provisional third place, ahead of Alex Lowes and Eugene Laverty, and the Alpaca-haired Bradley Ray, double winner at this track in British Superbike earlier in the year, was the quickest wildcard, earning himself direct access to Superpole two.
Federico Caricasulo was the quickest of the five Yamahas at the top, leading Lucas Mahias, Jules Cluzel, Sandro Cortese and Randy Krummenacher on a track that had almost completely dried up from this morning's downpour. Everyone was quicker than the first session, apart from Kyle Smith who didn't record a laptime, and only three riders missed out on the 107% qualifying threshold.
As the rain stopped falling on the still-damp track, everyone improved on their morning's times, with Tom Sykes, the rider with the most victories around this circuit, coming out on top, over half a second quicker than his Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea. Rea said yesterday that there must be something in the tea bags round here that gives Sykes extra pace, as shown by his nine victories in his last five visits here.
At the beginning of the year, I predicted that MotoGP's Silly Season this year would change the face of the MotoGP grid beyond recognition. The revolution I predicted looks like it is coming to pass, but as with every prediction, the changes happening are beyond even what I had expected. Young talent is coming into the series - Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira - big names are changing bikes - Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone - and a couple of major names face being left without a ride altogether.
A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks. Contracts have been signed with Andrea Dovizioso, Johann Zarco, Aleix Espargaro, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, and Pol Espargaro, adding to the contracts signed earlier in the year with Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, and Pecco Bagnaia. With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon already having a contract, there are thirteen seats officially taken for next year. Ducati have an option on Jack Miller - and look certain to exercise it - making it fourteen riders in a strong position. And Taka Nakagami looks very likely to keep his seat at LCR Honda.
But the big news is what happens at Suzuki, Ducati, and Repsol Honda. Rumors that Joan Mir would sign for Suzuki grew very strong at Le Mans, as I wrote on Friday, and now appear to be taking shape. The reliable Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles is reporting in sports daily AS that Joan Mir has signed a two-year deal with Suzuki, which will see him line up alongside Alex Rins for the next two years.
As the British weather continued to be British, Lucas Mahias continued to be an endurance rider at heart, setting a time at the end of the session that was almost a second quicker than Jules Cluzel's quickest time. Ant West shored up his reputation as an uncannily quick man in the rain, ending the session third quickest, just over a second off Mahias's time, and one of only three men under 1'46.
Just like the World Superbike session, six riders missed the 107% qualifying mark.
Jonathan Rea swept in late to take the top spot in a very wet session dominated, until that point, by his teammate Tom Sykes. Six riders were outside the 107% required for qualification, with three of them not even setting a laptime. Loris Baz, a perennial front-runner in the wet, was third quickest and Leon Camier, returning from injury, was just over two seconds off Rea's quickest time in fourth place.
With the unpredictable British weather promising to live up to its reputation, it is unlikely any lap records will be broken this weekend.
Press releases from the organizers and some of the teams in WorldSBK:
A bunch of British heroes
WorldSBK is on the way to the land of hope and glory with records in sight
The WorldSBK grid charges towards Round Six of the championship
Fans watching the Moto3 race at Le Mans faced mixed emotions. On the one hand, they were thrilled at yet another scintillating Moto3 race featuring close quarter battles. On the other hand, they were bewildered by the time penalties issued to Jakub Kornfeil and Niccolo Antonelli during the course of the race. Kornfeil was handed a 1.3 second penalty, while Antonelli was given a 1.8 second penalty. Fans found it difficult to make head or tail of the penalties issued.
Their confusion turned to outright anger once the Moto3 race had ended. Fabio Di Giannantonio crossed the line in first, after Marco Bezzecchi lost the rear in the final corner and took Jorge Martin down with him. But Di Giannantonio would not get to enjoy his victory: the Italian was handed a 2 second penalty after the race had finished, demoting him from first to fourth.
The anger of the fans was fueled mainly by a feeling that the penalties appeared to be arbitrary, with no logic to their structure. The FIM Stewards Panel appeared to be handing out penalties almost at a whim, and with no way for those outside of the panel to understand what was going on.
Kenan Sofuoglu bowed out of competition at Imola and afterwards he recounted his career to Steve English for MotoMatters.com
Five world championships, 43 WorldSSP victories and 85 podiums in the class are the records that Kenan Sofuoglu will leave on the World Supersport class, but the mark he leaves is indelible. The Turkish superstar retired from racing at the recent Imola WorldSBK round and afterwards said that it was a family decision to step away from racing.
“It was nice to have qualified on the front row but I asked myself why should I race? I felt that I was physically unwilling to do it but also if I had an incident with one of the title contenders and took them out of the race, that would have been very bad. I might have destroyed their season. I could say goodbye to everyone on the grid and this was the best thing to do. I also did not want to break the promise that I made to my family not to race,” reflected Sofuoglu.
Family has played a role in the 33 year old's career for many years and it also provided the most dramatic moments of his career. In a heartbreaking 2015 season the Turkish rider was flying to and from races while his newborn son was in intensive care. Ultimately Hamza would lose his battle, but the spirit and determination showed by Sofuoglu was nothing short of Herculean. To claim the title that season was incredible, and in the depths of a personal hell he was able to claim four consecutive victories.
Round 6 of the 2018 WorldSBK championship sees the paddock head for the home of Superbikes; Donington Park. The British circuit hosted the first ever round of the championship in 1988 and since then the affinity for Superbike racing in the UK has only continued to grow. The spectacular, flowing track has been the canvas for some of the most incredible moments in the history of the class but will this weekend be remembered in the same light?