A wet start to Saturday morning saw Broc Parkes set the fastest time in the second session of free practice for the World Supersport class at Imola. The Australian, subbing for Joan Lascorz in the Motocard.com Kawasaki team, finished just ahead of Intermoto Czech's Gino Rea, while championship leader Kenan Sofuoglu set the 3rd quickest time, ahead of his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda teamate, Michele Pirro.
Kenan Sofuoglu is on provisional pole for Sunday's World Supersport race at Imola, the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider continuing his domination of the WSS class. Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty has cut the deficit to Sofuoglu by four tenths of a second, but is still nearly nine tenths behind the championship leader. Sofuoglu's teammate Michele Pirro was 3rd fastest during the first session of qualifying, finishing comfortably ahead of Katsuaki Fujiwara on the Motocard.com Kawasaki.
Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa continues to head the World Superbike field at Imola, taking provisional pole with a lap eight tenths of a second under the race lap record held by Noriyuki Haga. While Checa led a bevy of Ducatis during FP1, this afternoon the Spaniard found a couple four-cylinder interlopers on his tail, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea taking 2nd spot ahead of Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam. The Ducati Armada followed the Brits, with the Xerox Ducatis of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio ending ahead of Shane Byrne.
Leon Haslam's dramatic improvement leaves championship leader Max Biaggi with a lot of work to do: While Haslam slashed 1.3 seconds off his earlier time, Biaggi could only get another two tenths out of his Alitalia Aprilia, leaving the Italian in lowly 14th position. Final qualifying positions will only be settled during Saturday afternoon's Superpole session, but it will be busy in the Aprilia garage tonight.
Kenan Sofuoglu has taken the first steps towards securing his second World Supersport championship this weekend by dominating the first session of free practice at Imola. The Ten Kate Honda rider was nearly a second faster than his closest rival, teammate Michele Pirro, but more importantly, Sofuoglu was 1.2 seconds quicker than the man he has to beat to take the championship, Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty. 4th fastest in FP1 was Intermoto Czech's Gino Rea, with Triumph's Chaz Davies just behind in 5th.
The Althea Ducati combination Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne kicked off the Imola World Superbike round by controlling the top of the timesheets for most of the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class. Only a brief interruption by Kawasaki's Tom Sykes kept Checa and Byrne from dominating. Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio made it a Ducati 1-2-3, while Ten Kate's Johnny Rea put his Hannspree Honda into 4th. The first blow in the title race was struck by Max Biaggi, who went 0.13 seconds faster than the only man who can stop him from winning his first WSBK crown, Leon Haslam. But with Biaggi in 9th and Haslam in 11th, both the Aprilia and Suzuki man have plenty of work to do.
After the Misano round of World Superbikes, the WSBK paddock packed up and headed a few miles up the road for two days of testing at Imola. Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow ended the test on top of the timesheets, breaking the track record along the way. The young Briton finished the test ahead of Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio, while Leon Haslam ended in third. After a difficult weekend at Misano, third fastest was a big improvement for the Alstare Suzuki rider. Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea showed a similar improvement, ending testing just a couple of hundredths behind Haslam.
The test also saw a couple of big crashes. Haslam had two big crashes, though it did not prevent him from setting the 3rd fastest time. In the second crash, Haslam slammed into Shane Byrne, the Althea Ducati rider coming off worst, Byrne being examined for a suspected fractured metacarpal bone in his hand.
The World Superbike paddock now heads to the Czech Republic, and the following round at Brno in 10 days' time.
Calendar for the 2010 World Superbike Season:
At the same time as they announced the provisional entry lists for World Superbike and World Supersport, the FIM also released a revised calendar for the series. The revisions consist of a single change: The British round at Donington has been moved to Silverstone.
The move is the final episode in a long saga, both tragic and farcical in equal measure. It started with the ambitious plans of altering the Donington Park circuit to allow the return of Formula One, and ended with the bankruptcy of DVLL, handing the lease and a torn-up track unsuitable for racing back to the circuit's owners, the Wheatcroft family. It also sees Silverstone completely replace Donington as the main venue for world-class motorcycle racing.
The contrasts between the plans of the two circuits are key to their outcomes. DVLL, the company that ran Donington Park, had a huge and ambitious plan to build a new track and new world class facilities, at a cost of over 130 million pounds. Silverstone, on the other hand, made a few strategic changes to the track layout and spectator areas at an estimated cost of just 5 million. DVLL is bankrupt, and Silverstone has MotoGP, Formula One, World Superbikes and BSB. Such is the price of hubris.
There's just something about Italy and motorcycles. The culture and economy are suffused with the love of all things two-wheel. Chances are, if you are a motorcylist at least a bit of your kit is produced in Italy or maybe your garage is populated by machines that were designed and built by people who have a preternatural passion for motorcycles. Italians love racing, too, and when you combine the two on Italian soil you always have the opportunity for something special. Italian riders feed on this passion and the energy and intensity they absorb makes them try just a bit harder than they might at, say, Sepang or Motegi. Of course, that energy and intensity can have a flip side as well, just ask Colin Edwards, he'll give you a profane mouthful about Italian riders in Italy.
Coming into Imola, 2 riders not from Italy but who have been virtually adopted by the paisanos as their own and whose teams are from the country, came into ths round in a dogfight for the world title. Amercan Ben Spies had clawed back from an 88 point deficit to lead the series by 18 points on the back of 2nd place man Noriyuki Haga's crash in race two at the Nurburgring. This capped a misbegotten string of mostly mediocre races that saw Haga slipping in the points spread, partly due to injuries to his shoulder and arm.
Race One: Old Age and Treachery
Results of World Superbike race 2 at Imola:
Results of the World Supersport race at Imola:
The World Supersport race at Imola was red-flagged after 11 laps, when Joan Lascorz' Kawasaki blew up and trailed oil round the track. The Spaniard had just taken the lead from Kenan Sofuoglu, and the engine let go as he got on the gas coming out of a corner. The race is due to be restarted at 2:20pm local time, and the result will be decided by aggregate result.
Result of the World Superbikes Race 1 at Imola: