The last weekend of World Superbikes in 2012 gave us tense action throughout the day, as the championship resisted all efforts of being straight-forward. In Supersport, a pantomime villain twirled his waxed moustache while in Superbike, a lantern jawed Englishman stood for victory and fair play in the field of sports while duelling with a skull and crossbones pirate.
Called a wet race, the last World Superbike race of the year would be an ample reminder of the year's mixed weather conditions and close racing.
The title went down to the last race, with Max Biaggi needing fifth place or better to clinch his second World Superbike title, regardless of where Tom Sykes finished.
Carlos Checa got the hole shot, but Tom Sykes blasted past him immediately, followed by Max Biaggi's team mate Eugene Laverty, while Il Corsaro rode in the tenth place he qualified in.
As the title was settled last time out, the fight for third place and the manufacturers title were still to be decided.
The physical track of Magny Cours was wet for the first World Superbike. Two of the title contenders were at the front, with the third on the third row.
Sunday is going to be a big day for World Superbikes at Magny-Cours. Not just because the 2012 title is to be settled in what could be a fascinating showdown, helped in no small part by the weather, but perhaps most of all because on Sunday morning at 9am local time, Infront Motor Sports CEO will speak to the media for the first time since the announcement that Bridgepoint, the private equity firm which owns both Infront and MotoGP rights owners Dorna, has decided to bring both series under a single umbrella, and that umbrella is to be Dorna.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying for the WSBK season finale at Magny-Cours:
The last Superpole of 2012 held a few surprises with a small error of a tenth of a second or two having potential consequences for what remains of the season.
The rain stayed away all day, ensuring the World Supersport qualifying would be unhampered by weather.
The top five men qualified in the top five, albeit not in championship order, contained within four tenths of a second. Broc Parkes one again tops the French duo of Fabien Foret and Jules Cluzel, with Kenan Sofuoglu and Sam Lowes behind them.
Lowes, starting from the second row, is eight points behind Foret in the chase for third place, while the top two places are already decided in favour of Sofuoglu and Cluzel.
The last Superpole of 2012 was a dry session.
Two Frenchmen were eliminated in Superpole One in front of their home crowd, while Max Biaggi and Jonathan Rea were fastest ahead of Carlos Checa and Eugene Laverty.
Tom Sykes was fastest in Superpole Two, with a 1'37.494. Max Biaggi miscalculated his first run and had to had to reuse a qualifier to try and make it through to Superpole Three, a tactic that nearly paid off, but his tyre lost its grip in the second half of the lap, relegating him to the third row.
The provisional calendar for World Superbikes has been released. Unsurprisingly, Miller Motorsports is no longer present, being replaced outright by Laguna Seca. Portimao is still on the calendar, but is now subject to contract, meaning they need to show they can hold a race without going broke first.
The first two months hold a single race each, in Australia then India, and the European leg starts in April.
Supersport misses out on racing at Laguna Seca, while the Superstock cup doesn't run in Philip Island, Buddh, Donington, Moscow Raceway or Laguna Seca.
The three men with a mathematical chance of the title were the three fastest men this afternoon, led by Marco Melandri. Carlos Checa sat most of the session out, trying to solve a problem with the bike while the man challenging his place in the championship, Jonathan Rea, was fourth fastest. Lots of long runs for most riders, as most were seeking race settings instead of qualifying settings.
John Hopkins didn't take part and, as his his hip injury is causing problems, he's decided to call it a day and won't race this weekend.
Broc Parkes topped the timing sheet above French duo of Jules Cluzel and Fabien Foret. Parkes reeled off quite a few 1'42 laps while Cluzel only managed two. Tellingly, Fabien Foret had a run of seven 1'42 laps in series after his fastest lap. Kenan Sofuoglu and Sam Lowes also put in long runs of 42s and 43s.
Unsurprisingly, FIXI Crescent Suzuki have chosen to retain Leon Camier for another year. With Jack Valentine being put out to pasture, Paul Denning being brought in and FIXI signing on for another year, all that remains is news of John Hopkins amidst rumours of his retirement.
FIXI CRESCENT SUZUKI AND CAMIER STAY TOGETHER FOR 2013
FIXI Crescent Suzuki is pleased to announce that it has agreed terms to secure the services of Leon Camier for the 2013 Superbike World Championship.
The morning's qualifying got underway with very little change, apart from Max Biaggi and Leon Haslam making an early showing, right up to an incident involving Alexander Lundh that stopped the proceedings with ten minutes left. Once the red flags were lifted, a flurry of activity took place with everything changing rapidly as time dwindled.