To paraphrase pole-setter Michele Fabrizio, it's good to see three young guys at the top. Fabrizio, who said at the post-race press conference that he used his anger at being mis-timed on a previous lap as motivation, set his first pole in the Superbike class on the back of a blindingly fast last lap. Fabrizio is in the enviable position of being an Italian rider on an Italian bike on an Italian track, which should provide him with ample motivation for Sunday.
Ben Spies looked a bit chagrined at being pipped by Fabrizio, wryly noting that he would have thought that Fabrizio would have let the American take the pole in repayment for Fabrizio taking him out in Brno. Spies claimed to have made a few mistakes on his fast lap that cost him a few tenths, not that the casual observer could detect any errors. Spies was his normal smooth unflappable self, in contrast to Sterilgarda Yamaha teammate Tom Sykes, who looked at times like the Urban Cowboy riding the mechanical bull at Gilley's, his R1 bucking and snorting through the corners.
Third-place man Jonny Rea also claimed errors on his best lap but was happy overall, citing a number of new parts that needed to be evaluated over a shortened practice schedule.
Noriyuki Haga elevated himself up from the depths of midpack to come fourth, which isn't a bad place to be for an old guy. Haga has always had the ability to summon forth a bit of extra speed on race day, so he should be able to hang with the kids at the front.
Ducati mounted Shane "Shakey" Byrne and Jakob Smrz have been fast all weekend, but have been unable to muster the extra couple tenths necessary to stay with the front-runners. Smrz might have some splainin' to do to Team manager Frankie Chili, who looked livid after Smrz' last lap crash.
Aprilia riders Max Biaggi and Marco Simoncelli placed 6th and 8th respectively. One wonders if Max was on his "A" bike, given the column of smoke rising from the tail section of the RSV4 in the pits at the end of session 2. Casual tourist Marco Simoncelli has made steady progress through the weekend, although the cynics among us might have expected no less from a 250cc World Champion en route to a prime MotoGP seat. When one observes Super Sic on the Aprilia one is immediately struck by how tiny the RSV4 looks under the relatively gangly Italian. Simoncelli's yellow accented Dainese leathers lividly accentuate his elbows and knees protruding beyond the compact machine.
Barring catastrophe, it is difficult to look beyond the front four to find a winner. Exactly who that rider will be is impossible to determine given their closeness in practice and qualifying. The real winner will be us race fans who are looking forward to the kind of fairing-bashing close-quarters racing that Imola is famous for.