With the combination of mixed conditions and a naturally fast track causing wet tyres to discard chunks of rubber down the 330kmh straight, qualifying at Monza was destined to be unpredictable.
Friday was BMW's day, and while Marco Melandri may have been fastest in the first Superpole session in spite of his unwell crew chief needing to visit hospital, Saturday was anything but. Overnight rain meant that once again, entry to Superpole was determined on Friday, just like we hinted at in the Monza preview. Luckily, Friday gave everyone enough time to put in times according to their ability and both Saturday sessions could be used to try to get wet setups for Superpole and possibly the races tomorrow.
After FP2, there was a glimmer of hope that Tom Sykes could maintain his perfect record of pole positions in 2012, especially with his unbelievable 339.5kmh (212mph) top speed earlier in the day, but Sylvain Guintoli beat his own fastest lap just before Sykes had a chance to snatch the coveted first place.
No Ducati was able to get higher than 9th place on Friday, but all four that qualified for the wet Superpole made it through to the second Superpole session. The agricultural V-Twin engine was well suited to the treacherous conditions, and Guintoli made the most of it on his Effenbert Ducati. Sykes's Kawasaki and Melandri's BMW were joined on the front row by a resurgent Carlos Checa on the Althea Ducati. Jonathan Rea, winner last week on his Ten Kate Honda, had to settle for 5th, but he was faster than Aprilia's Max Biaggi in sixth. The remaining two Ducatis were Jakub Smrz putting his Effenbert Ducati ahead of Davide Giugliano's Althea Ducati.
Unfortunately, the weather on Sunday looks like it could be wet, which could mean we may well be denied the outright speed battle that Monza usually gives us, but we should still get an exciting, if potentially dangerous, race. Nobody will race with wet tyres as, according to Jonathan Rea, they only last three laps. The tyre chunking exhibited in Superpole, especially by the Aprilias, backs that assertion up. Surprisingly, once again the teams showed that even with wet crashes, the single bike rule won't have as much of a negative impact as we thought. With five crashers before Superpole, nobody seemed at a disadvantage due to a wrecked bike. John Hopkins, who hit water at 300kmh on his way to the Parabolica, was able to use the massive run-off to ensure he didn't demolish himself or his bike. He was able to get subsequently get ninth place on the grid, so maybe the single bike rule isn't as damaging as at first thought. Time will tell.
World Supersport qualifying can safely be called uneventful, especially without Lorenzo have-a-go Lanzi treating us to a wet weather show, as most riders and teams stayed indoors by the heaters, sending the most junior member out to test the weather every now and then, but the Superstock 600 race fared worse, being postponed due to a lightning storm looming at the edge of the flooded track.
Monza can be dangerous at the best of times, but the prospect of a damp track with three 300+kmh stretches of tarmac fills me with dread. I hope that calmer heads prevail on intermediate tyres.