It feels like it could be getting tedious to open what seems like every World Superbike round up this year with talk about the weather, but it has become a major factor in qualifying, if not racing, in 2012.
Every session of Superbike qualifying and practice this weekend has been hit by rain, with sessions being either getting wetter or getting dryer. Consistency has been lacking in all but this afternoon's free practice, with the track either getting wetter or dryer, with standing water hampering several sessions. The rain was tempered with sunshine that burned the light covering off quickly but left stretches of water in the heavier areas, giving the track uneven conditions that caught quite a few riders out in Superpole.
It's unusual to discuss Superpole without starting by applauding Tom Sykes, but the Kawasaki rider got caught out by a damp patch, throwing him off the bike as he was building up laps on a new tyre. As such, he starts tomorrow's races from his worst grid position this year; 8th. His team mate, the fast rookie Loris Baz, also got caught out, touching a white line in the first Superpole session, ending his excellent run of qualifying in 9th place.
With all the news surrounding Effenbert Liberty Racing, a Jakub Smrz pole position, along with the return of Brett McCormick, is a breath of fresh air. The Ducati rider looked fast, trading places with his ex-team mate Sylvain Guintoli throughout the day, and took the pole position after the flag fell. Leon Camier was heard swearing when he found out Smrz had snatched his first pole position off him, but was content to get a front row start on his 26th birthday. Camier's team mate John Hopkins, pole sitter last year as a wild card, also qualified better than usual with a 12th place, but wasn't keen on the conditions. Camier's second place is the highest FIXI Crescent Suzuki have recorded, and he doesn't seem adversely affected by his Suzuka Eight Hour race.
Conversely, Jonathan Rea needed more time to get back to grips with his SBK spec bike, having won the Suzuka Eight Hours on a very divergent bike with different tyres. With varying conditions, he didn't have enough time to get a decent setting, even though his team is using similar settings to a few races ago when he went well. In 10th place, he needs to find confidence in the warm up to maintain his championship position.
Carlos Checa was fourth fastest Ducati, sitting in 7th place. Smrz and Guintoli share the front row, with Guintoli showing that even though he's on a different bike, Ducati make a consistent machine for him to compete on. His new team seemed very happy to have him on board. Davide Giugliano also finished ahead of Checa, even though both of them suffered wet crashes, Carlos touching a white line while Davide just lost grip in the wet, it was Checa that came out worse. Both men are confident they can do well if they avoid that sort of silliness tomorrow.
Marco Melandri, the BMW rider with a seat next year, is on the second row while Leon Haslam, the BMW rider without a seat next year, was on the front. Both of them suffered from weather, but like at Monza, their bikes are no longer liabilities in the wet.
Aprilia suffered from a few setbacks today, not least of which was Max Biaggi majestically crashing and trying to save his bike, while Eugene Laverty had to deal with a broken steering damper. Biaggi will have to work hard to maintain his current points lead in the championship, and his wet weather results don't hint at that being possible if it rains tomorrow.
As rain is likely for Sunday's races, it's difficult to predict who will go well, but one thing is certain: the weather will have an effect.
In World Supersport, Fabien Foret and Kenan Sofuoglu both showed how they were not at all comfortable in the wet, while PTR Honda locked out the front row. Jules Cluzel and Sam Lowes taking the top two spots ahead of shock arrivals Alex Lundh and Mathew Scholtz, the wet seems to suit their bikes and riders. A PTR Honda victory seems likely.