2013 Aragon World Superbike Friday Round Up: Fast Beats Agile
The second race weekend brings World Superbike to Europe and starts the meaty part of the season. After a quick test for some teams, Aragon welcomes the entire grid. The track is relatively new track near Alcañiz in the Aragon region of Spain. The stand-out feature is the long back straight joined to the start/finish straight by a fiddly hairpin section. It's a circuit that suits bikes with top speeds as overtaking at the end of the long straight puts a faster bike over the line before a slower, more agile bike. If you're on an Aprilia, BMW or Tom Sykes's Kawasaki, you are in with a chance of a win. The long back straight was also the home of one of last year's more memorable and unusual overtakes, with Supersport contenders Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret meeting down the back straight with Sofuoglu trying to headbutt Foret as he passed him.
Leon Camier did very well here in testing, but will not feature in Sunday's race as he crashed out in the first third of qualifying this afternoon and will spend the next five days in a leg splint, having injured his knee. Jules Cluzel on the other Suzuki isn't too far off the pace, but Suzuki will be disappointed with losing the rider most likely to get a podium or win this weekend.
Aprilia missing out on testing here didn't seem to cause Eugene Laverty any issues. The Irishman was able to get the better of joint championship leader, his teammate Sylvain Guintoli. Guintoli admitted he didn't ride particularly well, and hopes a good night's rest will allow him to do better. BMW did test at Aragon, and Chaz Davies has already out-qualified his teammate Marco Melandri, a man who has won each year he's raced here.
Ducati are significantly slower than the other bikes and this punishes them. Carlos Checa couldn't get past tenth place and his teammate Ayrton Badovini fared worse. Even further back, Mark Aitchison on the old 1098R Effenbert Liberty Ducati is struggling over five seconds slower than the front runners.
Honda were promising some go-faster parts for this round, but the track may not be the right one to expect that much of a difference. Jonathan Rea finished 16th and 5th here last year, putting his fifth fastest place today as a good continuation of that form, although he'd likely prefer to be riding the HRC Honda he used at this track in MotoGP last year. Leon Haslam was back in 11th place, but he sounded positive about the progress he's making for tomorrow.
Tom Sykes was able to pull fast laps out from time to time, with his wrist only bothering him braking for the last corner. It is all too possible he will be sharing a podium with an Aprilia and a BMW on Sunday. Loris Baz needs it to rain, not a likely prospect, to be in the fight for a podium.
In World Supersport, the Kenan Sofuoglu versus Sam Lowes battle does appear to be shaping up as expected, while Michael Van Der Mark and Sheridan Morais are bringing surprises to qualifying. Van Der Mark, currently third in the championship after one round, could stir things up in the title chase by carrying today's pace to Sunday. Lowes's Yamaha doesn't have the flat-out speed of the Kawasakis or even the Hondas, but it doesn't seem to matter as much in the smaller classes as it does in Superbikes. Sunday will see that argument settled, however.
(Updated to correct the description of the last corner as WSBK uses a different layout to MotoGP)