At Italy's temple of speed, last year's World Superbike weekend was ruined by rain and tyres. This morning's session was equally plagued, giving everyone a wasted morning as the forecast for the remainder of the weekend is sun, sun and more sun. The good weather finally turned up, courtesy of a delay in qualifying, and the slicks went on. Top speeds increased by 50kmh and lap times decreased by 20 seconds.
Marco Melandri ended the day on top, and is in dire need of a good weekend, held back by injury if not his motorbike, having unwillingly conceding BMW top dog status to his Welsh team mate Chaz Davies. Davies crashed ten minutes into the session, two seconds off Melandri's time, trashing his bike. The single-bike rule forced him out of the session as his bike was destroyed beyond rapid repair.
Jonathan Rea, second fastest in the dry, was as fast as the Suzukis and Kawasakis in a straight line, and within 10kmh of the fast Aprilias and BMWs. While a front row start is maybe a stretch on the bike he has to ride, Rea should be competing in the third Superpole session at this pace.
Monza should favour the Aprilias as Max Biaggi was able to demonstrate the sheer speed of the bike at this track two years ago. Sylvain Guintoli, third fastest today, is determined to beat Biaggi's top speed record and make amends for the disaster that was last year's wet race where he didn't start the one race they ran. His team mate Eugene Laverty finished seventh fastest, behind the satellite Aprilias of Michel Fabrizio and Davide Giugliano, but given a clear run tomorrow, a front row start shouldn't be off the table.
Tom Sykes was fourth fastest on the Kawasaki, yet once the qualifying tyres go on, and Sykes gets his qualifying head on, safe money would be on him for a pole position. His team mate Loris Baz should also qualify for the third Superpole session.
Behind Baz, the Suzukis of Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel were both faster than Carlos Checa. Checa is still suffering from an injured shoulder, and Ducati would be best served explaining his slow progress as an effect of his injury rather than any obvious shortcomings of the new bike, but the inlet restrictors that are designed to level the playing field are really hampering the power of the V-twin.
In World Supersport, the rain once again allowed Kev Coghlan and Andrea Antonelli to shine, but as the sun comes out, expect the Kawasakis of Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret to dice with the Yamaha of Sam Lowes.
One thing that is certain is that speed matters here. Expect it in spades.