Qualifying at Portimão was all about dodging the rain. As the clouds loomed pendulously overhead, riders had to time their runs in Superpole well, in case the rain fell. As it was, after the first session, Superpole two was rapidly abandoned and, along with Superpole three, it was replaced with a single wet 20 minute session. It didn't rain.
The man who arguably lost out the most was Leon Camier. He put in a lap in the first session that he assumed would allow him to progress to the next session, but Carlos Checa and Jules Cluzel both used qualifying tyres to guarantee their progression, leaving Camier to sit in his garage and watch as he was eliminated. As it turned out, spending a qualifier in the first session was not a hindrance as the remaining sessions were rolled up into one, ensuring you only really needed one decent tyre left.
Carlos Checa actually looked like he was trying on his Ducati Panigale. His shoulder wasn't bothering him enough to slow him down and ending the day in seventh place could be considered a positive result. The only down side is that Jonathan Rea, on a bike everyone has written off as being past its best, qualified on the front row. If the Honda Fireblade is struggling, what does that say about the Ducati, or even the Suzuki? Rea has recorded a podium at Portimão for the last four years, and a fifth isn't impossible, given the right amount of luck, aided by a front row start.
Tom Sykes grabbed his fifth pole position in a row, having missed out on getting the opening top spot at Philip Island, and looks like he's only got Eugene Laverty to worry about. Laverty has never had a pole position in World Superbike but today, within a thousandth of a second of Tom Sykes, he came the closest he's ever been. If the patch of daisies he'd been using as a braking marker yesterday hadn't been removed when they mowed the lawn, it's entirely possible he'd have got his maiden pole.
Kawasaki are looking more like a team than Tom Sykes and some other bloke. Loris Baz is demonstrating that the bike is a solid package and that he's worthy of the ride, and that Sykes may be the master of qualifying, but he isn't carrying dead weight as a team mate. Some riders prefer to have a quick team mate. Hopefully Sykes is one of them.
Marco Melandri has had a difficult couple of weeks away from racing but he's doing his usual qualifying and, if form is anything to go by, he will come on strong at the end of the races. Having dealt out a few 1'43s in free practice, he's on pace for a top six finish, as usual.
Sylvain Guintoli, the championship leader, has been strong throughout qualifying, and is very much in contention, along with Loris Baz in sixth, of a top six position, but barring misfortune from Sykes or Laverty, a win will be exceedingly difficult for either of them, unless it rains.
If it rains, look to the rain men, or in this case, the rain man that is Loris Baz.
In World Supersport, no matter what happens, Sam Lowes will leave Portugal in the lead of the championship. With thirty points between him and second placed Kenan Sofuoglu, all he can aim for is to extend his lead and go for his fourth successive victory. Fabien Foret and Michael Van Der Mark need to bank some solid points to maintain their championship campaigns while they're recovering from their injuries.