Imola, the Italian track remembered as the scene of the thrilling climax to the 2002 World Superbike season. If we are to see a repeat of the duel between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss, we could need to look no further than to to Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea. These two are the riders who have been consistently able to post fast laps, dodging a field of Italians getting single hot laps in front of their home crowds.
Tom Sykes always qualifies well on the Kawasaki, but Jonathan Rea has been resurgent recently as his team get closer to finding an electronic setting that makes the Honda work. Rea will be looking to better his second place at Assen on Sunday and he’s aiming for the front two rows to give him a chance. On today’s form, a front row is within his grasp, as long as the Aprilias and BMWs don’t suddenly dial in the settings that have proven elusive all day.
Michel Fabrizio, Ayrton Badovini and Davide Giugliano have all managed to better their fellow Italian Marco Melandri by a fraction of a second, but betting against Melandri has never proven to be a wise tactic, especially when he’s confident that he will be in a good position tomorrow. His teammate Chaz Davies, however, is struggling getting the BMW to turn, although he’s doing considerably better than former race-winner Noriyuki Haga.
Haga is riding a one-off race alongside Vittorio Iannuzzo in the Grillini Dentalmatic team, with rumours that he could replace Iannuzzo. If he poodles around in 17th place, sticking with the cheaper rider that also scores no points would be a better solution. For this reason alone, it is imperative that Haga qualifies for Superpole tomorrow.
The factory Aprilias are struggling, with Sylvain Guintoli and Eugene Laverty both on the provisional front row, along with Leon Camier’s Suzuki. Both Aprilia riders need to get their bikes working of they are to fight for wins, although Guintoli, like Melandri, is capable of racing better than he qualifies, coming on strong later in a race.
In World Supersport, Sam Lowes looks like he will definitely be fighting for his fifth win in a row, and another pole position. With Kenan Sofuoglu, fresh from testing a Kawasaki Superbike for next year, and Fabien Foret languishing over a second and a half back, Lowes looks likely to be battling with local boys trying to shine at home, but as both Mahi Kawasaki riders are known for fighting through packs at the end of races, as long as they have decent settings, they could keep Lowes on his toes.