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World Supersport qualifying looked more like a race, with large groups of riders clumped together in the fast sections, trying to get a slipstream advantage.
Superpole was blessed with the promised good weather, allowing the riders to get on with pushing their machines down the multiple high-speed sections of the old Italian track. The qualifying tyres were pink-ringed for Mother's Day instead of having their usual yellow stripe.
Eugene Laverty led Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes, all within a quarter of a second. Sylvain Guintoli was once again the fastest bike through the speed trap, at 337.1kmh, while Leon Camier ensured there were four different manufacturers of motorcycle in the top five.
For race-pace, Laverty, Sykes and Guintoli registered the most 1'42 laps, with Laverty stringing together a decent run at the end of the session.
Toward the end of the morning's free practice session, it looked likely the front row would end up an all-Kawasaki affair, but Sam Lowes was able to snatch his familiar position at the top in the flag. With both Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret recording higher speed trap figures, the slip stream effect in the race should prove important, as usual.
A storm hit Monza overnight and, in spite of the sun, the morning's qualifying session was declared wet. The track dried out towards the end, allowing a few riders to improve their positions from yesterday and sort out the lower slots for Superpole later. Without a complete dry session, the afternoon's free practice will be crucial to get a setting for both qualifying and racing. Marco Melandri remained in provisional pole, alongside Jonathan Rea, but Sylvain Guintoli was fastest in the session, improving his time, if not his position, from yesterday.
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.
After a delayed start caused by an oil spill at the Ascari chicane, one that required cleaning up, the track was dry enough to warrant slick tyres. Marco Melandri was quickest with his BMW, pipping a surprising Jonathan Rea, while Sylvain Guintoli was the fastest in a straight line, clocking a respectable 333.6kmh in his weekend's effort to break the outright top speed record of 339.5kmh, set by Max Biaggi on a similar Aprilia RSV4.
As this was the first dry session, it's difficult to judge what the multiple 1'43 and 1'44 laps registered by the front-runners means, but there's a second to lop off the laptimes before they can beat Max Biaggi's 1'41.745, and that might require qualifying tyres.
Kev Goghlan takes provisional pole alongside Andrea Antoneli, showing once again that they have skill and speed in the wet.
Rain held riders back from the super-fast times, with riders not even touching 290km/h on the wet tyres. This allowed Jonathan Rea to make the best of his slower bike and record the fastest time of the morning.
Wet practice at Monza meant times were down, several riders didn't even head out and the session was red-flagged mid-way through the session. After the restart, this didn't stop our regular fast qualifier Sam Lowes recording the best lap of the session, with a 2'01.016, an unsurprising 13 seconds off lap record pace.
The World Superbike standings after a weekend's racing in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. The day gave us good weather that got better as the day went on and thrilling racing that followed the weather. There were ups and downs, winners and losers and those who leave with a mixture of both.
Race two at Assen was under warmer weather, causing a few tyre changes, but tyres didn't plague any of the front runners.
Fabien Foret leads the championship and starts the race from third place behind the seething rivalry of Sam Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu.
The weather decided not to turn nasty, allowing us to enjoy another flowing race at Assen. In the warm-up lap, Marco Melandri's BMW had gearbox issues that meant he had to get off and push. He didn't start the race. Chaz Davies, to add to BMW's woes, destroyed his bike in the morning's warm-up and it was being rebuilt until the last possible minute, starting the warm-up lap from the pits. Leon Camier stated that he may only manage a few laps as his injured knee was causing him issues.
Assen, motorcycle racing's cathedral, has been the scene of some of the greatest entertainment in World Superbike racing, hailing back to Carl Fogarty's incredible run of victories, through the Bayliss years up to the Jonathan Rea wins. Assen has always been considered a rider's track, much like Donington and Philip Island. It represents everything that's good about World Superbikes with flowing corners making it a skill and bravery over power track. While it suits certain machinery, a good rider can, so the legends go, win on anything.